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The Rise And Fall Of The Famous Hammond Sound

Hammond C3 Organ

Hammond C3

Hammond Drawbar Organs

I have been selling organs and keyboards for many years and when I started in the late seventies Hammond dominated the market, especially with their line of electric organs. Popular organs of that time were the Hammond T500, Aurora Classic and the B200. All these organs used the famous Hammond drawbar system and the Leslie speaker system.

Hammond Tonewheel Sound

Because technology had changed they dropped their tonewheel sound creation (which in my opinion made Hammond famous) and tried to create the Hammond sound electronically. They didnít quite succeed, there was something missing. The old tonewheel organs such as the famous C3 and B3 used the tonewheel system, but they had a fault, which Hammond tried for many years to correct. They had what Hammond considered an annoying click every time you played the keyboard. It wasnít until they solved this problem with electronic circuits that they realised that the click was actually part of the Hammond sound. So starting with the Hammond B200 they introduced a click control which you could turn up or down depending on you own preference. I owned a B200 myself and it didnít quite do it for me.

Hammond C3 (Listen To The Click)

New Keyboards On The Horizon

Unfortunately, for Hammond, times were moving on and players wanted more than the drawbar sound, they wanted strings, brass and a good piano sound and with the introduction of MIDI and Yamahas now famous DX7, Hammond moved from the top of the leader board to the bottom.

By the mid Eighties, the decline of the organ market had started and the birth of the keyboard market starting with the Yamaha DX7 had begun.

Francis Monkman demonstrates Yamaha DX7

New Keyboards Today Use Drawbars

Interestingly enough, in 2008, drawbars are now a main feature on nearly all good arranger keyboards and the Hammond sound is in fashion again and todays technology does a good job at creating that original Hammond sound.