Information on the Hammond B3 Organ

by Robert Godard
The Hammond B3 Organ features a row of keys and stops.

The Hammond B3 Organ features a row of keys and stops.

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The Hammond B3 Organ was manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s and became immensely popular because it was easy to pick up and start playing. The Hammond B3 was also a huge influence on the development of modern-day synthesizers, which give players as much, or more, control over a sound as the B3.


The Hammond B3 consists of two 61-note keyboards. The top keyboard is commonly referred to as the "swell" while the bottom keyboard is referred to as the "great." The Hammond B3 is special because it comes with a series of special effects that can be applied to the sound, such as reverberation or vibrato, activated by a panel on the top. The organ also has eighteen drawbars, broken into two sets of nine.

How Tone Is Produced

The Hammond B3 has 91 tone wheels. Each of these tone wheels produces a particular frequency and may produce either the fundamental frequency, or the main tone, of the note being played or a harmonic frequency, or overtones of the note being played. This is done through electromagnetic interference in the tone wheels. The sound of a Hammond Organ can only be produced when it is connected to an external speaker.


The eighteen drawbars on the Hammond B3 are of particular interest. The two sets of nine control various frequency ranges on the Hammond's great and swell keyboards. These control fundamental notes, as well as a range of harmonics. The drawbars are used by literally pulling them out of the organ. The more the drawbar is pulled out, the louder the instrument is. There are eight different configurations for each drawbar. How much the drawbars is pulled out defines the frequency range of the instrument.

Who Used It

The Hammond B3 Organ was used in a variety of musical styles, including rock, jazz and blues. The Allman Brothers, as well as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, were famous for incorporating the Hammond B3 into their songs, and Jimmy Smith was a famous jazz virtuoso on the instrument. The Hammond could store preset sounds and configurations in it, so effects and tones could easily be pulled up. This made the organ an instrument that allowed for easy live playing and so helped it to become popular all over.

About the Author

Robert Godard began writing in 2007 for various creative blogs and academic publications. He has been featured on multiple film blogs and has worked in the film industry. He attended Baltimore College, earning his B.A. in history.

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