Hammond Organs Drum Kits

The Idea

This idea for this product came about because of the EL500 and a package that I produced for Yamaha prior to its release. As you may know, the EL500 is rather unusual (in this country) for being made without Drum Drawbars. Because it was felt that this might put people off the free drum kits I came up with an idea that would still allow the instrument to be used as a drawbar organ.

Drawbars, as we know them, control the volume of simple drum tones at different pitches (called footages). These tones are very pure on modern electronic organs and can actually be produced on an EL organ independently of the drums. Take the Organ Bass 1 voice on the EL70 or 90: there are only drum controls for the Upper and Lower keyboards on the EL so this ‘drawbar’ bass sound is produced using the FM tone generator.

FM is very complicated but it is not too far removed from the drawbar principle. You hear people talk about operators in relation to FM. These are just little sound sources that generate a very simple tone, a sine wave. This is almost identical to the sound of a drum drawbar. So you could say that a drawbar system is like having eight operators all tuned to the specific pitches with which we are all familiar. So I figured that the FM tone generator in the EL500 could be used to recreate all the same sounds as the drawbars in the other instruments.

The clever bit (even if I do say it myself) is to enable the player to shape these drum sounds while playing, as you would on the other organs. What I ended up with actually gets closer to recreating the convenience of the real drawbar system.


How they were recorded

What you have to remember is that the drawbars on the EL are not real; you can’t get hold of them and move them like you can on free drum kits
like Hammonds for example. The AR has drum sliders on the panel, which is great, but they are hidden on the EL and the only way to get at them is to engage a drum voice and alter the level of each of the blocks on the display screen. It is not very easy to do this while you are playing and there is the infamous drawback of not being able to switch to seeing the lower manual drawbars without first having to turn them off and then on again.

What I did was to come up with a set of special voices that could be used as free drum kits by assigning two of them to different voice sections and using the volume control for each section as the ‘drawbar’. There are not only two footages heard, though; the special voices are actually groups of drawbars.

On Hammond organs you will notice that the different drawbars footages are grouped as colors according to a scheme of black, brown and white. The footages without fractions are generally colored white. These produce the same note at different octaves. The other footages with fractions (brown or black) add some notes in between. These are used in varying amounts to add color and warmth to the sound.


On the EL500 Organ Software I use this idea by putting the ‘white’ footages in Upper Keyboard Voice 1, for example and the ‘brown’ and ‘black’ footages in Voice 2. This allows you to mix and blend the sound in just the same way as a skilled drawbar organist by using one finger instead of lots of fingers (one for each drawbar).

Once I had finished setting up the software and played with it, I found that I was able mix and blend the drum samples in a way that was impossible on the instrument before. Because of the simplicity of the operation and only having two controls to think about I felt that this software was too useful to be just a replacement for drawbars on the EL500. I have produced a version that will work on EL70 upwards so you can experience it for yourselves.


Professional Use

It is called ‘Live Drums’ and gives you the great of control of a drawbar-style organ. Using the volume controls you can blend and shape the drawbar sounds as you play in a way that is impossible on the organ as it stands. The software also includes many great new rhythms in varied styles.

The package comes in the form of a two-disk Registration Menu and Setup set. The setup disk loads in the special voices to create the drum samples and the menu disk displays the choice of 32 registrations on the central display screen. You can contact us about these technical questions.

The disk will work on all the new EL series instruments – and also ELX-1, EL-90 and EL-70 models.

Recording Your Drums

Different effects

There are many different kinds of effects you can add to your music – things such as delay, flanger, symphonic, chorus, tremolo – but probably the most important effect available to you is reverb. If you imagine that creating a registration is like cooking then I would say that reverb is like the salt and all the other effects are more like herbs and spices. Everyone has his or her own taste for salt and, as you no doubt will have experienced, it can be overdone very easily. Too much salt drowns the character of the food and too little leaves many dishes bland. It is exactly like this with reverb. The trick is finding the right balance… something we will go into in more detail next time. First let’s take a quick simple science lesson to help in understanding what reverb is.


If you imagine you are standing right in front of a single wall outside in a field. If you make a short sound you will not hear any echo at all. This is because the time taken for the sound to go from you to the wall and back again is too short for you to hear two separate sounds. If you move further from the wall and do the same, gradually you will hear the reflection of the sound on the wall as a separate sound – an echo. Because the time it takes sound to travel through the air stays the same, the distance from you to the wall governs how long it is before you hear the echo.

If you have more than one wall in front of you, you will hear an echo for every wall; all at different times depending on how far away they are from you. Reverb is similar but multiplied many hundreds of times until the echoes themselves seem to blend into one continuous sound. The effect of reverb that we find in electronic musical instruments is an attempt to simulate an enclosed space – a room or concert hall.

If you imagine standing in a concert hall and clapping your hands, the sound will travel in all directions and be reflected back to you from every surface the sound hits. If you look around the hall you will see that there are probably lots of protrusions and obstructions that will reflect the sound at different times. That means that you will experience an almost infinite number of echoes which blend together to create reverb.

Obviously the further sound travels the weaker it gets, so the echoes that take the longest to come back will be the quietest. The echoes get quieter and quieter and the bigger the space the longer the reverb takes to die away.


Important elements in reverb

Another important element in reverb is what the surfaces are made of. If they are soft they absorb much of the brightness of the sound. If they are too soft then they will absorb almost all the sound. You must have experienced how different everything sounds in your living room without curtains or with the carpet up. If the surfaces are hard they reflect nearly all the sound. The thing to remember is that it is the deep bass sounds which take the most ‘damping down’.

How does this all relate to the EL organs. Well you have various ways in which you can control the reverb affecting the sounds you create. Firstly you have three different types of reverb to choose from. If you press the reverb level control ‘slider’ you will see these choices on the screen. You have ‘Room’, ‘Hall’ and ‘Church’. The ‘Room’ reverb is, as you would expect where the surfaces are closest to you. This does three things. Firstly the reverb is shorter because the surfaces are nearer to the source of the sound. Secondly the reverb is stronger because it has not travelled so far and thirdly the reverb is rougher because the difference in distance between the surfaces is relatively less. Try selecting the ‘Room’ reverb and set the Reverb Depth to Maximum and play a percussive sound like a piano.


The normal setting for the reverb, which I use most often in my arrangements, is the ‘Hall’ setting. This generates the effect of being in a concert hall. This is longer than the ‘Room’ reverb because of the size of the space and smoother because of the wider number of surfaces. ‘Church’ reverb on the other hand is the longest of all. This is because of another important effect that I haven’t mentioned yet. Reflections of reflections are where the echoes bounce around and are reflected themselves. Because the insides of churches tend to be stone, the sound is bounced around for a much longer time than in a concert hall that has soft furnishings and comfy seats.

You can, by adjusting the ‘Leng.’ (length) control on the reverb section, effectively increase the size of the space you are playing in. Increasing the length puts the walls further away and makes the effect last longer.

If you were sat playing a piano in a concert hall, most of the sound you would hear would be coming from the piano itself. This would overshadow the reverb. If on the other hand you stood at the back of a concert hall listening to someone else playing the piano then you would hear mainly the reflections off the walls. This is where the depth control comes in. By increasing the depth you are effectively moving the listener further away from the sound. This can be used with great success in your registrations and will be the topic of our next instalment on reverb. In the meantime enjoy trying out the different reverb types and get used to the effect of the depth control: this will be very useful in understanding the ideas we will work through next time.