How Not to Register a Hammond

About a decade ago, I published a how-to article in The American Organist (the wonderful journal that serves the American Guild of Organists) on the subject of working with a Hammond organ.

The Hammond approach to registration is significantly different from the classical approach.  Luckily, it’s very easy to assimilate.  It’s also easy to mess up if you are disinclined to, oh, I don’t know…think.

Recently, I have encountered a situation where somebody clearly hasn’t read my article.  For the record, this is NOT how you do it.


Note that everything is more or less yanked out at random, and in equal proportion.  The organist clearly has no clue as to the Hammond approach, much less what the colors brown, white, and black actually mean.  This registration could be described charitably as a “total mess.”  (You might as well draw every single drawbar out to the “1” position, and floor the volume pedal.)

sal2The harmonic series doesn’t work this way; good musicianship doesn’t work this way; and a knowledgeable organist definitely doesn’t work this way (even if he’s “been doin’ dis fer TIRTY-TREE YEARSSS”).

Again, I did not stage that picture. It is truly an objet trouvé.

Here is the first thing you do with such a situation.


Then, turn the organ on.


Then, start all over again. Remember that the WHITE drawbars are the unisons. Obviously, favor the 8′ for a start, and draw 4, 2, and perhaps 1 as appropriate.

I’ll post a how-to in a few days, with my own solution to the Mighty Hammond Mystery. In the meantime, praise the Lord and think about the white drawbars.


About Jon

Keyboard artist, sacred musician, teacher, writer, working in New York City and State. Many interests include music theory and history, literature, astronomy, genealogy, philosophy and theology, gardening, and good food.
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