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Keyboard Effects in Worship – Hammond Organs and Lead Synth Sounds

Hammond organ and lead synth sounds can be used in a highly effective way in a worship context, however the use of both of these sounds is heavily dependent on the role of the keyboard player within the band. These types of sound will tend to be used where there is already a reasonably full band to start with. This means that they will be most appropriate when there is already a full rhythm section. In practice this is likely to mean a group with drums, bass, rhythm guitar and either another guitar (electric) or someone playing first keys (who is likely to use mainly piano and electric piano sounds). As a rule of thumb it would be unwise to overuse either type of sound in a much smaller band.

Hammond organs (and synthesised emulations of their sound) are commonplace in many styles of modern music from rock to R&B. Originally intended as a cheaper alternative to the pipe organ, the Hammond organ was taken up by gospel and jazz artists because of its distinctive sound and the many possible variations in tone. These variations are selected using nine drawbars (per manual) each of which triggers a different note in the harmonic series for every key. Each drawbar has eight volume settings and it is the combination of these plus vibrato, percussion, overdrive and reverb effects which make up the overall sound of the Hammond organ.

In reality many of us will rely on preset sounds and patches rather than being able to create our own using dedicated hardware or software. A number of keyboards now offer the ability to alter drawbar and effects settings but there are still a great many which do not. Most general purpose synthesizers have Hammond organ sounds on their ranks but these may be known by different names. They could be B3, rock organ, jazz organ, full bars, soft organ and other similar names.

There are a number of different ways to use Hammond organ sounds which I shall outline briefly. The first is similar to the way one would use a pad sound – playing chords to support the harmonic movement of a song. This is a very common way of using the sound as it can be much more immediate than a pad sound and also cuts through the mix lot better. You can use this style of playing in both fast, powerful songs and more ballad-like settings. Be careful when selecting sounds for different songs and make sure that the power of the sound matches the feel of the music.

With any style of Hammond organ playing it is extremely important to keep everything in the correct register. The lower parts of this kind of sound can muddy up the lower and middle parts of the overall mix so these are best avoided for all but fleeting moments – it is better to keep most playing more than an octave above middle C for comfort.

One time when a lower register may be used is when utilising a common playing technique. Hammond organ players often use long glissandos up to a held note (or chord) in the higher register of the instrument. These can sometimes even be played with the forearm (and often with the palm of the hand). These can be used to great effect when building from a verse into the chorus of a song where the feel wants to be built up greatly. Smaller glissandos can also be used between different chords and this is a very common playing effect.

Another technique which is often used is to play melodic figures (around chord notes) underneath a held higher note. To use this technique it is important to find a note which will fit with a number of chords in a row so that this can be held over the top of the movement underneath it.

It is also possible to use Hammond organ sounds to play lead line melodies maybe in an introduction. If this is going to be used along with any of the other styles of playing outlined above it is important to change the volume of the keyboard carefully so that this line is loud enough without chordal playing becoming too dominant in the mix.

The last important point to make about Hammond organ sounds is the possible use of a Leslie speaker effect. Many keyboards and all good Hammond organ emulators now include the option for adding this ‘swirling’ effect to the sound. To gain the best effect from the use of a Leslie simulator it is necessary to turn it on and off (or from fast to slow) whilst playing. This often necessitates playing mainly with one hand and keeping the other free to push the button or turn the modulation wheel. Some of these techniques are demonstrated on the Musicademy Intermediate Worship Keyboard Intermediate DVDs.

Lead synth sounds are much quicker and easier to deal with than Hammond organs. This is partly because they are only used infrequently in a worship setting. You will find different lead sounds in many keyboards and these include Saw leads, Sine leads and Square leads along with numerous others. Most of the names relate to the shape of the wave which creates the sound. By their nature lead sounds will often be quite harsh so that they cut through the mix. The best use for these sounds is to create lead melody lines for introductions and links. It is very easy for these sounds to conflict with a lead guitar part if they are playing different things. However, if both instruments play the same riff or melody a very effective sound can result.

When dealing with any new sound one of the best things we can do is to listen widely and try to hear the application of these voices in different styles of music. Try to imitate or emulate these uses, even playing along with the track at home if possible. Try things out in rehearsals and see if it works but don’t go ahead and use new ideas in a live environment until you are comfortable with them.


Source by Andy Chamberlain

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