Miscellaneous Rumbles

Hammond players… and volume

1

Dang--i've been trying to get a trio off the ground with a drummer and Hammond player, but I'm about to drop it. I thought guitar players were bad about volume, but this is ticking me off.

I've run into the same with keyboard players. Really starting to think the only way to go is a standard billy trio with a stand-up and drums.

Anyone dealing with this. I like minimalist everything, really--are Hammond guys always so freaking 'busy'?

K

2

Konrad, a Leslie is only rated at 40 watts, so, a Hammond never really has had too much power compared to guitars. You also need to consider that it's got a much wider frequency range than a guitar.

Still, I can easily sympathize with you. Far too often, guys get into a volume contest. It's not just relegated to music, but shows up in all walks of life. Cars, business, sports, politics, religion---the "I'm better than everyone else" train of thought, the "I'm right and you're wrong" mentality types are far too prevalent. A band is a group effort, not a solo act, but too many guys have to assert their dominance in every situation.

As a sound guy and a musician, I'm aware that you can't really balance a group while you're onstage. It has to be done from FOH, out in the room. You can't get an accurate mix while you're standing next to your amp. By the way, the hardest guy to turn down usually is the drummer.

3

Yeah--but this was supposed to be me on acoustic and vocals. Hence the volume/busy thing is wearing me out.

Haven't given up though.

K

4

Well, I had to deal with a keyboard player at a jam once. He brought two keyboards but no amp.

He insisted he needed FOUR WHOLE CHANNELS on the PA so he could run both keyboards in full stereo. Not two stereo channels that were specically designed for that task, no, FOUR WHOLE FREEKIN' VOCAL CHANNELS. Leaving only two vocal channels while I needed three.

At least he wasn't loud.

5

That’s a good way to go as a trio. Hope you can make it work.

6

Like every other situation, the personalities have to be right. I cut my "Hammond teeth" playing in a church accompanying singers (everything from gospel to jazz to pop) so I understood my role was as an accompanist, and played accordingly -- and most of the singers loved working with me.

There's no monopoly by instrument on "Hey, look at me!" players. I've known drummers, guitarists, bass players, and other keyboardists who suffered from that disease (although it could argued everyone around them suffered more).

An organ trio of guitar, organ and drums is a classic format that can be heaven with the right people, but even The Incredible Jimmy Smith knew how to lay back and let the guitarist have his time too. if your guy doesn't get it, and isn't responsive to requests for self-editing, you may just need a different player. It's not the Hammond, it's the player that's the problem.

One sign of true musicianship is knowing what to leave out as well as what to play.

7

Really starting to think the only way to go is a standard billy trio with a stand-up and drums.

Because that way, guitar is guaranteed to be the loudest.


In defense of organ players (because I've often been one), in many combo scenarios - depending on mode of amplification - it's hard to know exactly how loud you are. Because the organ has an extended frequency range by comparison to guitar, it takes PA-kinda full-range amplification rather than a cone-only combo amp. If your instruments go direct into the mains (as is often the case), you hear only what you're given in the monitors - which is rarely satisfyingly full sounding, and is at the discretion of whomever is mixing the monitors - and any spill coming back from the mains. If you have a full-range keyboard amp onstage, almost by definition it has a 15 and a horn. The 15 doesn't fully develop much of the instrument's low range onstage (that happens out in front), and unless you happen to standsit in the path of one of the horn's nodes, the highs may be attenuated onstage as well. (As the dispersion patterns merge for full coverage somewhere out in the room as well.)

The organ generally also doesn't have as cutting and focused tone as a guitar; it has a softer envelope, and is more about spread and fill. (Purposely distorted and extra-punchy percussive lead lines excepted.) It can be hard to hear exactly how much spread and fill is enough. For the same reason, I find it hard to mix organ parts in recordings: it's not enough, not enough, not enough - and suddenly it's too much. The presence of the organ in the mix also seems more sensitive to playback environment than other instruments.

All of the above applies equally to synth pads, strings, and atmospherics. It can be hard to get it just right. Synth lead, bass, and horn lines, of the mono variety, are easier to mix because they have more punch, edge, and focus.

I find piano falls into both the easy and hard categories: the punchier and more percussive, the easier to mix confidently (whether from the stage or elsewhere). So acoustic piano (you know, sampled), Wurli (a little less so), synthy Rhodes emulations, and certainly clav have percussive note envelopes similar to guitar, and it's pretty easy to hear how loud they really are. Softer-sounding Rhodes and emulations, particularly in stereo, can fall into that atmospheric wash where it's hard to know exactly how much sonic space they occupy.

So...might not be entirely his "fault." And in any case, as Parabar says, the keyboard guy is no more likely to be a volume warrior than anyone else in the band. And for every time it's the drummer (who just doesn't know how not to kill people), it's the guitarist five times.

If you've only worked with the guy a couple of times, and in less-than-ideal sonic settings, discuss the mix with him and give it some time. Most guys who want to play with other musicians actually want to play with other musicians, and either appreciate that the whole-band sound is more important than their studliness - or understand that letting others be heard is one of those damn things they have to do if they hope to play with other musicians rather than going solo.

8

The classic model tube Leslies were 40-45 watts athought you can get moreout of 2 6550s. But the solid state Pro Line Leslies of the 70s and all these modern ones now have significant output. But sure keyboard people can be clueless and too loud for sure.

9

There are two kinds of B3 players; the ones who come over from piano, who generally let the guitar do most of the comping, play the melodies, and generally play on the sparse side. A good example of this school is Melvin Rhyne's playing with Wes Montgomery of Dan Wall's playing with John Abercrombie. The other school tends to approach the organ like an orchestra and play everything, without leaving a lot of space. As a guitarist, it's a whole lot more fun when there is space and some give-n-take.

10

For Hammond trios, I think the Hammond is the top dog and should play at a reasonable volume and everyone else should submit. If there's a solo handed off to to the guitar player he should play at a reasonable volume and the Hammond guy should back off.

If the drummer takes a solo, he should continue at the same volume and the others should only stab quietly at the chord changes

Playing too loud screws everyone. Get it straight or get out.

Lee

11

Lee, I think this guy would agree with you, but it was meant to be an acoustic band with cajon or light drums and then the Hammond for sparse backup and then occasional solo.

We've had moments when it worked (and when it would work gig-wise), but then it becomes Hammond-only blues jam. I don't need any more blues jams in my life. Relatively speaking, few people do--at least if you want to get gigs.

Prot, there may be something to what you mean by the "spread" and how he can't hear his volume. The sheer volume coming off the back of that thing is unreal--and still he wants an extra amp!

Our drummer is a pro and doesn't play too loud, so he is only competing with an acoustic and vocal. Kind of does not make sense.

There is a bar/restaurant/coffee house that is already asking us for a date. I've tried to explain to him that 1) he has got to tone it down or we will blow everyone out the windows and 2) he can do whatever he wants on a solo (including more volume), but sparse actually works in this setting.

This is a guy that for years has been at the local blues jams, but he never succeeds in a band. I've noticed that the local blues jam guys are mega impressive until they join a band (and they kind of never do). I'm afraid this is just one more example--but I don't want to lose a friend over this, musicians being so freaking sensitive.

I can say that because I don't really consider myself a musician. I'm the guy that puts a band together, manages it, leads it, sings, plays a few solos, gets gigs and then more gigs, etc. I've run plenty of bands and gigged hundreds upon hundreds of times locally, and generally all of my bands have had some degree of success and even gained a following (despite my limited guitar skills). But IMO, the musicians are generally the guys that got "U" for unsatisfactory when it came to playing with other kids in kindergarten. Knowledge- and talent-wise, this guy is quite a musician. So far it's another big U.

I really thought this would be a "no muss, no fuss" deal too.

K

12

Not much to contribute other than my father played a Hammond at one point. It was a beast! He employed me as a 13 y.o. to help move it and it's massive speaker a couple of times. Still traumatized to this day!

13

Having a Hammond organ in an acoustic trio doesn't make any sense to me. Have him play piano.

14

I've re-read the posts, and I realize that just didn't understand your question.

Here's some quotes that changed my mind:

the only way to go is a standard billy trio with a stand-up and drums. Yeah--but this was supposed to be me on acoustic and vocals. Hence the volume/busy thing is wearing me out.

So, now I suggest you drop the B3 player, hire an acoustic accordion player, hire a stand up bassist. If the drummer really understands what you're all about, keep him. Otherwise, you keep the rhythm, the accordion does the fills and the bass does the bass and leads the chord changes, ala the Nat King Cole Trio.

I once had a chance to chat with Dan Newton who plays accordion professionally around here in several different genres. He was a regular on "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show at one time. Since we both grew up near Lincoln Nebraska, I asked him if he got his start with the local Czech polka bands.

He said "No I played piano then. When I started playing with bands in Minnesota, I discovered that all the pianos were out of tune and the accordion was easier to carry".

Lee

15

Lee--that's good advice!

I would love to play with an accordion player. Really.

K

16

I concur that a B doesn't make sense against an acoustic guitar - unless it's jazz guitar rhythm choppin'. Even then, better on electric.

Warning about accordian: good is killer...bad is a nightmare.

17

"Warning about accordian: good is killer...bad is a nightmare."

Beats the hell out of dealing with bagpipes!!

18

Here's what happens when it works:

Hope you have a good tradition of accordion players where you live.

Lee

19

Why not replace the Hammond with a digital keyboard that can do piano, organ (even accordion if you must --- sigh) and assorted other sounds. There are many good ones out there, and they all have volume knobs that will allow them to play at a desired level.

20

You could keep the volume pedal at your station on the bandstand.

21

It's all about balance.

An acoustic guitar and a cajon (or most any hand drums) aren't going to be able to keep up with a Hammond/Leslie. It's apples and oranges. You can't really combine electric and acoustic instruments easily. Unless it's all being miked and run thru a proper PA with a sound guy to keep it balanced, there's no way on Earth you're going to get it to work out. Even an accordion can overpower an acoustic guitar, unless you find a player who understands how to play in an all acoustic ensemble.


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