|A friend of mine, a professional Hammond player of some status,
told me the only Hammonds worth playing have tone wheels. Never buy a
transistor model he said, there are Hammond and there are Hammonds.
|Well, the big ones are expensive, the small ones aren't but still
weigh a ton, and they all need huge dollops of maintenance. When I have the
time and money maybe I'll buy an immaculate B3 with two Leslies. But for now I
just love my B200. It's got Hammond written on it, sounds like a Hammond and is
attached to a whopping great Leslie. It may not growl like a Beast, but what do
you expect for £100!
Well, I've sold out since all this was written a couple of
years ago - call me a hypocrite, but I'm a hypocrite with a 1959 A100!
|My B200. With
added keys on the lower manual and switches around the Leslie buttons on the
left. See inside.
My opinion. First things first.
I'm no Hammond expert, I bow to the knowledge and experience of those who are,
like the friend whose advice I mention above. However, I am a Hammond
enthusiast and for all out there who want to know what the B200 is like from
the point of view of a first time Hammond owner - read on.
Looks: If I were to be absolutely
truthful I don't like the coloured buttons; they're a touch tacky '70's, I'd
prefer black and white like the X5. But this is an organ built in an era not
know for its classically beautiful last-forever styling, let's not pretend
otherwise. When I saw it though, my only concern, once my eyes had established
that it was big and ugly, was that it had drawbars, HAMMOND cast into plates
screwed to each side and painted in white between the manuals. All that was
left was to negotiate the transfer of ownership.
Price: If you want a classic full
size Hammond -it's a seller's market. Not so down the transistor end of things.
I swapped a 1970's Riha spinet and £100 cash for the Hammond, 760 Leslie,
bass guitar/organ amp speaker and Hammond Autoryhthm box. I found it by putting
a 'Hammond wanted' advert in a local free paper. I could have bought several
tonewheel spinet's, and I can't say I wasn't tempted, for between £300
-£400, but none had Leslie cabinets. From what I understand the Leslie
plays a vital part in the 'Hammond sound' and to add one to an L or M spinet
would probably cost more than the organ.
I was told by two different people offering me their
tonewheel spinets that they were disappointed by the sound. One was either
going to sell it or add a Leslie, and the other had bought a different brand
and needed the space.
|Sound: Again let's
not pretend the B200 is something it's not, but I think it sounds great. Turn
up the reverb, upper manual to 688600000 and Whiter Shade of Pale sounds just
like the real thing. Reverb off, key click up, percussion and Leslie on and
855000000 is a very passable Jimmy Smith. I know everyone says 888, but someone
on the Hamtech list said try 855 to bring up the percussion, and it works. Like
I say it's not a B3 so it's not going to sound like one, but it's definately a
Playing: I would give almost
anything to be a gifted musician. I started to teach myself the piano at 30 on
the basis that I would be competent by the time I was 50. I'm now 37 and
progress is painfully slow. I've got piles of teach yourself blues and Jazz
piano books, but they just make me feel that I'm copying and not learning, and,
they don't tell you how to play a Hammond. There don't seem to be any books out
there to help with the basics. What I mean by basics is stuff like; which hand
goes where - you've got two keyboards to choose from? What about your
Anyway, I bought Joey DeFrancesco's book from The Organ Guy and, eventhough
it leaves lots of my questions unanswered, I haven't put it down or looked at
another book since it arrived from the US a week after I ordered it. I'm still
not happy with the idea of playing in all keys, (I'm in a hurry - surely I can
play in C forever as long as I don't want to play with anyone else) but I'm
starting to get excited about my progress for the first time in a long while.
Credit to Joey, but a large proportion of my renewed enthusiasm for the
keyboard is down to having a Hammond to play - I get excited about it.
|Keeping it working: I
am the world's worst electrician, but I'm determined to learn what I have to in
order to keep the B200 and Leslie serviced and maintained properly. I
downloaded a manual for the 760 courtesy of
but haven't sourced an affordable manual for the organ yet. I also need to find
out where to get service parts before I attempt anything.
It has a few foibles; there's an intermittent whistle when
the reverb is up and the percussion is not working as well as it first did.
There was no sound coming out of the Leslie treble horns when first got it, but
this was cured by turning up the treble volume on the back at the bottom of the
cabinet - though now it has a metalic hiss. Nothing I can't live with though.
And I'd be more worried if it had tonewheels.
|This is a
close up of the mystery extra switches around the Leslie buttons on my B200
lower manual. Underneath is what appears to be an after
market electronic kit. What's it all about?
|In light of my selling out and buying a tonewheel Hammond, it
is in the Keeping it Working section that I need to pass comment. My B200 had a
few faults (outlined above) and I spent many hours searching for replacement
parts and seeking out those with the knowledge I lacked to try and cure them
and be a responsible owner. I even bought an expensive multimeter and books on
diagnosing electronic faults.
The bottom line is sooner or later you have
to face the fact that unless you have an in depth knowledge and understanding
of electronics you don't have a hope in hell of diagnosing and repairing any
faults on an electronic Hammond yourself.
The most valuable advice was the most
practical and this is it verbatim:
|"Anyway, as for your
B200, I dare say it could be fixed but I don't have the time to look at it. My
advice is get another one and keep yours as spares for that. The B200 is common
enough and you can get them for under £200 if you search around. The X5 is
a good option that you will find easily and for the same money. Otherwise find
a good technician who will give you timescales on fixing the B200. Most of
these repairs take a technician weeks and even months 'cos they are not
economical to work on. Eight hours work for £100 is not that good these
days. Then there is the issue of whether you can still get the IC that has
probably packed up? "
My advice, for what it's worth, is if you
are going to buy a portable hammond like the B200, X5 etc. make sure it works
properly. They're not expensive and there are lots around so don't buy anything
that's faulty. And my advice for those of you, in the UK who've already got a faulty one
and are browsing this site in the hope that it'll diagnose the problem for you;
give, and by that I mean hand over for free, your Hammond to someone, like the nice people at Organsandpianos who have
the knowledge and skills to repair and sell it on, at a very realistic price, to it's next lucky owner.
That way there'll be lots of them being used and enjoyed for many years to
|A close relative of the B200; the
|Thanks for the visit. Now
go and have a look at my A100