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How to Start a Hammond Organ

By Edited Dec 9, 2015 1 6

Startup Procedure for a Hammond Tonewheel Organ

Introduction

The Hammond Organ has been a fixture in Rock and Roll bands for decades.  Unlike modern electronic keyboards, the best models of Hammonds use motors as a key component to generating their unique sounds.  These models are known as the tone-wheel Hammonds. It is not the simple matter of flipping on a switch to start one of these bad boys up.  It is not difficult to do, but you just need to know the right steps.  This article explains how to start a Hammond organ.

Things You Need

Determine whether or not you have a tone-wheel Hammond.  You can tell from the model number if you are familiar with the different Hammond models.  Some of the most common tone-wheel Hammonds are the B3, B2, C3, C2, A105, M3, M102, M111.  However, you can tell right away whether or not you need to follow the startup procedure by the on-off switches you see on the console.

If your organ has a simple on-off switch, you can just switch it on and off.  The tone-wheel Hammonds, however, have a pair of switches located above the keyboard toward the right end of the organ.  The left switch is labeled “Start”, and the right switch is labeled “Run”.  The “off” position of these switches is toward the keyboard.

A Hammond C2 Organ
Credit: aguy

Step By Step Startup Procedure

Step 1

Press the “Start” switch and hold it in position for 5-8 seconds.  You will hear the motors start to come up to speed.  The switch is spring loaded, so you need to hold it for that time. 

Hammond C2 Switches
Credit: aguy

Step 2

Wait a few seconds while the tubes warm up.  You will then start to hear the organ as you press the keys.  You are done!

A Hammond M111 Organ
Credit: aguy

Step 3

This procedure works on all Hammond tone-wheel organs.

Sometimes the “Start” switch has been replaced by a push-button.

On switches on a Hammond M111
Credit: aguy

Step 4

Release the “Start” switch.

Step 5

Wait a few seconds while the tubes warm up.  You will then start to hear the organ as you press the keys.  You are done!

Tips

This procedure works on all Hammond tone-wheel organs.

Sometimes the “Start” switch has been replaced by a push-button.

Warnings

You won’t hear any sounds (other than the motors) if you have not pulled out some drawbars or selected a preset tone.

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Comments

Nov 23, 2011 1:01pm
AuroraWindsor
This is a very informative article.
Nov 28, 2011 8:02pm
aguy
Thanks, AW.

I went into a store who had a used Hammond Organ and they said "It doesn't work." But - I started it right up. They just didn't know how to start it!

Thanks for the comment.
Mar 30, 2012 5:24am
askformore
I wouldn't have been able to start it up either. Before I read your article I didn't know the real difference between a Hammond Organ and an ordinary keyboard.
Mar 31, 2012 10:34pm
aguy
Yeah - the Hammond organ (at least the ones that use tonewheels) is really a different beast than typical electronic keyboards. Lots of those try to emulate the Hammond sound, but there's really nothing quite like the real thing. That's why the pros use them and are willing to carry them around even though they weigh ~400 pounds.
Mar 31, 2012 10:52pm
CapstoneTrends
Very cool article!
Apr 4, 2012 1:13am
aguy
Thanks, CapstoneTrends!
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