Category Archives: Recording technique

Hammond Leslie Emulation And Recording In Logic Pro X

Something else I’ve been experimenting with, with better and better results, is using the Rotor in Logic, based on  suggestions from Jim at the Organ Forum. If you combine this with the overdrive, or one of the amp simulators (‘Moving Air’ is a good one) you can get very good results, and this works very well for recording, taking the signal directly from the line-out on my A-102; I’ve been struggling with how the Vent is sitting in the mix, and the levels I get from it. This may just be related to my own setup, but I’m pretty much using Overdrive / Amp modeller / Rotor now, sometimes using Spreader and Exciter for an even bigger sound, and either the standard bus 2 platinum reverb (add other buses with reflections to taste) or a modelled reverb room.

Don’t forget to set the record mode to Latch or Write to capture Leslie-switch events (I send my CU-1 through a foot switch input on my interface for slow / fast switching).

For an example how this sounds:

Headphone amp

Jut added an Audioengine D1 to my setup. This makes such a difference, the sound quality is so much better than using either the Steinberg CI2+ headphone output, and it also leaves the output from my Macbook Pro in the dust. Granted, I’m using an AKG – K-701 which is notoriously tricky to drive, but this little DAC / Headphone amp does it really well.

Most of you will know that I am quite an active contributor to Wikiloops, which involves download mp3 tracks and adding additional stems, and I really had a hard time hearing the previously recorded tracks – with the Audioengine D1, this problem is now solved.

Only downside is the it takes only the small 1/8 ” mini plug size (3.5 mm), but with the appropriate adapter it will also drive headphones that use the larger 1/4” plug, like the AKG K-701.

Miking a real Leslie

LESLIE_1221 (1)

The Hammond tone-wheel organ was invented by Laurens Hammond in 1935. The Leslie tone cabinet was built by Don Leslie in 1940. “Leslies” are speaker cabinets made of solid wood with louvres to let the sound out of the top and bottom of the cabinet and with two rotors that spin and project the sound out into the surrounding space.  In essence they are sound modification devices, more like musical instruments than speakers, designed to add to the sound of an instrument by introducing a 3D Doppler effect.

Apparently Don Leslie offered his speaker and cabinet design to Laurens Hammond, but this gentleman didn’t like the sound of a Hammond through a Leslie at all. Hammond dealers were prohibited from selling them in the early days.

Even without advertising, the Leslie was much appreciated and increasingly used by organ players,  and by the mid-50s what most people considered to be the Hammond organ sound was actually the sound of a Hammond organ amplified by  a Leslie tone cabinet.

The moving sound of this winning combination has something special about it. And it still moves players and listeners alike.

The Hammond and Leslie brands continue on today and are owned by Hammond Suzuki USA.  To the aficionado, the original organs, the best known of which are the B3, C3 and A-100, are still the greatest and there is a thriving market for vintage Hammond organs  – and Leslies sixty years after they were first introduced.

Recording  a Lesie is an art in itself, and there are may ways of approaching it. There’s a nice article on some of the options for doing this  on the Shure website, Miking the Legendary Leslie Tone Cabinet. More information can be found at how do you record a Leslie speaker and Miking the Hammond and Leslie.

Another cool video, which shows footage of a clinic on recording the Hammond:

Recording the A-102 with the Neo Ventilator II

Here’s a recording I did with the Neo Ventilator into Garageband, with just a touch of eq added.
I recorded the two channels coming out of the Neo Vent into a stereo track, although I may be a better approach to take two mono channels, so the width can be varied easier for a stronger effect.  Not quite happy yet with the slow and fast speeds of the rotors nor the rampup time, I’ll have to experiment with that some more.

Jim Alfredson has done a great review of the Neo Vent, and seems to be able to record a more pronounced effect from the pedal, I’ll have to try and figure out what he’s doing different.


The silent Hammond console – Leslie simulation

In a previous post I outlined how to get a line level from a Hammond tonewheel organ. The next step in the chain is to get a Leslie simulation going to get the raw Hammond sound transformed into the sound we all know and love – the Hammond and Leslie combination.

I’ve experimented with two alternative approaches, one using hardware in the form of a Leslie simulator pedal (in this case a Neo Ventilator II), and one using software, going through an interface into a Macbook Pro.

Using the Neo Vent is easy, just plug in the (padded) line out into the Vent, twiddle knobs to your liking, and you have a stereo line out that adds the Leslie simulation to the sound. The Neo Vent simulates the effect of a recorded Leslie, and the result is very good. You can either feed a mixing desk with the signal, and take your headphones out from there, or use a headphone amp to drive your headphones directly for ‘silent’ use. You can also take it into your computer through an interface, and apply other effects as desired, and record with it directly as well.

The second option takes the line out from the Hammond to an audio interface (my CI2+) that makes the signal available to a computer. Line level is less of an issue here because most interfaces let you trim the level of the input signal down to a usable level. I use a Macbook Pro to host DAWs – you can use Garageband (both for just listening and for recording), Logic (same, but with more control over the recording aspects), or Mainstage (very good for live playing, but not that great for recording, although there are some basic functions to do so). Garageband comes free with your Mac, so that is the cheaper option, but it has some limitations.

All applications mentioned make it easy to use plugins, from compressors to equalisers to overdrive and Leslie-simulators, and even amp modeling if you’re looking for that massive distorted drive.

Two plug-ins are of particular interest: the Spin Control pedalboard control and the Rotor plugin.

The Spin Control offers basic Leslie modeling, with a choice of Leslie types, control over acceleration, slow and fast speed, and drive. It generates  a nice Leslied signal, from clean to quite aggressive overdriven sounds.

The Rotor plug-in is just that, a very clean rotor emulation, with a choice of Leslie types and mike positions. It gives a very clean emulation without and growl or distortion; this can be added by using an overdrive plugin before the rotor. The rotor on its own drops the output volume down quite a bit, it is probably anticipating to be used with a (loud) overdrive stage  and/ or amp stage in front of it.

For a mildly saturated every-day Leslie sound, I like the Spin Control the most; the rotor is usable for very hard overdrive situation beyond what Spin Control can handle

On Garageband, no midi-based automation is possible, so you cannot use a pedal to steer the chorale / tremolo switching in real time, but adding the modulation in later is possible through automation.

Logic does have the possibility to use midi-based triggering, and you can set up a pedal or button to handle Leslie switching in real-time. I’m still trying to figure out how to implement latching, but push-to-fast, slow when released works very well out of the box.

Mainstage has an easier way of setting up latching or non-latching use of pedals and buttons and is more geared towards pure live playing, and does this very well, but lacks in recording features. It also features the Spin Control and the Rotor plugin.

So what works best? I like the sound I get from the Spin Control, feeding in the Hammond line-out directly; it has a  more edgy, more saturated sound than the Neo Ventilator, which makes is well suited for Rock, Funk and Pop. The Vent  excels at the traditional jazzy Leslie sound. I sometimes use the Rotor in extreme ‘Jon Lord’ type settings, but find it otherwise too cold to be of much use, but for recording, the Spin Control is my go-to solution for that Hammond and Leslie sound for now.

Edit – the Vent is really growing on me, and gets a much warmer drive going when you push it hard. It’s essential to feed it a signal that is of just the right level, just before the vent’s red light starts clipping. Don’t use the soft setting on the Hammond, this takes off some of the edge. This gives a very good tone that responds to the pedal well when dialled in properly. And you can use a real Leslie switch…

First recordings

Here’s one of the first recordings I did with my new (to me) A-102. Still a lot to figure out on how to best mix the beast. Not to mention practicing playing it properly.

The following link directs you to Wikiloops, the online jamming community.

The Hammond A-102 on this track was recorded using the organ line out through the Vent into the audio interface, and then straight into Garageband. A bit of EQ was added (rolling off the bass a bit), and the track was sent to the master reverb for better blend with the drums. No other effects were used.