Investigative Study


Capabilities and limitations of the Hammond Organ

in imitating pipe organ tones 

 Fumie Masuda

B.Sc. (Honours) Musical Instrument Technology


Sir. John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design


London Metropolitan University

May 2004

© 2004 Fumie Masuda



Appreciation to Richard Simpkins of St. Helen’s church for his kind permission to record the organ.  Also to Lewis Jones for his help.


            The Hammond Organ was invented for the purpose of substituting the expensive pipe organ at low cost, without requiring large amount of space.  The instrument does not employ pipes, and the tones are electronically generated and produced using a unique method of additive synthesis.  The Hammond Organ produces many pipe-organ-like tones without using pre-recorded pipe organ sounds other than by combining sine waves of different pitches. 

Is the Hammond Organ capable of fully imitating the pipe organ sounds?  If not, to what extent is the instrument capable of, and what are the limitations?  If the Hammond Organ successfully produces the pipe organ tones, how is this achieved?  In search for the answers to these questions, the project has been undertaken. 

First, the mechanism and the tone production of both the pipe organ and the Hammond Organ are explored in order to compare the two instruments. 

Secondly, various experiments, which involve with analysis and synthesis of a selection of the pipe organ tones, were undertaken.  Selections of both individual stops and combinations of stops are analyzed mainly in two areas, which are tone characteristics and spectra.  Then the tones are synthesized on the Hammond Organ using its unique “harmonic drawbars”.  Whether the tones are successfully imitated on the Hammond Organ, and whether the tones of the Hammond Organ perceived as pipe organ tones are psychoacoustic illusion, the synthesized tones are examined by human perception. 

Finally, through the various research experiments, the questions raised are answered, together with the overall verdict of the Hammond Organ as a substitute for the pipe organ.


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