5 Ways To Comp on a Hammond B-3

A lesson from the February 2014 issue of KEYBOARD.
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Short for accompanying, “comping” is an often-overlooked component of playing the Hammond B-3 organ. Often, one ends up holding pads and throwing a Leslie switch back and forth while the guitar player takes yet another solo. There’s much more you can do to comp effectively, though. Job one is to find the groove and not rush the beat. Here are five of my favorite ways to comp on the Hammond organ.

1. Comping with the Sus Chord

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In Ex. 1, I use the suspended (sus) chord or the IV chord on the end of each bar. This gives things a Gospel feel, with the classic “amen” cadence on the blues phrase.

2. Quarter-Note Comping

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Do you like Beach Boys records? So do I! Ex. 2 recreates their signature quarter-note comping sound. Pull out all the white drawbars only, set your Leslie to fast and vibrato to C3, and crank up the reverb if you have it. This works on a lot of styles, including blues.

3. The Reggae Bubble

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The clicks, pops, and burbles a Hammond organ produces can and shouldbe utilized in your playing. Ex. 3 demonstrates how to incorporate them. In funk and reggae, use the palm of your left hand on the upper manual an octave below the chord stabs of your right hand to achieve the classic “bubble” comping sound. Don’t rush the beat—this needs to be back behind the beat to be effective.

4. Comping with Harmonic Percussion

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The percussion tabs on a Hammond or clone give each note a short harmonic ping at the beginning of their attack. Harmonic percussion while comping behind a soloist can be distracting, both rhythmically and harmonically. But Ex. 4 demonstrates how you can use the B-3’s percussion effectively while comping. Remember to use a pattern and keep it simple and consistent. 

5. Syncopated Comping

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Some of the best ideas I’ve put on records have been heavily syncopated B-3 comping rhythms. As long as the pattern grooves with the rhythm section and supports the song, it can cross bar lines, as shown here in Ex. 5.

Drawbar Advice

“Your drawbar choices should reflect the section you’re in and what instrument or vocalist you’re trying to support,” says organist John Ginty. “I prefer darker organ drawbar settings with slow Leslie speed for song verses, and brighter drawbar settings with fast Leslie for choruses and solos.”Ginty has toured and recorded with Jewel, Santana, and the Dixie Chicks, and was an original member of Robert Randolph’s Family Band, with whom he received two Grammy nominations and a Gospel Music Award for Urban Album of the Year in 2003. His latest release Bad News Travels is out now. Find out more at johngintymusic.com.