A powerful technique used by most modern B-3 organists is to tap rhythmically on a bass pedal while playing the actual bass line on the lower manual using the left hand. Only occasionally do they play actual bass notes on the pedals. The B pedal is good for tapping due to its unusual, resonant sound. The pedal note and the left-hand note are often different, so you have to hit the pedal lightly with a flat foot to get its signature percussive attack without sounding a pitched note that might be dissonant. If you have a clone with a MIDI pedalboard instead of a vintage Hammond, the technique will feel a bit different but will still work. When executed properly, it adds punch, pop, and funk.
Sheet Music Notes
- The top staff is for the upper manual of the organ, the middle is for the lower manual, and the bottom staff is for the bass pedals.
- Where you see an X on the note, tap the pedal without sounding an actual note.
- Drawbar settings above each staff use the standard nine-number notation. Each equals how far each drawbar is pulled out.
- Vibrato and Leslie suggestions (e.g., “C3 Fast”) are provided as well.
1. Brazil via NYC
Ex. 1 uses a “clarinet” setting from the original Hammond Organ owner’s manual. Ethel Smith popularized this sound on her most famous recording, “Tico Tico.” The right hand spins a twisty melody while the left hand plays bass.
2. Triple Threat
In Ex. 2 we will actually play the bass with our feet and hold down chords with the left hand. The right hand uses another Ethel Smith registration, a variation on what’s known as the “tibia” setting. (The full tibia setting uses the last drawbar as well). If you push in the lowest two drawbars on the lower manual, you can hold chords in your left hand in a range that’s transposed up enough that you don’t have to cross your hands.
The drawbar stop in Ex. 3 is straight from classic ’70s soul music. This one is almost the oppositeof the common 83 8000 000 setting and has a very hollow sound. Here, the foot just taps low D notes on the strong beats for emphasis. The bass registration uses a little of the 5–1/3' drawbar in the bass for added punch.
4. What Hip Is
Ex. 4 takes a cue from original Tower of Power organist Chester Thompson. The top manual uses what’s called the “silk” setting. The left hand alternates between the thumb and second finger for the bass line. The tricky part is that the foot alternates between the toe and heelon the bass pedals. Make sure to keep your hands and feet relaxed and balanced.
5. Half Fat
Ex. 5 isn’t all drawbars out, nor is it out of Jimmy Smith’s playbook—it falls somewhere between. I’m using it over a Gospel/blues “shout” riff—try playing this near the end of someone’s sax solo. The feet tap quarter-notes and occasionally play a line. Experiment with where to pedal and look for different tricks as you practice. Here’s a favorite of mine: At the end of the night, rest your tired thigh to the left of the bench and tap the Db pedal with your toe!
“The cut for organ pedal-tapping technique is ‘Squib Cakes’ by Tower of Power. Check out the middle part where it’s just drums and Chester Thompson on organ,” says Brian Charette, who has performed and recorded with Joni Mitchell, Lou Donaldson, Bucky Pizzarelli, Michael Bublé, and Rufus Wainwright, in addition to leading his own jazz groups. Visit Brian at www.briancharette.com.