Transforming Discarded Hammond Organs into Modern-Day MIDI Machines

Analog Outfitters organic MIDI organ restoration

How Analog Outfitters is Rescuing Hammond Organs from the Trash Heap & Reinventing Them as Modern-Day MIDI Controllers

Using a Hammond organ on the road is something musicians from all walks of music crave, but transporting a real Hammond organ has never been a painless task. The frustrating experience of taking a Hammond on the road was the inspiration for the Analog Outfitters ORGANic MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) controller.

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Analog Outfitters spent ten years repairing amplifiers before making the jump to building them. In 2011, with no intention of starting an amplifier business, Ben Juday built a custom amplifier from one of the hundreds of old Hammond organs he had lying around the shop, as well as some old signs and empty scientific equipment cases. This developed into AO’s flagship product, the Sarge. Since then, Analog Outfitters has continued to develop new products and expand internationally.

INTRODUCING ANALOG OUTFITTERS ORGANIC MIDI

Conceptualized as a way to solve the weight and maintenance issues of the Hammond organ, the ORGANic MIDI has an identical layout to the Hammond B3. A standard Hammond organ weighs roughly 500 lbs, and requires constant maintenance like tube replacement and generator oiling. With so many musicians wanting to use the Hammond organ in touring and professional settings without the inconvenience of constant upkeep, AO took it upon themselves to find a solution.

Using vintage Hammond keyboard manuals and parts, and bringing the overwhelming weight of the organ from 500 lbs down to 95, the ORGANic MIDI was born. The ORGANic MIDI plays and feels like a real Hammond B3 but is simpler to transport and doesn’t involve the hassle of continual care.

Creating one of these beautiful instruments is remarkably labor intensive, and takes roughly 50 hours to build.

On top of that, Analog Outfitters has made it their mission to use recycled or up-cycled materials wherever possible, so finding an unwanted and commercially unusable organ is the first step to building an ORGANic MIDI. 

Capable of creating the rich, classic tone of the Hammond, the ORGANic MIDI combines the original key contact and drawbar infrastructure with a patented MIDI-capable interface that can be applied to a wide array of MIDI software.

To generate this tone, Analog Outfitters disassembles an unwanted organ and rips out the manuals. The wires are then removed from the manuals and the MIDI is painstakingly hand wired with updated circuitry and installed into a cabinet.

Analog Outfitters Organic MIDI

Analog Outfitters Organic MIDI

The cabinets for the MIDI are all custom and handmade from repurposed organ wood. However, some artists want to have as close an experience to the organ as possible, in which case AO will use the old organ it came out of and restore that as the cabinet.

The organs recovered for the ORGANic MIDI are salvaged from instruments dating back to the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. The age of the manuals has never once been a drawback, due to the fact that they were incredibly well built and engineered. Not only does this give artists a cool piece of history to play, but it provides a stable musical platform by which proprietary electronics can be connected.

The original Hammond Organ Company, which ceased organ production in the mid 1970s, had over 40 models of organs, all of which were built with the same craftsmanship and skill as the extremely coveted B3 organ. Today, many of these models have virtually no commercial value and are likely to end up in landfills or bonfires.

Since these organs used endangered wood species such as Redwood and Mahogany and featured the same keys, drawbars, and switches as the original B3 organ, Analog Outfitters has made it their mission to find a new use for these beautiful, discarded instruments.

Through the AO MIDI controller, artists can retain the original organ experience without the typical logistical problems. The weight has been reduced to one-fifth of some original models, making these instruments lighter and smaller than even the sleekest B3 chop. Without the need for constant maintenance, this controller is road ready. And as a musician, you’ll definitely stand out with one of these stunning controllers.

The ORGANic MIDI Controller line is available worldwide through Analog Outfitters’ website at www.analogoutfitters.com.

What do you think of this article about Analog Outfitters Organic MIDI project? Let us know in the comments below or drop a line on the Performer Magazine Facebook page or on Twitter @Performermag. And read more from the special Synth Issue of Performer Magazine

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