North Suburban HAMMOND ORGAN Society

X66 Percussion Overview

In addition to providing both harmonic synthesis and a formant system, the X66 also contains a vastly improved percussion system. Recall that traditional Hammonds were built with vacuum tube technology regarding all amplification and related effects. The X66 instruments are all solid state, and whereas making a multitude of percussion keyers using tubes would make a very complicated, power-hungry instrument, doing this by means of transistors was much easier and both practical and cost effective. Furthermore, the percussion on the X66 behaves exactly like a real melodic percussion instrument such as a piano or celesta.

If we play a note on a piano, it begins very quickly and immediately starts to fade away. If we let go of the piano key, a felt damper presses against the vibrating strings and the tone fades away very quickly. If we hold the piano key down, the tone still fades away but takes longer to do so. On the X66, the percussion voices behave this same way. Play the keys quickly and the percussion tones fade out very soon after you release the keys, but if you hold the keys down, the tones fade away more slowly. Furthermore, because there is a percussion keyer for each pitch, you will get individual percussion tones on each key that begin and fade independently of each other. Recall in the description of typical Hammond percussion in the traditional instruments that there is only one percussion keyer for the entire instrument.

The percussion system on the X imitates several bell-type instruments including a celesta and an organ harp, chimes and a glockenspiel as well as a marimba and a xylophone. All of these instrument sounds are created by additive harmonic synthesis, and some of them, notably the chimes and the glockenspiel as well as the celesta are surprisingly realistic. There are also two formanted percussion voices, piano and banjo. The piano is somewhat suggestive of a real piano, and the banjo likewise is somewhat like a real banjo. Even though [my opinion] they do not sound all that close to either a piano or a banjo, they are nevertheless very musically useful effects and are much closer sounding to their real instrumental counterparts than they would be if done by additive harmonic synthesis.

Besides having an enhanced drawbar system to control the additive harmonic synthesis effects on both keyboards, there are also conventional stop tabs which turn on and off the formanted voices. Either formanted or additive harmonic synthesis effects can be used on either keyboard, either singly or together, thus the X66 is capable of a far greater range of tonalities than the more traditional Hammonds can produce. Now on the following pages we'll look at an actual X66 Hammond in detail and see how it works, what similarities it has to a traditional Hammond, and how it differs. In our examination of the Hammond X66, we will also see that it is a much more electronically complicated instrument than either a traditional Hammond or a Wurlitzer 4600 series instrument. Therein lies my reason for requesting that you read both of those articles before reading this one, because there are a number of basic principles in there, the understanding of which is key to exploring and learning about the X66 Hammond.


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