30 thoughts on “Manual Vocoding On A Hammond Organ

  1. So it seems that he is part of the Organist generation of 60s-70s Mexico City with others like Evaristo Enriquez or Juan Torres.
    This technique was “invented” by Tito Enriquez but perfected by Ernesto “Hill” Gil Olvera, whom was blind, and recorded LPs under the advertising that he played “the Organ that Talks!”

    I found on a random blog that the drawbar configuration was something like this, you started with:
    A = 88 8000 000 00
    E = 80 8080 000 00
    I = 80 0080 000 00
    O = 80 8000 000 00
    U = 80 0000 000 00

    And you worked them with your left hand as you played with your right hand and play bass with with left foot and expression with right foot

  2. vowels aren’t hard to do
    take two sinewaves (or what have you) at the right frequencies and go a,e,i,o,u all day long
    Helmholtz discovered this, I think

    1. Try it! Take your favourite “analogue” synth and make it say “Ah” with just two oscillators… It’s not that easy. In practice you need at least two (better 3 or 4) resonant, preferably band-pass, filters (though low-pass can work for the first filter). You can get good Eee-Aah type transitions with just two resonant peaks. But it’s not easy.

  3. this video is faking it, because it has the lyrics as undertitle
    so it basically tells you what you are supposed to hear …
    If you close your eyes you can hear it doesnt work at all 😉
    its just a,e,i,o,u and maybe “ch”

    1. In some modern pop songs you cant understand a word also, unless you knew the lyrics before …. 😉

      I find this technique amazing, considering how hard you’ll have to treat the drawbars with one hand while playing with the other.

    2. I don’t talk Spanish but I know very well this masterpiece: you need no text if you know the lyrics, and a Spanish speaking dude could surely do without knowing them.

      1. if you know the lyrics your brain sings them to you 😉
        it inserts all kinds of stuff that isn’t in the audio you are hearing.
        my Spanish isn’t perfect but its enough to hear that this is just gibberish 😉

        1. I can sing all kinds of Spanish sounding gibberish to this if I want to
          bi amo el torro la ti do ?
          its a trick, nothing more 😉
          he is playing the vocal line with a,e,i,o,u, und the melody and our brains do the rest

  4. I think this is “fake”: there’s no way you could modify all the drawbars in real-time to get all these different vowels, including some consonants. Alternatively the organ has been rigged somehow so you can switch registrations (smoothly) through a number of expression pedals.

    So has probably been played through a talk-box, there’s clearly some other filtering going on.

    1. most of what we imagine to hear is only present when reading the words. without reading, it is only some vowels.

      check out this link to realize how much our brain does the hearing – we hear what we want to hear. it is amazing: https://youtu.be/76amLQK8N7E

  5. It’s possible to reprogram the reverse colour keys on old Hammonds. Between that and the effect described above, I can see how it might be possible to perform most of these transitions.

    The results to me were interesting but not terribly successful. I listened while looking away from the phone and heard “Besame”, and “Mucho”, but no other words were familiar to me, and I am pretty familiar with this tune.

    It was impressive nonetheless but far from what I would describe as a talking organ.

    1. where you hear “besame” I just hear “something””e””s”a””something””e”
      “mucho” I hear “something””u””ch””o”

      I tried once in vain to make speech with classic oscillators & bandpass filters
      and what I am hearing here are the exact same things I was able to create
      A,e,i,y,o,u,ö,ä,ü, and something close to ch,s,z,
      all the other stuff I tried didn’t work & can’t be created like this

  6. NOT bogus. You can tweak the drawbars quickly on a console Hammond organ. The reverse color keys are presets that you can program to whatever drawbar settings that you like. He is playing the reverse colors with the left hand and the melody with the right. Notice that you don’t hear any chordal organ accompaniment (organist would usually be comping chords with their LH on the lower manual).

  7. The Talking Organ
    Wednesday, September 2, 2009


    Towards the 50s, the musicians Evaristo Enríquez Zavala , Luis Fernando Zepeda and Ernesto Hill Olvera discovered, apparently independently, that by moving in a certain way the sliding bars of the Hammond Organ, it was possible to emulate the sounds of the vowels .

    To form the following letters you have to open the following bars like this:

    A = 88 8000 000 00
    E = 80 8080 000 00
    I = 80 0080 000 00
    O = 80 8000 000 00
    U = 80 0000 000 00

    Link: How to make the Hammond Organ sing

    If we add the melody executed with the keyboards, we obtain the effect of the Organ that speaks.

    It was Zepeda and Hill Olvera who commercially exploited this finding, through their personal appearances, eventual appearances in the Mexican cinema and the two albums that he recorded throughout his career, in the case of the last of the named. This technique was not popularized, despite the fact that Hill Olvera spread the secret of it, due to reasons such as the constant manipulation of the bars could wear them quickly or, because forming the vowels while the melody is running, it slows down the organist and makes it difficult to make arrangements for the accompanying instruments.

    This is the best demo video I’ve found about it:

    Unfortunately, at present, with electronic keyboards it is impossible to produce this effect .

    A couple of more links to blogs that refer to the “Organ that speaks”:


    Sources: Wikipedia and http://www.theatreorgans.com/

  8. if anyone wants to see this technique in action take a look at these two videos. Neither of them are as good as Zepeda’s Besame Mucho but at least you can see their hands doing the work:



    If you look up “organo que canta” (organ that sings) on youtube you’ll find plenty of videos documenting the technique.

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