The North Suburban HAMMOND Organ Society

Eastern Massachusetts Premier Group for Those Who Love the

HAMMOND ORGAN and OTHER
ELECTRONIC KEYBOARDS

Opinion Page.

The following are personal opinions of Eric and do not necessarily represent the position of the NSHOS group.

 

A BAD PRACTICE.

Now here is something that is totally unrelated to this group or Hammond organs, but it is a practice which I greatly dislike, and that is the sending out of Christmas newsletters. Perhaps you too have received one of these; they used to be exclusively sent by mail, but now they come via e-mail as well. You know what I mean, those stupid reports that are frequently written in the third person so you are not supposed to know exactly who the sender is. Usually, they are in reality thinly-veiled brag sheets, chronicling all of the amazing accomplishments of the senders and their immediate families over the last twelve months.

They also frequently contain many references to people whom you do not know and who otherwise mean nothing to you. Do you really think that most people care that your great Aunt Maggie won the first prize for her entry in her church's annual pie contest?

It is one thing if you run an organization such as ours and you send out a monthly publication to your membership, but really... c'mon, people, is a Christmas message to your friends the same as a monthly newsletter/event notification to the membership of an organization? Perhaps you view your friends as your personal organization, but I would certainly hope that is not the case.

And what else really frosts me about this practice is this third person business. So when a family sends out this newsletter/bragsheet, the husband is referred to by name. Likewise the wife and the kids. So who actually writes these things? Do the senders of Christmas newsletters hire a reporter or a ghost-writer to produce these annoying missives? Third person writing is for textbooks, magazine articles and related material. Are these people writing textbooks? My gut feeling, when I receive one of these Christmas newsletters is to delete or dispose of it, or at best maybe give it a very quick cursory look. I never reply to them. Unless it is from somebody whom I consider a real friend who has just suffered a temporary lapse in judgement, I will generally figure that I am going to have no further communication with the sender until I subsequently get something that is addressed to me specifically and warrants my response.

So please, readers of this page, if you are a Christmas newsletter sender, Wake Up. Stop this BS. Believe me when I tell you, I am by no means alone in my dislike of this practice. Take the time to send an individual personal greeting if you are the type who likes to send out Christmas greetings. Leave the newsletter publishing where it belongs; to groups and organizations .

 

AN EVEN WORSE PRACTICE THAN THE ABOVE

The following is a practice that a lot of Internet marketers use, and that is the upsell. If you don't know what this is, it is what they do if you buy something online. After you have made your purchase, then they try to sell you all kinds of additional services or upgrades to what you just bought. For example, say you buy a certain software item. After you have paid for it, then they will try to sell you something else that really is necessary to have in order that what you purchased first will work better or be much easier to use. In my opinion, this is an extremely disingenuous practice. Actually it is worse, it is downright deceit. The idea evidently is to hook you in on the software at a lower initial price, and then make extra money by selling essential upgrades.

This is as though you went to a car dealership, paid for a new car, but then after you have bought your new car, you have to pay extra for a gas pedal, a brake pedal, a steering wheel and headlights, all of which are actually quite essential. If car dealers operated this way, how long do you think it would be before the courts got involved and started prosecuting such dealers. But unfortunately, the practice is alive and well on the Internet. When I see something like this now, I refuse to buy anything extra. I then start e-mailing the retailers with my opinion. So far in one case, I managed to get the upgrades at no additional cost, but only after I threatened to publicize the retailer in social media for all to see.

I think if enough of us begin to take action, we might actually have some influence, but it will take a huge effort by lots of people, however maybe this will be a start. Every major influential reform has to start somewhere. I have read some Internet marketing tutorials put out by merchandisers and marketers, and they tell you to do this upselling, because people who have just made a purchase are often more likely to make a second immediate purchase right away because their resistance has been temporarily lowered. So right there, these marketers are effectively telling you to exploit your customers to get more money out of them. My initial feeling is to avoid these marketers as much as possible. When a marketer sells you something on line, it should be complete as is and for the stated price. It should not need upgrades in order to function properly.

It is perfectly OK for a marketer, in my opinion, to notify you of upgrades or improvements to software that they may develop in the future. We all periodically get new computers, cell phones, cars and other items as they continue to advance, and there is nothing wrong with a software vendor notifying you by email that they have developed an improved version of the program you bought previously and to give you the option of purchasing an upgrade. My objection is to the idea that immediately after you buy something, you need to buy an essential upgrade in order for your previous purchase to work properly.

 

WHAT IS THE BEST HAMMOND ORGAN?

What is the best Hammond organ of all? I've been asked this question many times, and after I thought about it a little, I realized that is is actually a very difficult question to answer. There are so many ways that something could be best, and "bestness" (how's that for an interesting new word?) is like beauty; it resides in the beholder. Do I even know what the best Hammond is? No, not really. In my opinion the Best Hammond should be one that works well, sounds great, looks good. In my many years' of playing I found a C3 in a roller rink that played through 8 F40 tone cabinets. The sound was fantastic, helped considerably by the hall acoustics and the different distances from near and far speaker cabinets. I also heard a BC played through a single B40 cabinet (very similar to an F40) and it was mediocre at best. At another time I played a B3 in an ice rink that played through a single Leslie and an HR40, and that too was a great sounding installation. I think the X66 that our music group uses sounds pretty nice too, helped considerably by room acoustics. I once played an M3 spinet in a small basement playroom. Pretty uninspiring at best. Yet I've played an M3 with both a Leslie and an PR40 cabinet in a nice playroom and the sound was fantastic.

So maybe we need to consider quality. Certainly the traditional Hammonds have a well-deserved reputation for being extremely reliable and relatively trouble free considering their inherent complexity. I've heard different estimates as to the number of parts in a typical traditional Hammond console, typically from 11,000 to 17,000. So it's definitely not a simple device. Yet invariably Hammonds were the only instruments installed in skating rinks. In roller rinks there is the ever-present floor rosin, which in a very short time coats everything in the rink with a layer of dust. And in ice rinks, there is at times a lot of humidity. Hammonds proved over time that they were the only instruments that could continue to function reliably in these environments. The X66 models have excellent keying characteristics since they use electronic keying for all of the drawbar voices. They also have excellent percussion, vibrato which sounds a lot like typical Leslie tremolo and fantastic pedal bass. Many consider however, that the B3 with a Leslie is the ultimate in Hammond sound. One thing that is generally considered to be excellent in all Hammonds that have it is the Hammond scanner vibrato, which many feel is the best type of vibrato ever included in any electronic instrument. When Donald Leslie first developed his famous Leslie speakers, he intended that they should be used with Hammond organs, as the Hammonds available at that time had only a simple amplitude-varying tremolo as the only such effect available. Having played a few early Hammonds that had the tremolo instead of the vibrato, I can certainly say that it was not a very inspiring sound at all. Evidently the folks at Hammond felt the same way because soon after that, they developed Hammond's scanner vibrato. In my opinion, a Hammond with scanner vibrato needs no Leslie treatment at all and sounds excellent through a good HR40 or PR40 speaker cabinet.

So I guess the real answer to this question is that which Hammond is the best depends a lot on a particular instrument, where it is installed and what it plays through. I once had somebody tell me that all Hammonds are and sound the same. However, anybody who has spent even a little time playing and who has a pair of reasonably well functioning ears will quickly discover that there are huge differences between seemingly identical Hammonds. I've encountered five X66s within the last few years and every one of them is different. Likewise, I have played many B3s and C3s, two BCs, a BCV, several CVs, several different B2s and C2s and each one has been an individual, and identical drawbar combinations on each are quite different. So I guess in reality, the ultimate opinion of what is the best Hammond is really in the mind of the listener.

 

MUSICAL INSTRUMENT SNOBBERY

I first encountered “musical instrument snobbery” when I was a teenager and learning about the organ and also how to play. At the time, I practiced in my church on an old Hammond that was set up in the chapel. There was also a nice three manual Hook & Hastings pipe organ in the main church. I remember the disparaging remarks one individual made about the Hammond, and why wasn’t I practicing on the pipe organ instead. Well, first of all, I was not supposed to use the pipe organ. I had been given practice privileges on the Hammond, not on the instrument in the main church.

At that time in my life, the Hammond was formidable enough anyhow. But I remember puzzling over the way the individual had put down the Hammond as not a worthwhile musical instrument, and that I should have higher ambitions and aspirations musically; and I found it disturbing to say the least. I did not have enough experience in the ways of the world to know why the individual was so anti-Hammond, and why he was referring to me as ignorant for wanting to use that instrument. Now, 55 years later, I still encounter all kinds of musical instrument snobbery, but I have to wonder why this is so.

The B3 guys look down on the X66. The X66 guys look down on the B3. The theater organ guys think that anything that doesn’t have pipes and electro-pneumatic action is beneath their consideration. And the tracker purists, well, they look down on everything that doesn’t use air pressure less than 3" H2O and tinker-toy parts. So where do you draw the line? Well how about this? EVERY musical instrument has merit. Personally, I dislike accordions, but even though I don’t like the sound of an accordion, I appreciate the skills and artistry of those who play that instrument. I have no doubt that to be good on an accordion will involve a tremendous amount of time and effort and dedication. Likewise, for the type of music I play on the organ, whether Hammond or theater pipe, a tracker instrument would not be a good match; but I still appreciate the music and artistry of those who can play a tracker well. I have had several instances where I have invited musicians who play pipe organs primarily to do programs for our group, and they have refused because we offer a Hammond and not a real pipe organ. I am always puzzled by this, because having dealt with both Hammonds and pipe organs for many years, I am happy to play a pops concert on either. I have certain things that I will do on a large theater organ that I reserve exclusively for that instrument. Likewise, I have some Hammond favorites that I have not played on any pipe organ. But I find that there is enough of an overlap that I can present a pops concert on either instrument, and I can also enjoy both. Yes, I will admit that my preferred instrument is a theater pipe organ of any make as long as it is in tune and in good condition. But I also like Hammond consoles.

I guess what bothers me is the blanket condemnation of one type of instrument, or conversely, the fanatical devotion to one type of instrument only to the exclusion of all others. The late Pat Fucci of Waltham, who had a large 4/20 Robert-Morton theater organ installed in his home said it best, “The most expensive luxury a person can have is a closed mind.”

 

"OF COURSE IT'S NO PROBLEM, DUMB-ASS!"

Here's something that I think is really stupid, and that is saying "No Problem," when somebody thanks you. I recently dined at a restaurant with my wife. I thanked the waiter for bringing the food to our table, and his response was no problem. Well, of course it's not a problem. That's his job. Who is the idiot who decided to substitute the words no problem for you're welcome? I know language is dynamic and constantly evolving, and new words are appearing all the time and certain other words become obsolete. But I still think that you're welcome has a much nicer connotation than no problem. You're welcome seems to imply a certain friendship, almost a feeling that whomever you thanked was happy to have helped you, whereas no problem implies a certain impatience, or that the person who says no problem regards you as being sort of an ass-pain whom he or she is glad to be free from. To me, hearing a person whom I have thanked say no problem implies that the person is ignorant. I know this may not be true, but that is the implication I get. It's similar to the feeling I get when I see an advertisement or a solicitation that is full of mistakes in spelling and grammar. When I see that, my usual action is to disregard it, and if I see an ad on the Internet that is full of grammatical and spelling errors, my instinctive reaction is "WATCH OUT, DISHONEST HUCKSTER!"

One time I was looking at a site that sold pocket watches, one of my other interests. Everything was fine until I came to a description of a watch dial which was listed as a "porcillin" dial. I imagine what the seller meant was a "porcelain" dial, but that was it for me. Instant turn-off; I'm not buying anything here, that's definite. But who knows? Maybe "porcillin" is a new type of anti-biotic that can also be used to make watch dials. Maybe before too long we'll see watches with doxicycline dials or penicillin dials or maybe even erythromycin dials, but I rather doubt it.

 

Attention Young Ladies! You'll sound A LOT NICER if you'll get out of the "FRYERS' CLUB!"!

First of all, I did not misspell "Fryers". You might think I meant "Friars" but I did not. There is a particular speech or voice characteristic which is termed "vocal fry." It is sort of a crackly, buzzy sound and it seems that many young girls will use it as sort of an affectation, or perhaps a false sense of emphasis. You know, they'll say something like, "Oh my, my boyfriend was simply awesome," and the words simply awesome will be said in that annoying, creaky low-pitched buzzy tone that seems to be very common with teen girls and young women. Fortunately, I think most women outgrow this tendency as they get older, but young girls seem to adopt it and use it excessively. I'm not sure why that is, but it really is not a nice sound at all. If you Google-search the term vocal fry, you can get all kinds of information about how it happens, and even some endoscopic views and strobe videos of a person's actual voice production when making vocal fry. But physiology aside, it just is not a pleasant sound at all. Perhaps somebody eventually will explain to us why so many young women feel the need to do this. Guys are not entirely immune from it either, but it is rarely heard in men's voices; certainly much less frequently than in women's voices.

When I hear somebody say something and use that vocal fry tone, my first instinct is to say, "shut up, you phony bitch! Whom are you trying to impress?" It may also, however be a sign of nervousness in some younger women. I've heard it to excess when some high school girls are interviewed for some reason on the radio, which can certainly induce a lot of nervousness even in an otherwise confident person. Nervousness I can forgive, but to use it in normal conversation? Nope! Sounds awful, implies snobbery and arrogance, and it is definitely a habit which should be consciously dropped once and for all, never to be resurrected again. Girls, make a recording of your voice when you are producing vocal fry and I think you'll agree; not only does it not sound at all like your normal voice, it actually sounds pretty terrible.

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