VR Organ Tuning Guide

Classic ‘Hammond’ settings on VR

The VR09/VR730 Roland organ engine has a ‘sound on its own’ that cannot reproduce all the timbres of a Hammond B3: the ‘base sound’ – the ‘pure sine waves’ – is ‘too sine’ and lack fine overtones.
When you try ‘standard’ B3 registrations on VR, some will work, some won’t. Some of ‘don’t work’ can be tuned by a number of ‘tricks’ though – these tricks, which are are collection of personal experiences of VR players (you might find them usefull or disagree – it’s each personal taste) are discussed in the following chapters.

VR organ by music-style:

  • Rock Organ: VR works allright
  • Cheesy churchy Church Organ: VR does an amazing job
  • Reggae (Bob Marley style), Latin (Santana style) : VR works very well
  • Jazz organ: the typical ‘Smith full-out’ registration works. Mellow, growling or ‘sphercial’ timbres of modern Jazz (post Smith era) cannot be reproduced – VR09 is NOT an organ for Jazz players

To get more out of VR organ, read the following chapters.

Learn to play ‘Hammond’

Classic ‘Hammond playing techniques’ are important for creating an authentic Hammond sound:

  • An excellent book for ‘initiating’ organ play is Hammond Organ Complete (Dave Limina, Berklee, check-out your local shop, amazon, etc): it shows playing techniques, typical registrations and includes an audio CD.
  • Those mastering the language of Goethe can work through Bonedo Hammond Workshop – an excellent introduction into organ playing
  • Tons of ‘organ guides’ can be found in the Wide Web (youtube, google, etc)

Tuning VR Organ

VR Tonewheel engine is ‘not bad’ but as a matter of fact it does not match the top tier of stage organs like Hammond SK, Nord, Yamaha YC etc.
Thus said, VR offers a number of ‘parameters’ which can significantly improve the ‘factory’ organ sound, bringing it closer to the ‘big boys’ (while not speaking of ‘dedicated clones’ like Hammmond XK5, Viscount Legend etc – someone said, the Viscount is not a ‘clone’ but an ‘instrument’ – VR will never even come close to their sweet deepness, faultless overtones …) :

  • Organ Type: ‘RockOrgan’ is probably the most used organ type – but for ‘mellow tones’, don’t hesitate to experiment with organ type ‘Jazz’ and Rotary type 1/2 or ‘standalone Twin-Rotary’ (see below) – it can sound better on your PA than default Rock-organ
  • Rotary Type: see special chapter below
  • Organ-Vibrato/Chorus: while VR ‘Vibrato’ maybe is one of the worst Hammond-VC implementations ever, VR ‘Chorus’ is not bad. Be carefull when combining Chorus and ‘VR Rotary’: Chorus-3 plus Rotary Type 3 produce a ‘muddy’ sound. Eventually select Chorus 1 or 2 – and/or use Rotary type 1 or 2. Chorus 3 works well with ‘standalone Twin-Rotary’
  • Higher harmonics: the Roland Tonewheel organ lacks a lot of ‘Hammond’ overtones (high frequencies). To a certain degree this can be compensated by adding small amounts of high harmonic bars. Example: to a typical 8880… organ-registration add 1 or 2 units of 1 1/3′ and/or 1′, e.g. 888800011. Note: using VR rotary in combination with MFX ‘Twin-Rotary’ and setting the MFX knob at 11 o’clock or higher pushes those ‘added harmonics’ towards the characteristical fine Hammond leakage (‘glass tone’), thus compensating the too dull ‘VR leakage’ parameter
  • Overdrive (OD): VR overdrive is one of the most critisised features of the VR: harsh’, ‘digital’, ‘scratchy’. etc. With engaged rotary it adds awfull ‘scratch sound’ artefacts at each rotation peak (not, it’s not broken headphones).And finalements OD amount is ‘steppy’ with each step not only making a jump in drive but also in sound character. There are some tricks to make it more handsome though:
    a) the ‘OD dry’ (wet/dry) option of VR menu ‘EFX’: adding ‘dry organ’ signal reduces the OD ‘part’ (it does not ‘soften’ the OD but only reduces its level). Note that this can be counter-productive: going dry’ can mislead into an attempt to regain the ‘level of OD’ (that you like to hear) by increasing its amount – but turning the knob right not only makes the effect louder but also more brute – as a result you end up with an even more harsh OD
    b) experimenting with ‘OD stepping’: as said, turning the OD knob not only increases the amount of OD but shows ‘stepping’ – and each ‘step’ changes the timrbe of OD (towards more harshness). A ‘trick’ can help: reduce the organ LEVEL (fader): this ‘spreads’ the value range of the OD knob and allows finer tuning of OD
  • Overdrive and ‘VR preamp distortion’: a too high organ volume drives the organ into VR internal preamp (soundchip?) saturation which leads to harsh distortions. The following examples demonstrate [LEFT] ‘clean’ organ (without OD): level (expression pedal) is rised and the scratchy crackeling preamp distortion kicks in at second ‘5’ at the beat of the ‘rotary level peaks’. [right] organ with subtile OD: level is rised (expression pedal) and the ‘preamp distortion’ kicks in at second ‘6’, rendering the overdrive quite harsh.

    Clean organ, preamp saturation at second “5”

    Organ with OD, preamp saturation at second “6”

    Delicate Factors for ‘running organ into preamp saturation’ are: adding OD (which rises the level), TONE knob to left or right, organ GAIN, high organ level etc…

    The trap is that while OD is applied, running into preamp saturation can go unnoticed and it seems as if the OD had become overly brute.
    One can prepare ‘save’ registrations that ‘prevent’ VR organ of (unintentionally) running into preamp saturation:
    – select organ type, rotary type, etc and set rotary ‘fast’
    – set OD to 11-12 o’clock (which is ODs ‘maximum level’ position)
    – adjust to taste: TONE, Organ Gain, Twin-Rotary, etc. etc. etc.
    – pull drawbars full out (or at least to the maximum you will use)
    – put headphones on (or use good monitors), play massive chords, try to sonically identify the preamp distortion
    – adjust organ LEVEL until the preamp saturation ‘crackles’ completely disappear (level can be down to 2-3)
    After this set drawbars and OD to the sound you’d like to obtain and save to a VR registration

    At the end we like to point out: preamp saturation can be used intentionally e.g. for creating brute transitor amp distortion, e.g. for heavy hard rock 🙂

  • TONE: TONE knob is a ‘V’ (or lambda)-shaped equalizer: turn clockwise to rise highs (and bass) for a clean, aggressive sound, turn counter-clockweise for a ‘nosey’ sound (TONE at 9-10 o’clock replicates quite realistically B3, Nord or Hammond SK timbre. Eventually compensate the lowered ‘bass’ with organ Low GAIN)
  • Organ GAIN: in VR menu ‘Organ’, Low/High Gain can be used to reshape the tonal character. It can be combined with TONE for a sort of ‘3-band EQ’
  • Leakage: VR leakage (crosstalk) adds a lot of (non-authentic) ‘deep fuzz’ – especially ‘bass-centric’ speakers VR starts rumbling like a powerplant substation – so be careful when adding leakage. To improve the leakage ‘timbre’, see above ‘higher harmonics’
  • class=”colO”Cry babe, cry: particulary VR Rotary types 2 and 3 produce a rather ‘damped’ tone. To make your VR sound super-bright:
    – turn TONE knob clockwise
    – play with ‘organ gain’ (VR menu ‘Organ’): example: set ‘low gain’ to -5 and ‘high gain’ to +10
    – use the brighter sounding VR Rotary type 1 – or even more extrem:
    – use ‘standalone TwinRotary’ for a very sharp, rough, cuttuing-through transistor rock organ

Tuning VR Rotary

Eveybody loves ‘VR Rotary type 3’ introduced in VR by later firmware updates. But with all the excitment don’t forget the ‘older’ rotary types as they can produce decent (better) results with respect to PA and music style. You might also exploit the possibilities of MFX ‘Twin Rotary’.

‘Real Leslie’ rotational speeds and accelerations

All men are equal – but Leslies are not 🙂 There is no such thing as the true unique real ‘Leslie speed’. Leslies rotate differently depending on model, ageing of bearings, tension/ageing of belts (friction, slip), the chosen pulleys of the belt driven horn, etc. etc. etc.

Grosso modo ‘authentic values’ are: tremolo (fast) speed: 360-400 rpm, chorale (slow) speed: 40-50 rpm.
Setting (slow/fast) speeds of drum and horn to identical values will result in a ‘church like’, rather ‘clean pulsing’ effect as drum and horn will be phase-coherent. Setting them slightly apart causes a ‘phase shift’ between drum and horn, which makes the sound more vivid.

In real life, rpms of horn and drum always differ to a certain amount (on purpose or by imperfections/ageing) and usually the horn rotates faster. Changing the ‘pulleys’ of the belt driven horn of a real Leslie changes horn speed about ca. +/- 10 rpms.

VR Rotary types

VR has two ‘principal’ rotaries: the ‘VR rotary’ (VR left panel ‘ROTARY SOUND’ button) and the ‘Twin Rotary’ from VR MFX section (which is a full fledge rotary on its own).
Both rotaries can be used standalone (‘pure’) or in combination (the original idea behind ‘Twin Rotary’).
VR menu ‘Rotary’ options (type, speed/acceleration options etc) apply both to ‘VR Rotary’ and ‘Twin Rotary’:

  1. ‘pure’ VR Rotary with types 1-3: this is active when the (VR left panel) ‘ROTARY SOUND’ button is ON (and MFX is zeroed): the types differ both in ‘amp characteristics’ and ‘rotary effect’
  2. ”pure’ Twin Rotary with types 1-3: this is active when (VR left panel) ‘ROTARY SOUND’ button is OFF, VR MFX is set to ‘Twin Rotary’ and MFX knob is set to max
  3. combined Rotaries with types 1-3′: this is active when (VR left panel) ‘ROTARY SOUND’ button is ON and MFX is set to ‘Twin Rotary’. While the (original) idea of running two Leslies on stage (used by some rock bands) might be ‘doubtful’, adding Twin Rotary to VR Rotary can significantly improve the sound of ‘VR rotary’

Important: the tuning parameters for rotary speeds and accelerations depend on the selected rotary types: see tables below

Using VR Twin-Rotary ‘standalone’

Standalone Twin Rotary (TR) is fully controlled by ‘slow/fast/stop’ of ‘ROTARY button’/mod-lever and by all options of VR menu ‘Rotary’

‘Standalone Twin Rotary’ produces a very clear, sharp, transistor-like sound that can be used ‘as is’ for aggressive Rock organ or clear Jazz or Reggae organ or as ‘base sound’ feeded into an external ‘amp simulation’ FX processor/pedal.

To setup ‘standalone Twin Rotary’:
– switch VR ‘ROTARY SOUND’ OFF (this switches the VR Rotary ‘amp simulation’ off)
– set MFX to ‘Twin Rotary’
– turn the MFX knob clockwise (preferably to max)
– chose a ‘Twin Rotary’ type: Twin Rotary varies with the ‘rotary type’ selected in VR-menu ‘ROTARY’:
      type 1 sets Twin Rotary to a rather ‘monophonic’ rotary effect
      type 2 sets Twin Rotary to a decent stereo rotary effect
      type 3 is _identical_ to type 2 but slighly louder
– tune ‘rotary’ speed/fall/rise/acc. options in VR-menu. Note: values differ for Twin Rotary (see tables below)
– apply Overdrive, organ Chorus/Vibrato, organ low/high gain etc. to your taste

Using VR Twin-Rotary in combination with ‘VR Rotary’

Adding an amount of MFX ‘Twin Rotary’ (TR) to the standard VR rotary can positively influence the rotary sound.
The contribution of MFX Twin-Rotary to the ‘rotor sound spectrum’ becomes significant when rising the knob to 11 o’clock or plus:
– it adds more ‘complexity’ to the ‘rotor tonal spectrum, making the sound more ‘vivid’ and ‘spheric’
– it improves the (not so nice) ‘whining’ character of VR Rotary
– it pronounces high organ frequencies, adding (authentic) Hammond leakage ‘glass sound’ (that lacks in VR organ)

Be careful: large amounts of ‘Twin Rotary’ (2 o’clock and more) have a risk of turning the thing into ‘chorale’.

Important: as discussed above, ‘Twin Rotary’ is (also) influenced by the ‘speed/rise/fall’ settings in VR men ‘Rotary’ – but the menu values result in significantly higher rpms compared to VR standard Rotary (see ‘Tuning Tables’ below).
When MFX pot is set past 11 o’clock, ‘TR rotation’ overwhelms ‘VR rotation’ and the audible rotation speed flips to a multiple of VR Rotary speed.
This ‘rpm change’ affects the slow speed regime but not the fast mode
To correct the rotation open VR menu ‘Rotary’ and adjust slow speeds as follows:
– for fotary type 1: woofer: 5, tweeter: 5 (both ca. 55 rpm)
– for rotary type 2+3: woofer: 3, tweeter: 10 (both ca. 47 rpm)
‘tweeter 10’ for type 2/3 is no typo: with Rotary type 2/3 VR Rotary tweeter speed dominates Twin Rotary tweeter speed (for any high MFX level)
the adjustment is necessary only for MFX-TR settings higher than 11 o’clock, with MFX-TR equal or lower 11 o’clock , standard VR settings do apply

Parameter-tuning of VR Rotary

The tables below give examples of ‘rotary tuning’ of VR Rotaries.
The ‘value’ is the number to set in VR menu (or CTRLR EDITOR), the brackets show the corresponding rotations per minute (rpm) or ‘fall/rise/acc. time’ in seconds.

  • VR ‘factory settings’ for VR Rotary are ‘non-authentic’ – but if you like the sound leave it as it is
  • VR ‘authentic settings’ correspond to an ‘averaged Leslie’ – Leslies usually run at ca. 45-50 rpm at slow and 370-420 rpm in fast mode
  • CTRLR EDITOR helps with tuning VR rotary as it indicates rpm and ‘ramp time’ numbers
  • Depending on rotary type ‘VR values’ generate different speeds and ramps, e.g. you cannot ‘copy’ the values of type 3 to type 1
  • Tip: set woofer speed slightly lower than tweeter: 0-2 units (5-10 rpm) for slow and 1-6 units (5-30 rpm) for fast (exception on “Twin Rotary”)
  • Tips for determinig real rpms and ‘times’ :
    – measuring the time on VR ‘tap tempo’. Ex.: ‘woofer slow’: use low harmony bars, set rotary speed to slow,
        in VR menu ‘Rotary’ set speed of Tweeter to 0 (bringing it to a halt).
        Listen to a tone (preferably on headphones) and start tapping the ‘rotary beat’ on VR ‘Tap Tempo’.
        Observe the displayed value, take an average
    – use CTRLR EDITOR: editor V-ORGAN shows rpm and fall/rise time (for VR Rotary)
  • VR Rotary Type 2+3 factory setting:
      Woofer SLOW Tweeter SLOW Woofer FAST Tweeter FAST
    value (rpm) 12 (56) 23 (108) 62 (292) 99 (467)
      Woofer RISE Tweeter RISE Woofer FALL Tweeter FALL
    value (time) 36 (7s) 92 (1.2s) 36 (7s) 80 (1.7s)
  • VR Rotary Type 1 ‘authentic setting’ (e.g. used in CTRLR EDITOR)
      Woofer SLOW Tweeter SLOW Woofer FAST Tweeter FAST
    value (rpm) 9 (42) 10 (47) 80 (377) 82 (387)
      Woofer Accel. Tweeter Accel.
    value (time) 6 (6s) 12 (1.5s)
  • VR Rotary Type 2+3 ‘authentic setting’ (e.g. used in CTRLR EDITOR)
      Woofer SLOW Tweeter SLOW Woofer FAST Tweeter FAST
    value (rpm) 9 (42) 10 (47) 82 (387) 85 (401)
      Woofer RISE Tweeter RISE Woofer FALL Tweeter FALL
    value (time) 50 (5s) 90 (1.2s) 50 (5s) 85 (1.4s)
  • VR Twin-Rotary (on rotary type 1) ‘authentic setting’
      Woofer SLOW Tweeter SLOW Woofer FAST Tweeter FAST
    value (rpm) 5 (55) 5 (55) 94 (360) 95 (370)
      Woofer Accel. Tweeter Accel.
    value (time) 6 (6s) 12 (1.5s)
  • VR Twin-Rotary (on rotary type 2/3) ‘authentic setting’
    important: TR slow speed settings are somewhat strange: woofer slow speed MUST be 1 unit higher than Tweeter to approximately match the 50 rpms.

      Woofer SLOW Tweeter SLOW Woofer FAST Tweeter FAST
    value (rpm) 3 (48) 2 (48) 74 (390) 77 (380)
      Woofer RISE Tweeter RISE Woofer FALL Tweeter FALL
    value (time) 50 (5s) 90 (1.2s) 50 (5s) 85 (1.4s)
  • ‘Leslie 147’ (measurement by Mr. Fischer), matched to VR Rotary ‘type 2/3’:
      Woofer SLOW Tweeter SLOW Woofer FAST Tweeter FAST
    value (rpm) 8 (35) 10 (47) 72 (340) 85 (400)
      Woofer RISE Tweeter RISE Woofer FALL Tweeter FALL
    value (time) 50 (5s) 91 (1.2s) 50 (5s) 83 (1.5s)
  • Averaged values of a couple of ‘real’ Leslies, matched to VR Rotary ‘type 2/3’
      Woofer SLOW Tweeter SLOW Woofer FAST Tweeter FAST
    value (rpm) 9 (42) 9 (42) 78 (368) 79 (372)
  • Neo Ventilator, matched to VR Rotary ‘type 2/3’
      Woofer SLOW Tweeter SLOW Woofer FAST Tweeter FAST
    value (rpm) 10 (48) 10 (48) 83 (390) 87 (408)