American transistor organ enthusiast Barry Carson has created a great set of presets for the Farfisa and Vox-organs in the Nord Electro 3, Nord Stage 2 and Nord C2, recreating many of the legendary organ sounds known from the popular music of the 60’s.
History and Background
In talking to other Nord users, it seems that the most underused features of the Nord Combo Organs, Stages, and Electro 3’s might be the incredible models of two of the most iconic transistor organs of the 1960’s, the Vox Super Continental and the Farfisa Combo Compact Duo. While it’s true we all love our Hammond sounds, we shouldn’t forget that these Vox and Farfisa organs, the original combo organs, helped create the sounds of the British Invasion, the psychedelic summer of love, early hard rock, and all the other ’60’s music we love. The best way to realize the full potential of the incredible transistor organ models available on the Nord instruments is to have a good idea of what these organs were and how they worked. As a teenager 45 years ago, I listened to, played, and was intoxicated by the Vox and Farfisa organs. So, for other old-timers who grew up with these amazing organs and for young keyboard players born long after the swinging ’60’s were over, I figured it might be fun to revisit these great instruments!
While the Farfisa Combo Compact certainly had some hit records, it seemed to be more the choice of garage bands and teen-aged combos with lots of attitude. It showed up most often in noisy bars, high school gyms, and smoky basement clubs. It had a more workmanlike look and its rough, gritty sound fitted nicely in those bands that used it. There were basically 4 models of the Farfisa Compact series: the 4 octave Mini Compact, the 5 octave Combo Compact (which was the original Farfisa organ), the Combo Compact Deluxe (with some extra features and voices), and the top of the line two manual Compact Duo. The Nord models the Compact Duo, but it can create the sounds of all four of these organs. These four types of Farfisa Compacts and the two types of Vox Continentals mean that using the Nord transistor organ models actually gives the player an arsenal of the sounds of 6 different combo organs to choose from.
The Vox Continental was certainly the most recognizable 1960’s combo organ. Its unusual reverse colored keyboard, curving chrome stand, and striking orange and gray finish were seen on televisions everywhere and looked especially good on those new-fangled color ones. Its sounds poured out of juke boxes, hi-fi’s, and transistor radios all over the world as it was the organ of choice for most studios and most of the bands making the big hits. There were two versions of the Vox, the original four octave Continental and the top of the line, two-manual Super Continental. Both of these can be played on the Nord Vox model, and this is important because most of the Vox Continental’s ‘greatest hits’ were performed on the original single manual version. You can get these sounds because the Super Continental’s lower manual actually has the drawbars and sound of the original single manual Continental (albeit shifted up one octave) while the upper manual has an extra drawbar and has a slightly different sound.
These programs include a variety of transistor organ sounds including reproductions of the sounds used on several Vox and Farfisa hits. It is important to note that the original sounds were recorded over 40 years ago through various amps with various tone settings into various microphones and into various boards and effects and ultimately into various tape recorders. I have recreated these sounds through studio monitors using the Nord models, EQ section, amp simulations, and effects. While the end sounds are the same as those on the records, I’m not sure the drawbar or tab settings are exactly the same as those used on the original recordings. In any case, Farfisa and Vox organ players, like Hammond organ players, rarely set the tabs or drawbars and left them; they would often change them throughout a song. Hopefully these programs will not be an end unto themselves, but starting places for you to create your own sounds.