The XW-P1 Drawbar Organ mode lets you combine the essential ingredients of a classic organ tone. In Part 1, we discussed drawbars and what they do, and in Part 2, we covered how to create different drawbar settings on the P1. It doesn’t stop there; here we’ll go over the next components and finishing touches to get a great organ sound.
Just like a B-3, you can add a percussive tone to the organ sound (either the second or third harmonic), by pressing one of the orange-labeled buttons while in the P1’s Drawbar Organ mode.
The percussion component of the sound is monophonic with “first-note priority”. This means that if you play a chord, or a part with both hands, the percussion will only trigger on the first note you play, and not trigger again until all notes are released. Experience it for yourself:
- In TONE mode, select preset DRW: P:003 “Perc. Organ 1”. Play a few staccato (short, detached) notes. Notice the wooden “knock” at the attack of each note.
- Hold down a note at the bottom of the keyboard with your left hand, and with your right hand, play those same staccato notes.
Notice the difference in tone: those right hand staccato notes sound much mellower, because the precussion sound is missing. The percussion has already triggered on your left hand note and is waiting for all notes to be released before triggering again.
This quirk from the old-school organ days can add a cool quality to your melody lines. Since the percussion fires off periodically, it gives the line various accents that are prevalent in classic jazz and soul recordings. However, if you were playing on an old B-3, you might use the second keyboard manual with your left hand, and/or bass pedals, enabling the percussion to trigger more often with your right hand. Since the P-1 has one keyboard, what can we do to get around this? The answer: Create a split in PERFORM mode.
Drawbar organ split
We covered how to create a keyboard split here, and the same process applies for our purposes here. PERFORM mode enables us to use one sound from a specialty category. Here, we’ll choose a DRAWBAR organ tone for the right side of the keyboard, taking advantage of the percussion effect. For the left-hand side, we’ll choose another organ sound from the PCM section. For a left-hand organ bass, try PIANO:P:6-3 “Click Organ”. Note that “key click” on an organ is not the same as “percussion”. Key click is more or less a side-effect of the tonewheel technology used at the time, and its amount varied from organ to organ. This particular preset has a nice, low, fundamental sound suitable for bass lines. Obviously, you could choose any of the PCM tones here, including basses from the GT/BASS banks as well.
If you don’t need bass, you can simulate a second organ manual by choosing a complimentary organ sound such as PIANO:P:6-2 “Tremolo Organ”. In EDIT mode, after choosing the sound, go to ZONE PARAM, scroll down to “Oct. Shift”, and try +1 or +2 to put it in a suitable range.
Since the PCM engine operates independently of the DRAWBAR ORGAN engine, the left side of the split will not trigger the percussion, and your right hand melodies will have a more authentic B3-sounding quality.
Coming back to TONE mode, we can further enhance the sound with vibrato and rotary effects, and more. Next time we’ll cover how to control these effects in real time, and how to apply some of the P1’s many other DSP effects to take the organ tones to some unexpected directions.
So really, what is the difference between these two synths?
The most obvious difference is that the XW-G1 is a sampler. It allows you to load in 50 of your own sampled sounds and create sample loops live. Loading in new sampled sounds is particularly good for drums and since you can find samples of nearly any vintage drum machine for free on the web this opens a wealth of options.
The XW-G1 doesn’t have the Hex Layers or the Drawbar organ mode of the XW-P1, instead you gain significant control over the Solo Synth. You can adjust tuning, envelopes and filter of each oscillator independently or as a group using the sliders.
Which one is right for you? Well that depends, but we’ll try get some audio and video examples up here soon to make the decision easier.
Casio’s Mike Martin demonstrates the pattern sequencer on a XW-P1. For those of you that have a XW-G1, don’t worry, it works exactly the same way.
In part 1, we explored how each drawbar brings a certain harmonic into the sound. It’s the combination of drawbars at various levels that gives us the array of organ tones we’ve come to know and love. Once you get a sense of how the drawbars function, we can make some user preset settings.
First, it’s important to note that the sliders work differently than in HEX LAYER mode or MIXER. In those modes, the sliders work like a traditional mixer:
Slider DOWN= minimum (0), to
Slider UP= maximum (127)
If you’ve used a mixer before, it makes sense. Turn it up, turn it down.
However, in DRAWBAR ORGAN mode:
Slider UP= DRAWBAR IN=minimum (0), to
Slider DOWN=DRAWBAR OUT=maximum (8)
Think of a drawbar like a reverse volume fader. All the way UP (0) is silent, and as you pull the drawbar DOWN, you get increased volume level from 1 to 8. Why is it like this? On a vintage drawbar organ, the idea is that all the way “in” is “closed”, and bringing the drawbar “out” (towards you) “opens” it up, letting its sound come through.
As you move a drawbar slider, look at the screen. You’ll see the name of the drawbar and its value displayed temporarily below the preset name, as seen here:
As you can see, there’s also a visual of the overall drawbar setting on the right side of the screen. A drawbar preset is often described as a row of nine numbers from left to right, with each number representing a drawbar position. In the case of the photo above, that setting would be described as “888000000”. This is a classic setting that can be found in PRESET DRW:P0-0 “Drawbar Org 1”. Try matching this setting by pulling “out” the lowest 3 drawbars, and pushing “in” the others.
Now try these settings, by moving each drawbar until the screen shows the corresponding number:
888800000 (Booker T.-style soul)
885800321 (top end shimmer)
888000004 (classic with added whistle)
Remember, with the XW-P1, you can change the sound while you play, to tweak the drawbar settings to your liking. Once you find a sound you like, you can save it as a USER PRESET.
This is a major part of getting a great organ tone, but there’s even more to it. Next time we’ll cover percussion, vibrato, and rotary effects.
Looking for some fresh sounds? Want some of those presets that Casio has used in demo videos? Casio’s Mike Martin has just uploaded a set of Hex Layer and Solo Synth presets for you complete with PDF documentation. Here they are:
Download XW-P1 Soundbank1
The XW-P1 may not look like a vintage tonewheel organ, but thanks to the Drawbar Organ mode, you can achieve many classic organ tones with real-time control.
An organ’s drawbars provide a way to bring in various harmonics to create a sound. With some experience, and organist can recognize the physical position of the drawbars and what type of sound will be produced. On the XW-P1, the sliders act as the drawbars, and the screen shows a graphic layout of their position as well. Let’s see how they work.
In TONE mode, select the DRAWBAR ORGAN category (the same button as “Pattern 3”). Select Preset 0-0 “Drawbar Org 1”. The right side of the screen shows the “positions” of each drawbar, regardless of the current position of the sliders.
The original drawbar organs labeled their drawbars as an analogy to the lengths of pipe on a pipe organ, in feet. Each “pipe” generates a different harmonic component of the sound.
These drawbar labels can be found above the strip that lights blue when Drawbar Organ is active, as seen here:
What do these archaic labels mean to us in the modern world? The best way to understand them is to hear what the drawbars do. Try this:
- Move all the sliders to the fully up position (drawbars off). Hold down Middle C (you should hear nothing. If you hear a tone, you’ve probably got percussion activated (on/off buttons are to the left of the sliders).
- While holding down middle C, pull the 16’ slider all the way down (drawbar fully on). You’ll hear a C. Bring the slider up, and repeat for the 8’, then the 4’, the 2’, and finally the 1’ drawbar slider. You will have heard Cs from low to high.
- Try the drawbar sliders labeled with fractional numbers (5 1/3’, 2 2/3’, etc). By themselves, they yield different notes (lower G, G, E, and a higher G).
Since we musicians tend to think more in terms of musical intervals than the physics of the harmonic series, I think of it like this: Whole-number drawbars generate the pitch of the note I’m playing, in various octaves. Numbers with fractions generate a tone a fifth higher (also in various octaves). The exception to this is the 1 1/3″ drawbar, which generates a third (several octaves higher).
With different combinations of drawbar positions, you can achieve an array of classic organ tones we’ve come to know. In Part 2 we’ll create some classic organ presets. and coming soon we’ll dig into even more organ features on the XW-P1.
Robert also wrote a great review of the XW-P1 in OKey Magazine