Video: Booker T. and the Secrets Behind His Hammond B-3 Tones

As the leader of the MG’s, Booker T. Jones brought his masterful playing to the band’s own records like Green Onions and McLemore Avenue in addition to the timeless classics they made with Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, and more Stax Records artists at the birth of Memphis Soul.

Booker T. later brought everything he had learned as a player, arranger, and composer to produce Bill Withers’ breakout album Just as I Am and Willie Nelson’s jazzy about-face Stardust. Add to that the decades of gigs with the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, as well as a stellar solo discography, and you’ll begin to understand one of the most remarkable careers in popular music.

Booker T. Jones

Underpinning much of Booker T.’s trademark sound is his impeccable work on the Hammond B-3 organ—an instrument he says that "moved my body just to see it." Recently, Reverb was lucky enough to sit down with the legend and have him explain some of the secrets behind his organ-playing.

Booker T. told Reverb that he starts with a basic setting—pulling the first four draw bars out for most songs—while relying on the first draw bar for his quieter tones. "And then it’s just a matter of where I play it on the keyboard," he says, as he plays some tasteful, fluid chords.

As far as a specific playing technique, Booker T. says he often plays just as a teacher once taught him to play, keeping one key pressed with your right hand even as you play the melody with your other fingers. Called "crawling," this technique allows the notes’ harmonies to linger while the Leslie speaker drenches them in tremolo.

On stage with him this day, Booker T. was joined by his guitar-playing son Ted Jones, who appeared on Booker T.’s 2013 solo album Sound The Alarm. In the video above, the two also talk about their musical relationship—how Booker T. works with Ted on theory while Ted pushes his father to try new things, including finding gear on Reverb.

Be sure to check out the full video above. To learn more about Booker T. and find upcoming tour dates and more, check out his website here or his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. You can also browse Booker T.’s legendary discography on Reverb LP.

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