Here are a few of the things I’ve discovered about getting a great organ sound on harp.

1) A rotating speaker effect is necessary to get an organ sound, but in itself it’s not completely convincing. If it’s all you’ve got, better than nothing.

2) In addition to the rotating speaker, you want octave doubles. If you only have one FX device for that purpose, and it won’t do multiple octaves at once (which is what an Electro-Harmonix POG does), you use an octave up or two octaves up. If you can, you use octave doubles up and down. With most FX devices, that means using more than one device for the octaves. I use two Digitech RPs (an RP250 and an RP355) for that purpose.

3) You put the high octave doubler after the rotating speaker effect. That gives it a lot of high-end cut, very much like a rock band Hammond.

One thing I haven’t tried yet is setting up one of the RPs to do a different interval than a high octave or double octave, such as a 12th (octave plus a 5th). You can do that on a Hammond organ using the drawbars, and it might be very cool.

Jorge Simonian showed in a recent post to Harp-L that you could do all this with two devices: a POG and a Korg G9 (I think), which he said was no longer in production. If you’re using anything but a POG or a HOG, you’d need three devices: two for low and high octave doubles, and one for the rotating speaker.

I’m using the second setup, with three Digitech RPs, on a loop I recorded last night. Here are a couple of clips of organ-style leads from that session. Both were improvised over the same 3 or 4 layer harp loop, played on a B Dorian Minor harp in second position (f# minor).

Excerpt 1: cutting organ lead

Excerpt 2: dreamy, Lowery organ type sound, like Garth Hudson of The Band

The minimum cost of a fully functional setup is at least $375 new, and could be as much as $525 depending on which rotary speaker effect you use. Behringer makes a rotary speaker effect stompbox that sells for $50, Roland makes one the goes for $200. It costs $324 for a POG. The cost of 3 RPs is about $450, fifty dollars more if one of the RPs is a 355. Three RPs will do a lot more than either a POG or a rotating speaker, of course, starting with reverbs and delays, not to mention a lot of other FX and sounds. But that’s how many RPs you need to do two harmony voices plus a rotating speaker.

So basically, if you want to get a really good organ sound out of a harp, you need at least $375 worth of FX (less of course if you can get one or more of the pieces at a discount, used, etc.), and probably more like $450-500. The good news is that you really will get a great organ sound at that price, and that’s a very nice sound to get.

If you have a Digitech RP or are planning to get one, and you want some organ sounds right from the start, check out my patch set. Plenty of good organ setups in there, whether you’re using one, two, or three RPs. And speaking of that, check out my RP tips and tricks.