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Jazz Kat

"Organs"

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Keyboard Magazine this month is dedicated to the XK1 and Xk3...with in depth interview of Joey Defrancesco talking about all the various factors.

If you're interested at all in these you MUST get this issue.

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JK,

The whole XK System, including the XK-3 (which is the brains of the unit and where all the sound is actually generated), the XK Base (ie, the second (bottom) manual (keyboard)), the XK pedal unit, the XK stand (real wood) and bench would set you back about $8000 retail. That's a lot of money, I realize. But as Red said, if you want to make this your living, then you want a good, reliable instrument that will not fight you but rather bring out your talents to their max potential. An older Hammond console in good condition would probably do the same and for less money (a good condition B3 will cost you anywhere from $3000-$5000 usually) but you have to factor in upkeep (Hammond techs are NOT cheap), moving the thing (having a big enough van/truck/trailer, etc... buying organ dollies, organ covers, etc.) and getting the organ actually in the club and to the stage. And you never know what you're getting into.

True story: First gig on our East Coast tour last October was Van Dyke's in Schenectady, NY. We get to the club, with my 1958 B3 (all 425lbs of it) and my Leslie 122, as well as all Joe's gear and Randy's set, and we walk in the door. We go to the back of the place, where there's this nice sort of enclosed patio, bar area. We ask if that's where we're playing. "Oh no. The stage is upstairs." "Is there an elevator?" "No, this building was built in 1880. There's no elevator." We had to haul that B3 up a flight of stairs, with a really nasty 90 degree turn right in the middle. To navigate past that, we had to put the organ on it's end, rotate it, and jimmy it past the railing. Then we still had another 10 stairs or so to go up.

Trust me, after doing that kind of work, the last things your hands want to do is play the damn instrument.

Back to the XK System. As I said, the brains of the unit is the XK-3 keyboard. This is all you need to get started. You can split the 61-note keyboard so you can play bass with the left hand (with the classic Jimmy Smith drawbar setting of 838000000) and lead/chords in the right (with whatever setting you want). It has two sets of full drawbars and a set of pedal drawbars. You can add each piece later, including the bottom manual. You can actually use any keyboard that has MIDI as a second manual if you want, which I did before I got the rest of the system. It works, but the spacing between the manuals is not right (they are very close to each other on a B3) and of course different keyboards do not have the same feel.

The XK-3 retails for $2200. You should be able to find it for under $2k. You'll need to purchase the EXP-100 expression pedal, so you can control your volume. Organs are NOT touch sensitive, so the only way to control the volume is to use an expression pedal. That will set you back another $150 or so.

When you save up a little more you can get the XK Base, which is the second manual. It looks like this:

XLK-B3-ea9097b830af533e59ecfdf6d392a5ab.JPG

The XK-3 sits on top, the bottom keyboard you see in the picture connects via MIDI and voila. There is also a stand that is sold separately. The two together (stand and base) will set you back probably another $2500.

Then there is the pedal board:

25-Pedal-1c5b1519db100f922744a12186732ccd.jpg

This is about $1900. There is also a bench, but I'm actually using my B3's bench, to save a little money. No Leslie, but you can usually find a vintage Leslie 122 (best match for this setup without buying a new Leslie) for anywhere from $800-$1000. You can use the onboard Leslie through any decent full-range keyboard amp and it will get the job done. But nothing beats a real Leslie.

If I were you, I would start with the XK-3. The XK-1 I mentioned earlier is less money (about $1500) but is not compatable with the XK System. If you don't plan on learning pedals, don't want another manual, then get that. But the nice thing about the XK-3 is that you can expand it into a full, console-style organ as your budget allows.

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Here's a shot of me playing the XK-System at the Muskegon Summer Celebration a week or so ago. The XK-3 is the top manual. The bottom manual is part of the XK Base. Not pictured is the stand and the pedal board. I'll keep scanning this DVD for a shot of those.

As you can see, it's setup like a true Hammond console, complete with a half-moon Leslie switch mounted on the bottom rail, to the left.

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Here's a shot of the pedals and you can see the stand as well. The stand is completely open, so people can see your feet. The pedals are just like Hammond console pedals of yore, except I find these easier to play (less friction) and they weigh less as well (just like the rest of the organ!)

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I think in some cases, this new system sounds better than a B3. I also heard a sample of it off the link you sent me. Sounds damn good, plus it's light. I am pro Xk or whatever it is.

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XK system. sorry.. Whatever it's called. I like it!!!

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I liked the part about Joey DeFrancesco saying that the problem is that the XK3 was designed using one specific B3 as the model. However, no two B3s sound exactly alike, (many are very, very far apart soundwise). Joey suggested they do some sort of sound card where you could choose from 15 or so B3s as the one being modeled.

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I haven't read the Keyboard article yet (I'll probably pick the magazine up soon) but it is true that different B3s sound different, especially ones from different decades. However, it is possible to go in and edit each individual "tonewheel" on the XK3, all 96 of them. It's possible to really alter the sound of the stock B3 model quite extensively and there are user presets that you can save your tonewheel settings to. In fact, I've read that if you have the ability to put your B3 under headphones (I have a direct out on mine, so I can do that) and put the XK-3 under headphones, you can go through each drawbar and tonewheel and compare each original tonewheel to the digital equivalent on the XK-3 and edit the XK-3 until it sounds like that particular organ. So what Joey is asking might already be possible (especially considering the XK-3 has a Compact Flash Card slot, so you can save literally millions of setups to a standard 64mb card).

In my opinion, I think whatever B3 model they used for the XK-3 sounds very good as it is. It's not quite as "dirty" as my 1958 B3, it has a little more sparkle in the highs (which I can adjust using the onboard EQ, but I kind of like it) and is not as "barky" in the middle, but the low-end is much better on the XK-3.,. much tighter, cleaner, and easier to hear in a live situation (which is great for Randy!) I can certainly live with it!

I'm not going to lie, it's still a comprimise. A real B3 has a certain... aura to it that cannot be captured in a digital re-creation. The action on the XK-3 isn't exactly like a B3 (nor is the action on the New B3... but both are nice and are easy to get used to). However, the XK-3 and the XK System come as close as I think you can to a monster like a B3 and still be a full-sized, wooden, substantial electronic instrument. Plus, I'm really having fun experimenting with the MIDI/controller functions of this new rig. I don't know if anyone saw the Yamaha Motif rack module on the right side of the organ in that pic from Muskegon, but I've got that MIDI'd up so I can play Rhodes, Wurli, clav, piano, and other sounds on the top manual of the organ just by pressing a preset. Fun stuff!

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Hey Jim. I saw Pumpkin Pie on Youtube! Excellent!

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im convinced my L is indestructible. when i moved it recently we had to carry it backwards and sideaways and then we actually rolled the whole thing over like a giant rectangle, you know, like on its side then upsidedown then up again 2 the other side. all that and it didnt break any tubes or nothin'. i havent even oiled it in 2 years, and it runs great.

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Keyboard Magazine this month is dedicated to the XK1 and Xk3...with in depth interview of Joey Defrancesco talking about all the various factors.

If you're interested at all in these you MUST get this issue.

i was gonna mention this article, i need to pick this up...

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