The V303J Continental II - Drawbar Voicing and Tone Control

When you pull out the five white "voicing" drawbars on the upper keyboard of the Continental II and play the lowest, or "C1" key in the illustration above, the resultant sound will be composed of these eight distinct pitched tones. This same eight tone relationship explains how the Vox Continental II developed even a more Hammond like tone than other 1960's combo organs.

When you pull out the four white "voicing" drawbars on the lower keyboard of the Vox Continental II Organ, and play the lowest, or "C1" key in the illustration above, the resultant sound will be composed of these seven distinct pitched tones.

This is a view of the underside of the V303J drawbar assemblies. The thick red cables coming from the left and right side of the photo feed the output from the key contacts to the drawbars. The output signal from the drawbars is fed through the preamp circuit and is then sent to the audio output jack on the organ through the muticolored wire bundles near the keyside of the drawbars.
The drawbars on Continental Organs are used for voicing and tone control and are based on the operation of a pipe organ.

The concept of drawbars for voicing control was originally developed by Hammond Organ in the 1940s. Hammond organs used 9 drawbars that controlled the volume of nine different electronically simulated organ pipe lengths. From left to right, these drawbars were connected to tone generators inside the organ that operated the simulated pipe lengths of 16', 5 1/3', 8', 4', 2 2/3', 2',1 3/5', 1 1/3' and 1'

The original 1962 design Vox single Continental drawbar system borrowed heavily from Hammond. On the single Continental, the left four drawbars are labeled 16', 8', 4' and IV. As on a Hammond organ, these voicing drawbars act as volume controls for the sound of the electronically simulated pipe organ lengths they control. The Vox Continental drawbars are connected to the output of the serial dividers on the tone generator cards through the key contacts.

The lower keyboard of the dual manual Continental II utilized this original "single" Continental drawbar system. The upper keyboard of the Continental II inched even closer to the Hammond sound architecture by adding a fifth voicing drawbar and an additional Hammond harmonic tone.

How is this accomplished on the Continental II? Like a Hammond organ, the Vox Continental II has two sets of 16', 8", and 4' fundamental drawbars (the note generated is the same tone as the key played, or the "consonant" tone) and II, III, and IV Rank overtone drawbars (which are generally based on harmonically related thirds and fifths tones of the consonant.)

The sixth divider on the tone generator cards produce the lowest tones on the organ (click here for an explanation of the divider operation on the V303E tone generator cards). The output of the sixth, ot lowest divider on the tone generator card is roughly equivalent to the tone produced by a 16' pipe on a traditional pipe organ. In the lowest octave of the organ, the 16' "fundamental" drawbar is connected to the output of the sixth divider, adjusting its volume. The drawbar may be pulled out to make the tone louder and pushed in to make the tone softer. Again, in the lowest octave, the fifth divider on the tone generator card feeds the 8' "fundamental" drawbar, making a tone equivalent to an 8' pipe on a pipe organ and produces a tone one octave higher than the sixth divider. The same applies to the fourth divider and the 4' "fundamental" drawbar, which produces a tone two octaves higher than the sixth divider.

In the second octave, the 16' drawbar is connected to the fifth divider on the tone generator card. In the third octave, the 16' drawbar is connected to the fourth divider on the tone generator card. In the highest octave, the 16' drawbar will be connected to the third divider of the tone generator card. The similar scheme would apply to the connection of the 8' and 4' drawbars to the tone generator cards.

In addition to the "fundamental" 16', 8', and 4' tones, the lower keyboard has a IV Rank or "overtone" drawbar. The upper manual has II and III Rank "overtone" drawbars. These drawbars add the complex Hammond like harmonics to the tone of the Vox Continental series of organs.

The IV Rank drawbar has a combination of four tones, again based on the length of the pipes on a pipe organ that would produce these tones. The tones are based on the 2 2/3' , 2', 1 3/5', and 1' pipes. The II Rank is based on the tones of the 5 1/3' and 1 3/5' organ pipes. The III Rank was based on the tones of the 2 2/3', 2', and 1' organ pipes.

These "overtones" drawbars make the tone of the Continental more complex when compared to the Vox Jaguar organ, which does not offer this tonal option.

The dark red drawbars adjust the tone of the organ. The left or "~" drawbar offers flute voicing. The symbol on this drawbar, "~" represents a sine wave, the visual representation of a flute tone on an oscilloscope. The right, or "M" drawbar offers the reed voicing, a much brighter tone. The "M" symbol on the drawbar is the visual representation of a reed tone on an oscilloscope. These tone drawbars may be used individually or in combination with each other. Like the white drawbars, these also act as a volume control. When pushed all the way in, the organ will make no sound, regardless of the position of the white drawbars.

You might wish to purchase the Vox V303J schematic to help you repair the drawbar or preamp circuits. Parts values for all capacitors, resistors, and diodes are included in this schematic. Click here to purchase this from North Coast Music.


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Photos and editorial content courtesy Gary Hahlbeck, North Coast Music

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