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50 Years Of Moog: The World's Best-Loved Synthesizer

Published: Fri October 17, 2014  News Feed

The original Moog Modular analog synthesizer was first introduced to the public on 12th October 1964. On that day, at an Audio Engineering Society's (AES) convention in New York, Dr. Robert Moog introduced the world to a completely new type of instrument that would go on to change the course of music history and influence decades of future instrument design. Today, Moog is still the leading name in analogue synthesizers.


Moog 50th Anniversary
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Newer Moog synths such as the Sub 37, Sub Phatty, Mother-32 and the affordable Moog Werkstatt-01 Analog Synth Kit are some of the most desirable synthesizers right now, and proof that, more than 50 years later, Moog synths still retain their unmatched appeal.

Moogfest is an annual event that celebrates all things Moog, in the US, and, in May 2016, it's been announced the return of the legendary Moog Minimoog Model D, perahps the most important and influential synthesizer, ever - and certainly the most popular!


The Minimoog Model D is back!

After more than 30 years, the Minimoog Model D returns with a pilot-production run at Moogfest 2016 in Durham, USA. Handcrafted in the Moog Pop-Up Factory, the pilot-production units built during the festival will only be available for purchase on-site in the Moog Store (for now, at least). The new 2016 Minimoog Model D is NOT an exact replica - but an improvement on the original, with slight updates such as better keyboard, an LFO and new control voltage routings.


 
No word so far about whether Moog will make the new Minimoog Model D more widely available, but given the fact that analogue synthesizers are extremelly popular again, Moog would be missing a trick if they didn't capitalize on the iconic status of their classic synth! So yes - we don't know when, but it's realistic to expect them to, at least, do a Limited-Edition reissue of the Minimoog Model D for the international market!

Moog History... so far!

Robert Moog and his creation

The Moog synthesizers were the first transistor-based, voltage-controlled systems. At a time when digital circuits were still relatively costly and in an early stage of development, voltage control was a practical design choice. In the Moog topology, each voltage-controllable module has one or more inputs that accept a voltage of typically 10 V or less.

The magnitude of this voltage controls one or more key parameters of the module's circuits, such as the frequency of an audio (or sub-audio—"low frequency") oscillator, the attenuation or gain of an amplifier, or the cutoff frequency of a wide-frequency-range filter. Thus, frequency determines pitch, attenuation determines instantaneous loudness (as well as silence between notes), and cutoff frequency determines relative timbre. Each key on Moog’s keyboard controller triggered a specific voltage which corresponded to a different frequency, essentially allowing the oscillator to be played one note at a time.

WATCH: Bob Moog Talks About Where He Got His Ideas From



The voltage control was thus a new way of creating powerful sounds like no-one had ever heard before, and it was just a matter of time until musicians would catch up with it and introduce the Moog into popular culture. And the place where the Moog synthesizer first gained attention from the music industry was at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival, in 1967, almost 3 years after its inaugural apperance in New York!

Monterey 1967 is better remembered for Jimi hendrix appearance setting fire to his guitar, and The Who smashing all their gear in what is considered by many their finest ever gig. But another revolution was also taking place - Electronic music pioneers Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause, who had bought one of Moog's first synthesizers in 1966, had been trying to interest Hollywood studios to use it in movie soundtracks, without success. But when they set up a booth at the Monterey Pop Festival, it all changed, and many of the artists attending the event, such as The Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel, instantly demonstrated an interest.

Some of the first songs to use a Moog analog synth were released soon after, including 'Reflections' by Diana Ross & The Supremes and 'Strange Days' by The Doors.

In 1968, Walter Carlos (now Wendy Carlos) released his Switched-On Bach, with synth reworkings of famous classical pieces by Bach, and the album became one of the highest-selling classical albums ever. Carlos went on to work with Stanley Kubrick on the soundtrack for A Clockwork Orange.



In 1969, even The Beatles were using Moog in several tracks from the Abbey Road album. But it was perhaps Keith Emerson, from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who became the name most associated with the Moog synth.

One of the biggest revolutions came in 1970, with the release of the Minimoog. Unlike the early modular systems, which were quite big, the Minimoog was designed as a self-contained musical instrument for use in live performance. An important Minimoog innovation was a pair of wheel controllers that the musician could use to bend pitch and control modulation effects in real time. It soon found favour with many acts such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Tangerine Dream and Gary Numan. Later on, it was adopted by electronic music and dance acts. Today, the Minimoog Voyager is quite popular, with the latest Minimoog Tolex Voyager XL being one of the most desirable synths right now:

Limited-Edition Minimoog Voyager Tolex

The Moog Taurus was another popular early synth, used by Genesis, Rush, Electric Light Orchestra, Yes, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Parliament-Funkadelic. Now, Moog produces the affordable Moog Minitaur Analog Bass Synth, which is delivers the same "phat" synth tones that made the original Taurus so popular.

Today, the list of notable Moog artists looks like a who's who of the bigegst names in music, from heavy rock to electronica. Moog also makes the popular Moogerfooger effects pedals, which sound great with keyboards, electric guitars and bass guitars.

Moog Werkstatt

It seems Moog's history is far from over. The new Moog Werkstatt-01 Analog Synth Kit (see pic above) is the most affordable Moog synth ever, but still delivers classic analog tones. The Werkstatt is aimed at anyone from school children to gearheads into modding their equipment, and created some buzz. The re-introduction of the Minimoog Model D shows that the long, successful history of Moog is far from over...

Long live Moog! And we're all looking forward to another successful 50 years of Moog Synths!

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