A History of Moog Synthesizers: Robert Moog’s Creations: Minimoog to Little Phatty

A History of Moog Synthesizers Robert Moogs Creations Minimoog to Little Phatty
Written by Alyssia Walmsley

Robert A. Moog was already building theremins when his friend Herb Deutsch sparked his interest in synthesizers. When he built a prototype for the 1964 Audio Engineering Society Convention, the response was enthusiastic. He immediately started taking orders for what became the Moog Modular series.

Moog Modulars: Synth-Bach by Wendy Carlos

The Moog Modular got its reputation with the 1968 release of Wendy Carlos’s platinum-selling Switched-On Bach, a selection of Bach’s work performed on Moog Modular synthesizers. The success of the album combined with the unique sound made Moogs much in demand. The Beatles even used one on Abbey Road.

The Minimoog: Kraftwerk to Yes

By far the most popular of Moog’s synthesizers, if not any synthesizer, the Minimoog had quite an impact when it was introduced in 1970. With a huge sound that belied its portable size and the possibility of subtle expression from its pitch bend and mod wheel, it is acknowledged as one of, if not the best analog monophonic synths ever.

The Minimoog has been used by too many artists to name. Any rock band from the ’70s had one, from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer to Yes. Experimental electronic groups such as Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra also used them. Its popularity continued into the ’80s and is still highly sought after today.

The Minimoog’s Successors: Micro, Satellite, Minit and Poly Moogs

  • The Micromoog was a less expensive version of the Minimoog. It had the characteristic filter, but fewer oscillators to lower the price.
  • The Moog Satellite was a monophonic synth with velocity-sensitive keys, but virtually no editing capabilities. T
  • The Minitmoog was a smaller version of the Satellite. Both had an interesting range of preset sounds, but without the ability to edit sounds, they were not as popular.
  • The Polymoog was the first to offer polyphonic sound, but had very limited editing abilities, making it similar to string synths of the time. Despite this, it produced some unique sounds, some of which can be heard on Gary Numan’s Cars.
Bob Moog Retires: Multi, Rogue, Source and Memory Moogs Released

In 1977, Robert Moog left Moog Music, citing poor management and marketing. Moog Music continued without Robert Moog until their bankruptcy in 1986, producing many synthesizers, but were generally not very successful.

  • The Multimoog was an enhanced Micromoog.
  • The Moog Rogue was an even more stripped-down, single oscillator version of the Minimoog.
  • The Moog Source was the first Moog synth to offer patch memory, but had a clunky interface and was still monophonic.
  • The Memorymoog and Memorymoog+ were the first Moogs to offer MIDI capabilities and were billed as every synthesist’s dream: six Minimoogs in one. Unfortunately, they were notoriously unreliable and only a limited number were produced.

Despite commercial struggles and inferior products, the popularity of the Moog sound continued to grow. Giorgio Moroder introduced the Moog sound to popular music with Donna Summer’s 1977 hit Feel Love. Science fiction movies such as Tron used Moog-based soundtracks to add to their otherworldly feel.

About the author

Alyssia Walmsley

Alyssia is a Cornell University graduate of 2003 and a former lead technology development manager for Microsoft and Cisco Networking Systems. Between writing on her blog, SkyGone Inc, she likes adventures and chocolate sprinkles!

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