Analog Synthesis: The life and legacy of Bob Moog
For a lot of, the identify Robert Moog might solely sound acquainted because of the synthesizer firm that bears his identify… if in any respect. Nevertheless, likelihood is you’ve got probably heard one of many devices that carry that label in the course of the course of your Spotify or Rdio streaming periods. Acts starting from 9 Inch Nails to Chvrches, Deadmau5 and Dr. Dre make use of Moog’s synths, so listening to one among his iconic synthesizers blast out of your headphones is only a matter of time. As you may anticipate, the story of the model begins with its eponymous founder and the primary keyboard-pushed synth again in 1964. On what would’ve been his eightieth birthday, we have a look again on the lineage and legacy of Bob Moog.
Even for those who’re acquainted with the identify, you won’t know that Moog largely started as a theremin firm. In 1954, when he was 19, Moog began constructing and promoting customized theremins together with his father, tallying up gross sales of 1,000 models by 1961. Two years later, he was knee-deep in setting up voltage-managed oscillators, voltage-managed amplifiers and pitch modulators with composer Herb Deutsch — all key elements for modular synthesizers and the sound that might grow to be synonymous with the identify. “Thoughts you, neither of us had any concept the place this was main,” Moog would say in a later interview.
“Thoughts you, neither of us had any concept the place this was main.”
From there, Moog debuted the aforementioned keyboard-powered synth in 1964 and by no means appeared again. On the time, few different synthesizers wielded a piano-esque set of keys as the first technique of enter. Previous to then, patch cables, nobs, sliders and contact keyboards have been the first means of producing sounds. In fact, one of many major points remained measurement. Keith Emerson’s Moog Modular System debuted that very same yr and was fairly a load to maneuver from venue to venue for Emerson, Lake & Palmer exhibits.
That each one modified in 1970, although, with the introduction of the Minimoog Mannequin D, one of many first considerably reasonably priced and, most significantly, moveable analog synths. The mannequin can be regularly improved and re-launched in a number of totally different variations down the street. Moog would go away the corporate in 1977 and between 1983 and 2002, the rights to the model have been held by a number of house owners whereas its founder pursued different tasks. It was in 2000 that a Voyager prototype was proven off on the winter NAMM, an choice that might go on to turn into an digital music staple within the years to comply with, and the primary to be launched as soon as rights to the identify have been resecured and Moog returned.
Moog Music, as the corporate has been recognized since these rights have been retained, did not let up on the innovation when its founder handed away in 2005. The corporate’s workshop-like manufacturing unit is nestled on the sting of downtown Asheville, North Carolina, and homes engineering, design, manufacturing and a retail retailer, plus an in-home studio for touring musicians passing by way of. The newest product, the Sub 37, is because of roll out this summer time and, as with the Voyager earlier than it, had its introduction again at NAMM in January. Engineer Amos Gaynes advised me throughout a current go to that the 37 was actually born out of pushing the boundaries of final yr’s widespread $1,000 Sub Phatty. “The Sub Phatty set a excessive bar, however the pleasure was multiplied by all the prospects that you can see proper in entrance of you,” Gaynes says.
The aim for the Sub Phatty was for it to be probably the most reasonably priced keyboard-built-in providing that Moog had launched. With that in thoughts, controls and panels have been stored easy and easy with solely the requirements included on the floor. Gaynes continues, “Within the strategy of implementing what was on the panel, there was type of an exploratory means of, ‘Properly, if it could possibly do this, it will possibly in all probability additionally do that.'” These tweaks turned the first additions for the complete-featured Sub 37; issues like linear detuning, snappier envelopes and an prolonged keyboard. This behavior of revising and enhancing synthesizer fashions has turn into a behavior at Moog through the years.The Devices
These new releases aren’t all that is retaining the momentum, both. Moog synths just like the Voyager have nabbed the fragile sonic sensibilities spanning genres and generations by means of common revisions and reissues with expanded capabilities. The exploration by no means stops on the manufacturing unit, and it is evident once you converse with anybody who works there. It is because of Bob Moog’s work on extra compact and moveable devices that each digital musician does not need to cart round an enormous unit like Emerson’s for stay exhibits. This is a quick primer on a small portion of that instrument heritage in footage.
The First Moog Modular Synthesizer (1964): Debuted on the Audio Engineering Society (AES) conference, this unit was the primary voltage-managed synth to make use of a keyboard because it’s main enter technique.
Minimoog Mannequin D (1970): This manner the primary compact and (considerably) reasonably priced moveable synthesizer for musicians. It additionally laid the groundwork for the favored Minimoog Voyager line that debuted in a couple of many years later. The Minimoog was additionally the primary unit to hit retailer cabinets, as most have been made-to-order customized-constructed affairs previous to its arrival.
Moog System fifty five (1973): In case you ask people what a “classic synthesizer” seems to be like, they’re possible to provide you an outline of this. The bigger cupboards allowed consumers the power to tweak the instrument to go well with their audio wants with patch cables and extra.
Micromoog (1975): Whereas it solely packed a single oscillator, this was meant to supply the efficiency that Moog was recognized for on a finances as a extra reasonably priced various to the Mannequin D. In fact, it is compact construct made it tremendous moveable, too.
Minimoog Voyager (2002): The Voyager was the primary synthesizer launched after Moog retained the rights to the model and based mostly on the Minimoog Mannequin D. This time round, a contact management floor was included on the panel with MIDI interface in addition.
Minimoog Voyager XL (2012): A mash-up of almost all the sounds present in each the unique Minimoog Mannequin D and the Voyager, the bigger mannequin introduced again entrance-panel patching from the basic modular models.
Sub Phatty (2013): Designed to be probably the most reasonably priced analog synth ever provided by Moog, the instrument presents the naked necessities for creating thick tones on it is entrance panel.
Sub 37 (2014): Based mostly on the Sub Phatty sound engine, the Sub 37 serves up a Duo Mode that permits the twin oscillators to be performed independently with the long-lasting Moog Ladder Filter and an prolonged keyboard.The Legacy
When trying to gauge the impression of Moog’s work throughout the present music panorama, it is essential to hunt out opinions of those that have expertise with a variety of devices. Paul Meany of the New Orleans-based mostly outfit Mutemath is one such choice. The band employs an array of sounds on every report they produce, layering elements to make the entire. Meany himself has wrangled all types of keyboards, organs, synthesizers, keytars and even selfmade hacked devices to get simply the proper sound.
He remembers his first encounter with a Moog instrument nicely. Because of a pal who thought that they had a damaged piece of drugs, he inherited a wonderfully useful Sensible Concertmate MG-1 — a synth made by Moog for RadioShack again in 1981. “Abruptly, I had this actual-sounding factor,” he says, after beforehand solely toying round with Yamaha and Casio choices.
“Ever since these early days, I’ve tried to maintain Moog devices part of no matter we’re doing.”
“Ever since these early days, I’ve tried to maintain Moog devices part of no matter we’re doing,” he continues. He is slightly fast to level to the Voyager because the unit that stands proud most. “Is there ever a band on TV that does not have a Voyager?” he asks. When you occurred to tune in to the Coachella stay streams, you undoubtedly caught a glimpse of one in every of many such synths on stage. There isn’t any denying that the Voyager has definitely turn out to be a staple in trendy music. Meany explains, “It is such an amazing, strong, reliable analog keyboard, and we now have a type of that we play so much.”
He says the brand new Mutemath report might be extra synth-laden than others, partially influenced by the band’s time spent within the Moog Sound Lab final fall — that in-home studio of types on the manufacturing unit the place musicians reimagine tunes utilizing solely Moog gear. However their final effort, Odd Soul, has loads of the long-lasting sounds layered in, too. “The Moog and the synth bits that we did on Odd Soul [are] what made it sound like greater than only a three-piece rock band document,” says Meany. You will get a style of these tones on tracks like “Allies,” “All or Nothing” and “In No Time” off of that album.
So what’s it about that Voyager, or any of the fashionable Moog synths for that matter, that pulls so many musicians to them? “It is arduous to screw up,” he confesses. Certainly, these devices are straightforward to make use of and there is actually no mistaken strategy to go about it, in order that they’re ripe for amateurs and experimenters alike. He explains, “It is type of a sound security internet for us” — when songwriting hits a snag, a lick from the synthesizer pulls them out of it.The Future
Moog’s tech has graced guitar pedals and even cellular apps, making the tones which have pushed the synthesizers accessible to anybody with an iPhone or iPad for a minimal funding of just some dollars. Theremins nonetheless play a large position as properly, with the Theremini that is fitted to gamers of all ranges to get in on gesture-managed motion. With the introduction of the Sub 37 after pushing the boundaries of the Sub Phatty earlier than it, it is clear that the mindset that drove Moog’s instrument constructing and fixed experimentation continues to be alive and properly. The corporate stays targeted on analog methods whereas trying to convey its legendary sound to extra people. Consequently, Moog stands to be a staple in studios and on levels for many years to return.
Picture credit: Ileana Grams-Moog (Bob Moog photographs); Moog Music (synthesizers); Getty (Mutemath/Paul Meany)