Welcome to the second in a series of quick historical primers on this history of synthesizers – these posts will guide you through the evolution of the instruments that make our music what it is today, with an eye on why things behave the way they do.
We also have a full, free e-book on the subject available for download below:
Now that we’ve learned about the fledgling first steps of a new industry, how does it go to mass market?
2 – Portability and Playability (within reason)
The next evolutionary step was the first truly giggable synth – the minimoog, ARP 2600, Roland System 100, and the Korg MS 20 were all moves towards a downsized device that would be finally at home on stage instead of just in the studio.
The ARP, System 100 and MS-20 are all “semi” modular synths which means that while some of the flexibility of a true modular synth was retained, the instruments were also somewhat “hard wired” into configuration that allowed for ease of use, and reduced the size of the instrument.
In the majority of synth patches, there is a fairly standard architecture which is followed, and by wiring the synth internally, the size and weight of these instruments was significantly smaller than their processors. This is still a relative term however, as a full System 100 is immovable by one person and resembles the command centre of a telephone exchange more than an instrument.
The real step forward here is the Minimoog however, which was the first real “breakout” instrument.
It differs from the other ones mentioned up until now in that it has a fully hard- wired signal path, and this is one of the reasons why it was so readily adopted by new users – it “feels” more like an instrument, and less like an experiment. Mass produced and adopted by many of the great rock bands of the time, the Minimoog is still regarded as one of the greatest and arguably the greatest synth of all time.
More next week, or feel free to grab the whole Synth Primer Ebook below!