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Moog’s Contributions

A History

Moog Modular Synthesizers (1963-1980)
Moog’s very first claim to fame were his modular synthesizers and the numerous amount of modules that could
fit into them (oscillators, filters, amplifiers, reverbs, etc.) They used patch cables to connect each of these
modules together. These combined systems could use upwards of 50 modules, providing almost limitless
customization. Releasing in 1964, it set industry firsts in its use of a keyboard interface for sending signals to
the synthesizer and its interface. While these machines could be as powerful as today’s synthesizers, the mere
bulk and complexity of switching patch cables meant that they were not for the faint hearted. Their original
function was only for use in recording studios as opposed to live performance. Of course, sales of these were
not very high, especially in comparison to later synthesizers such as the Minimoog.[1]It was so radical at the
time, that “it was an innovation rather than an invention”[2]
Example of a Moog Modular in action:
Songs that use the Moog Modular: Switched-On Bach

Minimoog (1970-1982)
While the Moog Modulars were the beginning of the legacy of Moog, the Minimoog was what popularized the
synthesizer in the minds of musicians. There were actually 4 models, but only one the model D (out of models
A, B, C, and D) actually went into production. But the over 12,000 Model D Minimoogs were eventually sold
in a time when almost no one even knew what synthesizers were.[3] It was also one of the first chances for
consumers to give feedback regarding synthesizers and their development and design, since there were so
many prototypes that users could test out before the final product was released.[2] This is what how the
Minimoog created the market for synthesizers in live performance. The Minimoog was famous for its
uniquely analogue sound and its outstanding filters. In fact, Moog rival ARP tried to copy it for their own
synths![4] It is the most popular synth of all time, as well as the best selling monophonic analog synth.
Example of a Minimoog in action:
Songs that use the Minimoog: Autobahn, Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Moog Satellite (1974-1979)
With the outrageous success of the Minimoog, Moog was able to expand his business, especially to compete
with rival ARP. It was supposed to be a cheap (~$200) synthesizer with a wood finish that would appeal to
organists, with only one voltage controlled oscillator as opposed to the three in the Minimoog. What was
special about it was the presets that it included, such as those to make brass, reeds, and strings sounds.[4] The
production was actually outsourced to the Thomas Organ company. The most interesting part was the
lucrative royalty fees that Moog Music garnered from the sales (around 40%).

Moog’s Contributions to the World of Synthesizers
Moog’s Contributions
A History

Moog Sonic 6 (1974-1979)
The design of the Sonic 6 differs largely from Moog’s previous synthesizers because it was a product of a
company that Moog acquired (Musonics). They were actually housed in attaché cases and were fairly
portable, allowing young and budding musicians to try out synthesizers at a cheap price. It was one of the first
duophonic portable synthesizers (the Minimoog had been monophonic, or one note at a time) What was
unique about this synthesizer was its dual LFOs (low frequency oscillators), which allowed control of multiple
sources and variables using the two.[5] The Sonic 6 was actually a refinement of the Musonics Sonic V that
added multiple distinctively “Moog” elements such as “Minimoog-like envelopes”.[4], which only added to the
mystique today that is associated with the smooth-sounding “Moog” sound.
Example of a Sonic 6 in action:
Songs that use the Sonic 6: Wow and Flutter, Spot

Micromoog (1975-1979)
While the Minimoog was Moog’s entry in the consumer synthesizer market, it was too expensive for some
($1500!). It was designed as a much cheaper alternative to the Minimoog while preserving all of the core
functionality. It only featured one oscillator and one LFO. It’s “small but powerful” status was emphasized in
an advertisement: “don’t let its size fool you. Tone oscillator doubling, dynamic waveshaping, and the Moog
filter give you that famous fat Moog® sound.”[6] One innovation it introduced was the ribbon controller,
contrary to the ribbon (pitch) wheel found in earlier Moog synthesizers. This allowed new and innovative
(sometimes more precise) sounds to be made.
Example of a Micromoog in action:
Songs that use the Micromoog: Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Dub, Chameleon

Polymoog (1975-1980)
The Polymoog was one of the first polyphonic synthesizers. Though it did help to push innovation, it was
perhaps one of the first Moog synthesizers that was not billed as the best in its class. However, it could make
some unique sound and its 71-note, touch sensitive keyboard was amazing for its time. The ability to use
multiple voices was an incredibly important innovation in the world of music synthesis: “its unlimited
polyphony was considered revolutionary upon its initial release.”[7] The Polymoog was often derided for its
poor build quality and unreliability. In fact, the Polymoog experienced 150-200% failure rate.[3] A stripped
down version of the Polymoog called the Polymoog Keyboard was also later released that provided a lot less
control. Key innovations included a keyboard that could be split into three sections that could each be
controlled separately and the introduction of a pedal controller allowed musicians to be even more creative.
Example of a Polymoog in action:
Songs that use the Polymoog: Cars, Riot in Lagos

Moog’s Contributions to the World of Synthesizers
Moog’s Contributions
A History

Minitmoog (1975-1976)
The Minitmoog was the spiritual successor to the Satellite, slightly improved with two voltage-controlled
oscillators instead. It included presets such as “Trumpet, Oboe, Clarinet, Sax, and Violin”[8] Again, it was
targeted towards people who just wanted something that was plug-and-play and was simpler to understand
than Moog’s other synthesizers.

Multimoog (1978-1981)
The Multimoog was basically an updated version of the Micromoog, still manufactured for those who could
not afford the Minimoog. Again, it was an appeal to to the evergrowing consumer market for synthesizers.
An advertisement proclaimed, “Whether you’re a performer, a synthesist-or both-check out the one-hand/two-
hand punch of the versatile one-MULTIMOOG”[6] One of the features it had was aftertouch (how hard/fast
you press on the keyboard can affect the dynamics of the signal), which allowed for more precise sounds.
Example of a Multimoog in action:
Songs that use the Multimoog: Born Slippy

Moog Prodigy (1979-1984)
The styling of the Prodigy was very similar to the Minimoog’s and perhaps allowed it to dominate the entry-
level competition from its release in 1979 until 1981.[3] Feature wise, it was very similar to the Multimoog but
included Portamento and a low frequency oscillator. As synthesizers became more and more engrained in
popular culture and more and more composers began using them, Moog found it vital to provide relatively
inexpensive alternatives to the flagship Minimoog.
Example of a Prodigy in action:
Songs that use the Prodigy: Weapon of Choice, Personal Jesus

Moog’s Contributions to the World of Synthesizers
Moog’s Contributions
A History

Moog Liberation (1980)
As a continual innovator in the field of synthesizers, Moog adapted to musicians’ needs. Keyboardists like
Gary Wright and Jan Hammer wore their Moog keyboards over their chests like guitars[2] and the developed
the unique (at that time) keytar named the Liberation.[2] By this time Moog was already well-established in
the world of music and it caught on easily. It had two oscillators and included all the features of the products
before it such as the Prodigy. The Pitch Ribbon in this case (where the strings would be on the neck of a
guitar) was extremely helpful for the player of the keytar, providing exciting performances for watchers.
Example of a Moog Liberation in action:
Songs that use the Liberation: Get Down On It, Pacific State

Moog Opus-3 (1980)
This synthesizer was interesting in that it was not actually designed by Bob Moog, but still bore his namesake.
This was one of the more portable monophonic synthesizers that Moog had released to this point, but provided
the power of a select few polyphonic sounds to the masses. It was actually designed by Hert A. Deutsch (who
had been one of the people who urged Robert Moog to switch from creating theremins to synthesizers).[4] It
was one of the first portable synthesizers which played around with stereo (using panning to delay the arrival
of sound to the ears).
Example of an Opus-3 in action:
Songs that use the Opus-3: Action and Action, Easy Love

Moog Rogue (1981)
The Rogue was the peak of Moog’s gradual gravitation towards cheap and affordable synthesizers (at least at
the time). It cost only $495 and was designed to “be as inexpensive as Moog could make it.”[3] It was the
smallest synthesizer that Moog had produced thus far, and was the first instance of Moog licensing their
design (to Radioshack).[4] However, it still contained authentic Moog components as was, along with the
Multimoog, used primarily as a bass synthesizer in larger synthesizer setups. Though it had two osciallators,
they were very limited in the waves it could make and mix, and thus it was relegated mainly to a cheap way for
musicians to generate bass beats.
Example of a Rogue in Action:
Songs that use the Rogue: Flat Beat, Games Without Frontiers

Moog’s Contributions to the World of Synthesizers
Moog’s Contributions
A History

Moog Source (1981)
Continuing their constant innovation, this synthesizer was the first Moog synthesizer to feature patch memory
storage to store information about settings that could be recalled easily later. An even greater innovation was
the absence of buttons, knobs, and sliders; instead, they were replaced by membrane buttons.[4] Thankfully,
the inwards of the Source were still true to Moog’s famed quality. It was also one of the first synthesizers to
contain a sequencer (a way to record sequences of notes and then play them back).[2] The Source represented
one of Moog Music’s first forays into the digital era.
Example of a Source in Action:
Songs that use the Source: Whip It, Vienna

Memorymoog (1982-1985)
The Memorymoog marked the end of an era. It was Moog’s last synth (before the present-day revival) and it
was absolutely the most advanced synthesizer to date (18 oscillators as opposed to the original Minimoogs 3).
The Vintage Synth Explorer describes that “it was like having six Minimoogs stacked in one!”[4] The
Memorymoog ushered in the era of the programmed patch (storing 100 as opposed to the 16 of the source),
and allowed musicians to easily use their custom programmed patches. A later model integrated the MIDI
interface, which was becoming extremely popular for using external controllers to control synthesizers. It also
marked the integration of synthesizers in the production of all sorts of music (not just electronic music), such
as for bands like Bon Jovi.
Example of a Memorymoog in Action:
Songs that use the Memorymoog: It’s My Life, Crockett’s Theme

Minimoog Voyager (2002-present)
The Voyager was conceptualized by Bob Moog while he was at Big Briar and was realized/produced after
Moog after he had reclaimed the Moog Music moniker. With the Voyager, Moog began to offer many more
models and incremental upgrades on the same synthesizer instead of creating entirely new ones. In continuing
innovation, these upgrades can be via new system software that can be easily downloaded and installed to the
synthesizers. Though it was based on the original Minimoog, it surpasses with features such as a memory
bank and greater control (such as the modulation buses being able to modify any part of the sound).[4] In
addition, sound quality overall is increased as technology today allows the analog circuits to be much cleaner
and introduce less distortion as the signal travels through the synthesizer.
Example of a Voyager in Action:
Songs that use the Voyager: Around the World, Lost in London

Moog’s Contributions to the World of Synthesizers
Moog’s Contributions
A History

Little Phatty (2006-present)
Thought the Little Phatty was manufactured and sold after Robert Moog had passed away, it reflected Moog’s
original intention to condense all the power of his powerful synthesizers into an affordable package. In a
world where software and digital synths are becoming more and more popular, Moog still stuck to his
traditional analog synthesizers. It includes all the pure aspects that make Moog synthesizers uniquely “Moog”
components and sound. Its potential is most likely still untapped, and I’m excited for what possibilities the
future may hold.
Example of a Little Phatty in action:

2. Pinch, Trevor, and Frank Trocco. Analog Days. Harvard University Press, 2004.
3. Vail, Mark. Vintage Synthesizers. San Francisco: miller Freeman books, 2000.

Moog’s Contributions to the World of Synthesizers