The Minimoog is an analog synthesizer first manufactured by Moog Music between 1970 and 1981. In the 1960s, synthesizers—in the form of large, expensive, and complex modular synthesizers—were inaccessible to most musicians. The Minimoog was designed as an affordable, portable, simplified instrument which combined the most useful components of the Moog synthesizer in single device. It was the first synthesizer sold in retail stores. It was first popular with progressive rock and jazz musicians and found wide use in disco, pop, rock and electronic music.
|Price||in 1974: $1,595.00 usd|
|Oscillator||3 VCOs, white/pink noise|
|LFO||Oscillator 3 can function as LFO (original and 2016 reissue), dedicated extra LFO (2016 reissue only)|
|Synthesis type||Analog subtractive|
|Filter||24dB/oct, 4-pole lowpass filter|
with cutoff, resonance,
ADSD envelope generator,
|Attenuator||ADSD envelope generator|
using oscillator 3/noise
|Keyboard||44-note, low-note priority|
|Left-hand control||Pitch bend and mod wheels|
|External control||CV/gate, MIDI in/out/thru (2016 reissue only), glide and decay via 0.206" dia Switchcraft S-260 plugs (not on 2016 reissue)|
After the sale of Moog Music, production of the Minimoog stopped in the early 1980s. In 2002, after founder Robert Moog regained the rights to the Moog brand and bought the company, the Minimoog Voyager, an updated version, was released. In 2016, Moog Music released a new version of the original Minimoog.
In the 1960s, RA Moog Co manufactured Moog synthesizers, which helped bring electronic sounds to music but remained inaccessible to ordinary people. These modular synthesizers were difficult to use and required users to connect components manually with patch cables to create sounds. They were also sensitive to temperature and humidity, and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Most were owned by universities or record labels, and used to create soundtracks or jingles; by 1970, only 28 were owned by musicians.
Hoping to create a smaller, more reliable synthesizer, Moog engineer Bill Hemsath created a prototype by sawing a keyboard in half and wiring several components into a small cabinet. Moog president Robert Moog felt the prototype was fun, but did not initially see a market for it. Moog and the engineers created several more prototypes, adding features such as the suitcase design to aid portability.
In early 1970, Moog Co began losing money as interest in its modular synthesizers fell. Fearing they would lose their jobs if the company closed, the engineers developed a version of Hemsath's miniature synthesizer, the Minimoog Model D, while Moog was away. Moog chastised them, but came to see the potential in the Model D and authorized its production.
As the engineers could not properly stabilize the power supply, the Minimoog's three oscillators were never completely synchronized. Although unintentional, this created the synthesizer's "warm, rich" sound. Its voltage-controlled filter was unique, allowing users to shape sounds to create "everything from blistering, funky bass blurps ... to spacey whistle lead tones". The Minimoog also was the first synthesizer to feature a pitch wheel, which allows players to bend notes as a guitarist or saxophonist does, allowing for more expressive playing. Moog's associate David Borden felt that Moog would have become extremely wealthy had he patented the pitch wheel.
Moog Co released the first Minimoog in 1971. Moog said it was "conceived originally as a session musician's axe, something a guy could carry to the studio, do a gig and walk out. We thought we'd sell maybe 100 of them." Moog hired engineer and musicologist David Van Koevering to demonstrate Minimoogs to musicians and music stores. Van Koevering's friend Glen Bell, founder of the restaurant chain Taco Bell, allowed him to use a building on a private island Bell owned in Florida. There, Van Koevering hosted an event he billed as Island of Electronicus, a "pseudo-psychedelic experience that brought counterculture (minus the drugs) to straight families and connected it with the sound of the Minimoog".
The Minimoog was in continuous production for 13 years and over 12,000 were made. It was the first synthesiser sold in retail stores. Despite the success, Moog Co could not afford to meet demand, nor had credit for a loan, and Moog sold the company. Production of the Minimoog stopped in 1981 and Moog Co ceased all production in 1993.
In 2002, Robert Moog reacquired the rights to the Moog name and bought the company. In 2002, Moog Co released the Minimoog Voyager, an updated version of the Minimoog that sold more than 14,000 units, more than the original Minimoog. In 2016, Moog Music began manufacturing an updated version of the Model D. Production ended in June 2017. In 2018, Moog Music released the Minimoog Model D app for iOS.
According to TJ Pinch, author of Analog Days, the Minimoog was the first synthesizer to become a "classic". Wired described it as "the most famous synthesizer in music history ... a ubiquitous analog keyboard that can be heard in countless pop, rock, hip-hop, and techno tracks from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s". It was also important for its portability. David Borden, an associate of Moog, said that the Minimoog "took the synthesizer out of the studio and put it into the concert hall". According to the Guardian, "Tweaked now so that the synthesiser could reliably perform as either a melodic lead or propulsive bass instrument (rather than just as a complex sound-generating machine), the Minimoog changed everything ... the Moogs oozed character. Their sound could be quirky, kitsch and cute, or pulverising, but it was always identifiable as Moog."
The Minimoog changed the dynamics of rock bands. For the first time, keyboardists could play solos in the style of lead guitarists, or play synthesized basslines. Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman said: "For the first time you could go on [stage] and give the guitarist a run for his money...a guitarist would say, 'Oh shoot, he's got a Minimoog', so they're looking for eleven on their volume control - it's the only way they can compete." Wakeman said the instrument "absolutely changed the face of music".
The Minimoog took a place in mainstream black music, most notably in the work of Stevie Wonder. Its use for basslines became particularly popular in funk, as in the Parliament track "Flash Light". It was also popular in jazz, and Sun Ra became perhaps the first musician to perform and record with the instrument (on his 1970 album My Brother the Wind). Herbie Hancock, Dick Hyman and Chick Corea were other early adopters.
The Minimoog became a staple of progressive rock. In the early 1970s, Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer made the Minimoog a central part of his performances. Wakeman used five Minimoogs on stage so he could play different sounds without having to reconfigure them. It was also used by electronic artists such as Kraftwerk, who used it on their albums Autobahn (1974) and The Man-Machine (1978), and later by Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Gary Numan. In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, it was widely used in the emerging disco genre by artists including Abba and Giorgio Moroder. In 2012, to celebrate Moog's birthday, Google created an interactive version of the Minimoog as its Google Doodle.
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