Sax Harmonics

Here’s an exercise on harmonics, from Earl Bostic’s alto playing, bars 9-11 of ‘Bugle Call Rag’ (1956). Alternate upper register G with normal fingering and the same note produced as a harmonic of low C (no octave key). Start slow, then see if you can match Bostic’s virtuosity. This is a way of making repeated notes more interesting and a useful exercise to build up altissimo technique.

bostic harmonics 1

Bostic hits a super high B near the end of this recording, which is really a little over the top for most players.

Chord-Tone Practice

In an earlier blog I noted the potential un-musicality of the popular chord–scale approach to jazz improvising. But there is an additional issue about this approach: i.e. the need to build skills from firm foundations, which this quote from Berklee makes clear:

‘… for beginner and intermediate-level players, the chord-scale approach has a potential downside. Many students begin studying chord scales early in their musical education and attempt to apply the knowledge acquired immediately on their instruments. Unfortunately, this often happens too soon in the student’s development as an improviser–before he or she has learned how to shape an appealing improvised melody by ear on a chord or chord progression using only, or mainly, chord tones.’ source

As a precursor (and possible antidote) to chord-scale theory, try improvising on chord tones instead, then incorporate this approach into your improvisations, as many great players do. Here’s an initial exercise to try:

Chord tone practice 01

Play a Moog synth

It would have been Bob Moog’s 83rd birthday today. Play a simulation of a Moog synth and record your performance here:

search mex

Moog documentary


Moog’s career timeline … from Keyboard Magazine


Bob Moog and his father begin building and selling Theremins.

“I was interested in electronic musical instruments for as long as I can remember.” “Bob Moog from Theremin to Synthesizer,” Sept. /Oct. ’75, issue No. 1



Bob Moog sells around 1,000 Theremin kits at $50 apiece.

“I had been making Theremins on a custom basis since I was 19. My New York rep was Walter Sear — these days, Walter makes Grade Z movies, but before he made Grade Z movies he made porno movies, and before porno movies he sold tubas and my Theremins.” “The Rise & Fall of Moog Music,” May ’88



Inspired by composer Herbert A. Deutsch, Bob Moog designs and constructs the first Moog Modular synthesizer.

“More or less in my spare time I built two voltage-controlled oscillators and two voltage-controlled amplifiers, and some kind of controller that could turn the sounds on and off and change the pitch and rates of modulation. It might have [amounted to] a couple of doorbells. When Herb [Deutsch] came up . . . he just flipped when he heard what my breadboards could do. By the end of that session and the one that followed, together we had come up with the basics of a modular analog synthesizer.

“Mind you, neither of us had any idea where this was leading.” “The Rise & Fall of Moog Music.” May ’88



Bob Moog demonstrates hand-made Moog Modular prototypes at the Audio Engineering Society convention and begins taking orders.



Bob Moog graduates from Cornell with a Ph.D. in Engineering Physics.

“. . .through my entire college career I made Theremins, and [made] enough money to get through graduate school.” “Bob Moog from Theremin to Synthesizer,” Sept. /Oct. ’75, issue No. 1



Incorporation of R.A. Moog Company, now called R.A. Moog, Inc.; introduction of Moog Modular Synthesizers I, II, and III.

“I got a copy of Midnight Cowboy the other day, and Walter Sear did a lot of that score with the Moog Modular. There’s a psychedelic scene where everybody’s stoned, and that’s where they used the Moog. You know, you really couldn’t get stoned back then without having some synthesizer music playing. You had to do things right.” Bob Moog, 2003



Release of Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach album, recorded entirely with a custom-made Moog Modular synthesizer.

“Musicians always come up with stuff I couldn’t imagine, using my instruments. I can get a sense of whether something would be a good musical resource, but I don’t do music. I’m a toolmaker. It’s always amazing what someone like Herbie Hancock, Wendy Carlos, or Stevie Wonder can come up with. What they’ll do is, when you put something in front of them that’s new, they’ll turn a couple knobs, and listen, and immediately get a sense of where to go. The muse talks to them.” “Moog Mania,” May ’03



Bill Waytena purchases R.A. Moog, Inc.; introduction at AES of the Minimoog, which went through four different models before its final production version, the Model D.

“The reason I’m mentioning the steady improvement [in construction quality of the Minimoog over its 11-year production run] is to contrast it with the electronic folk tale that says that the earliest Minimoogs were better because they had more ‘human element.’ I’ve heard this story more times that I care to admit. Don’t believe it!” “Vintage Synths,” Sept. ’89



Company name officially changed from R.A. Moog, Inc. to Moog/Musonics; from March 1971 to 1974, the company relocated to Buffalo, NY.

“We were commissioned to build a quartet of live-performance modular synthesizers for a concert series to be held in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It was called ‘Jazz in the Garden.’ We built these four things out of standard modules, and we designed special preset boxes so that instead of changing all the knobs and re-routing patch cords, you could just press a button and get a new preset.

“After the concert, we wondered what the hell to do with these things. We let our representatives know that we wanted to sell them. One of them, a Londoner named Dag Fellner, told me that maybe he could sell one to a young musician by the name of Keith Emerson. Dag asked me if I wanted to meet this guy, and of course I said, ‘Yes.’ I found out later the group was right in the middle of making Emerson Lake & Palmer, their first album. “Lucky Man” was the first song they used it on. I don’t think they had intended to use the system in “Lucky Man,” until Keith actually got it and they heard what he could do with it.” “The World’s Most Dangerous Synth,” June ’92



Company name officially changed from Moog/Musonics to Moog Music, Inc.

“I remember the first time we took the Minimoog into the musical arena. A typical remark we got was, ‘How do you expect musicians to cope with something so technical, with all those knobs? Musicians don’t do knobs!’” “Twelve Who Count: Bob Moog,” Feb. ’95



Introduction of Moog System 15, 35, and 55 patchable synthesizers, Sonic Six, Satellite preset synthesizer, and Moog synthesizer accessories: the 1125 Sample & Hold, 1150 Ribbon Controller, 1121 Footswitch, 1130 Percussion Controller, and 1120 Foot Pedal Controller; Norlin Music purchases Moog Music, Inc. from Bill Waytena.



Introduction of Minitmoog, Taurus Bass Pedals, and Moog’s first polyphonic synthesizer, the Polymoog. Bob’s name appears on the cover of the first issue of Keyboard, and the first installation of his column, “On Synthesizers,” appears in the second issue.



Bob Moog leaves Moog Music, Inc.



Introduction of Moog Multimoog, Polymoog Keyboard, and 1528 Sample-Hold module. Bob moves to Asheville, N.C., and takes a break from his Keyboard column duties.

“One doesn’t hear much talk of synthesizers here in western North Carolina. Most of the local musical instrument stores cater to fiddlers, pickers, and the disciples of Elvis the King. From this vantage point, it’s easy to get a good perspective on the electronic musical instrument scene.” “On Synthesizers,” Aug. ’79



Introduction of Moog Prodigy, Taurus II Bass Pedals, and Phase Shifter. Bob resumes his column with the August issue.



Introduction of Moog Liberation strap-on synth and Opus 3.



Introduction of Moog Rogue and Source, a microprocessor-controlled, programmable monosynth; the Minimoog goes out of production after more than 12,000 had been manufactured.



Memorymoog polysynth hits the market; Bob Moog co-develops the Spirit analog monosynth for Italian manufacturer Crumar.



Norlin Music sells Moog Music, Inc. to David Luce and F. Scott Chapman, who split the company into two divisions: Moog Music, Inc. and Moog Electronics, Inc.



Bob Moog begins serving as Vice President of New Product Research at Kurzweil Music Systems, a position he held through 1989; introduction of Moog Producer, comprising a MIDI interface and sequencing software for the Commodore 64.

“Everybody will find something wrong with MIDI. It isn’t perfect, but so what? A piano is not perfect either. A Stradivarius violin is not perfect. The point is that there is so much that’s useful, all you have to do is be a little bit clever to figure out how to use these things.” “MIDI is Ten Years Old,” Feb. ’93



RJE Research Corp. purchases Moog Music, Inc. and the assets of Moog Electronics, Inc.



Bob Moog designs the Series 91 Theremin, which was produced by Big Briar through 1996; Rudi Linhard of Nuremberg, Germany, develops the Lintronics Advanced Memorymoog upgrade (LAMM), which among other things stabilized the synth’s tuning and improved the MIDI implementation over the one offered by the Memorymoog Plus; Bob Moog supervised the installation of LAMM kits in Memorymoogs until 1997.



Bob Moog’s build-it-yourself Theremin article appears in Electronic Musician; the instrument he designed for this article became the Etherwave Theremin, which continues to be sold today in kit and assembled forms; Rudi Linhard develops the LMC MIDI conversion kit for the Minimoog, which Big Briar sold and installed until 1999.



Bob Moog designs the Ethervox MIDI Theremin, which incorporates MIDI software developed by Rudi Linhard; introduction of Moogerfooger MF-101 Lowpass Filter and MF-102 Ring Modulator processors.



Initial development of Minimoog Voyager begins, with MIDI software developed by Rudi Linhard; introduction of Moogerfooger MF-103 12-Stage Phaser.

“I could foresee a Minimoog reissue. I can see a Minimoog that does everything the old one does plus a few things that we wish we had done back then. We’re not planning it, but on the other hand, it’s entirely possible.” “The Next 20 Years,” Sept. ’95



Minimoog Voyager prototype appears at the January NAMM show in Los Angeles; introduction of CP-251 Control Processor and limited-edition Moogerfooger MF-104 Analog Delay.

“Voyager has been kicking around in my head for a long time, way before the time when we started working on it. It was in the fall of 2000 that we began working on it. At the 2001 winter we showed a mock-up of it, not even a prototype.” “The Making of Voyager,” May ’03



Minimoog Voyager begins shipping; Bob Moog regains the legal right to use his own name on musical products and promptly changes the name of his company from Big Briar to Moog Music Inc.; Mike Adams joins Moog Music Inc. as CEO in charge of operations.



Introduction of Moog Voyager Performer Edition, Moog PianoBar developed by Don Buchla, and VX-351 CV Expander.



Introduction of Moog Voyager Anniversary Edition, Moogerfooger MF-105 MuRF Multiple Resonance Filter, and Etherwave Pro Theremin. Moog documentary film released.



Introduction of Moog Voyager Rack Mount Edition, Minimoog Electric Blue, and Moogerfooger MF-104Z Analog Delay.

“What happens with any of these features is that you begin with

an idea of what they might sound like, then you put the circuitry together, and it usually sounds different than what you thought. Then you play with it, you try changing it one way or another, and you get a sense of what a really interesting and musically useful configuration would be. It’s the way a musician tries a melody, and changes a note here and there until they like it.

“There’s no way to do it just by opening up an engineering book and finding the formula. It’s a matter of judgment and intuition. That’s what I’ve been doing all my life. I’m pretty good at it now.” “The Making of Voyager,” May ’03


August 21, 2005

Bob Moog dies of an inoperable brain tumor.



Freemasonry & Higher Education #2

I’m grateful to my old friend Euripides Georganopoulos, for his comments on my last blog about Freemasonry in HE. Nevertheless, we must agree to differ on this subject.

I came across the following in an old copy of the Times Higher Education Supplement (July 2007), from June Purvis, Professor of Women’s and Gender History at Portsmouth University:

“The announcement that the Freemasons are to campaign in our universities fills me with dread. The prime loyalty of a Mason is to other Masons. This can mean, therefore, that fellow Masons are privileged in regard to key and influential areas of academic life, especially promotions.

The Masons are overwhelmingly a single-sex organisation of white men (although there is a small separate female group). Historically, our universities have been sites of male privilege, and the struggle of women to enter them and be accepted on equal terms has been painstakingly slow. Although the majority of our undergraduates are now women, this does not mean that our universities are always female-friendly places. This is particularly evident in regard to university staff, where the higher the post, the fewer the women. The fact that only 17 per cent of professors are women and just 13 per cent are black or from minority ethnic groups is not good news. In the old days of patronage, exercised by vice-chancellors, a few chums would be consulted in regard to the worthiness or not of a candidate for promotion. It is to be hoped those days have gone as standardised procedures have been produced. But talk to any academic in our universities today and you will find that concerns about the pernicious influence of Freemasons is with us still. There is no doubt that some bland mediocrities are promoted to posts beyond their level of competence. Invariably, the suggestion is that they are Masons.

If an academic is a Freemason, then that should be declared for all staff to know to avoid conflicts of interest.”

How much has changed in the past 10 years of academic life? Male student sexism appears to be on the increase in UK HE, which is in part a reflection of institutional culture. Meanwhile, university heads’ salaries are rising (average £272k pa), but staff salaries remain stagnant. Even though progress appears to be made, women still make up only a little more than a fifth of vice-chancellors across the UK higher education sector.

“Correlation is not causation, but it sure is a hint.” (Edward Tufte)


Freemasonry & Higher Education

Following on from an earlier blog, I contacted the FOI departments of 131 UK Higher Education establishments, asking each about their institution’s position on Freemasonry, with respect to their students and staff. Within 48 hours 77 acknowledgments had been received (59%), including a handful of immediate and brief replies:

  1. The University of Cambridge: “… does not have any formal ‘position’ on freemasonry, including in statements on institutional positions as released to the media. Accordingly the information you have requested is not held.”
    [N.B. The Isaac Newton University Lodge (est. 1861) is a Masonic Lodge, close by the University’s Botanic Gardens, primarily for the benefit of past and present members of Cambridge University.]
  2. University of Winchester: “Members of the University’s Board of Governors have to declare membership. Other than that, the University has no policy.”

  3. Heythrop College (University of London): “…  has no policy relating to Freemasonry amongst its students and staff.”

  4. Northumbria University: “… we have no ‘position’ on Freemasonry amongst students or staff.”
  5. Goldsmiths, University of London: “… does not have a policy or position on the matter you raise and therefore we do not hold any information relevant to your request.”

I suspect that these few responses represent the majority. If anything more interesting arises, I’ll let you know. But why should we the uninitiated (known as ‘profane’ by Masons) be concerned about recruitment of young people into ‘the Craft’, whether in universities or elsewhere?

  • No mainstream Lodge or Grand Lodge of Freemasons accepts women as full members. Sexism in universities
  • Freemasonry has atrophied into a ritualistic men’s club that promotes none of the intellectual curiosity of Isaac Newton‘s day.
  • The close and high-level connections with Royalty reinforce concerns about Freemasonry and an already too powerful Establishment dictating terms in British society.
  • The essentially secretive nature of Freemasonry fuels speculation about allegations of corruption, both nationally and worldwide: e.g.

The Met and Freemasonry

Police corruption and Freemasonry

Local political corruption and Freemasonry

Convicted sex offender and the Establishment

Convicted sex offender and the Freemasons

J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI and Freemasonry

Is Donald Trump a Freemason?

Is Vladimir Putin a Freemason?

Black Jazz & Freemasonry

Here’s a different take on Freemasonry. Can’t say I’m comfortable with it, but these articles remind us that there were times, places and circumstances in which Masonic Lodges played a less suspicious role in society.

Guardian article

Disinfo article

Nevertheless …