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:

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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.



Music & Neoliberalism

‘From the latter part of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, as capitalism has adapted into a more fragmented, resilient and contradictory system than it was first envisioned, changes in patterns of circulation and exchange associated with flexible accumulation have produced a number of incongruous dynamics that pose challenges for these models.  For example, the emergence of an increasing diversity of small independent, musical markets devoted to the consumption of niche musical styles brings into question the notions of standardization and interchangeability associated with commodity fetishism.  Yet, even though these new markets may point to a possible long-term restructuring of a transnational music industry dominated by a handful of large stake holders, and despite the role that new media technologies have had in democratizing access for producers and consumers in these markets, these changes are often accompanied by the ongoing economic and social marginalization of the communities on whose music those markets are based.  Creativity, a concept formerly associated with artistic activity that resists or defies the purported homogenizing tendencies of commodification, is increasingly becoming a buzzword designed to quantify and valuate the soft skills of musicians and other artists as members of an emerging new class producers.  Similarly, concepts like originality, hybridity, counterculture, gender, race or cultural difference, are often mapped onto narratives of freedom, possibility, and innovation associated with globalization and the spread of free market capitalism, redefining the potential transgressive character of music and the agency of those who engage with it in terms of their ability to become effective agents of economic development.’ (IASPM call for papers, Feb 2013)


Neoliberalism and Pop Music

Ed Sheeran, the charts and passivity in listeners

Jazz and Neoliberalism

map anarchism

Chords in Context

Learning to improvise can be confusing, with advice ranging from ‘just trust your ear’ to ‘see that chord, play this scale’. The first approach takes a lot of experience, while the second is an over-simplification of harmonic progression. Chords exist in context, and it’s the context that tells you what a chord signifies both melodically and harmonically. For example, these three progressions start with the the same chord (C major), yet each progression signifies a different scale or mode for improvising, songwriting or other forms of composing:

Ex 1


Ex 2


Ex 3


N.B. These progressions are not necessarily in the original keys of the song examples given


But there are many more possibilities. The triad of C major is found in all of these scales and modes:

C major and its different modes, e.g. D dorian, A aeolian, G mixolydian, F lydian
F major and its different modes, e.g. G dorian, D aeolian, C mixolydian, Bb lydian
G major and its different modes, e.g. A dorian, E aeolian, D mixolydian, C lydian

E harmonic minor: E F# G A B C D# E   (e.g. Celia Cruz, ‘La Vida Es Un Carnival’)
F harmonic minor: F G Ab Bb C Db E F  (e.g. Muse, ‘Exogenesis’)

F melodic minor: F G Ab Bb C D E F   (contemporary jazz – same up as down)
G melodic minor: G A Bb C D E F# G  (contemporary jazz – same up as down)

The same is true, of course, for the other 11 major triads, with appropriate transpositions of the relative scales and modes. So when you practice a major triad arpeggio, think of the many different harmonic contexts that it may occur in. Elaborate the chord notes with those various melodic possibilities. Here is an exercise to get you started:

Ex 4



As with any major triad, the same minor triad may appear in many different harmonic contexts. The triad of A minor, for example, occurs in all of these scales and modes:

C major and its different modes, e.g. D dorian, A aeolian, G mixolydian, F lydian
F major and its different modes, e.g. G dorian, D aeolian, C mixolydian, Bb lydian
G major and its different modes, e.g. A dorian, E aeolian, D mixolydian, C lydian

A harmonic minor: A B C D E F G# A   (e.g. Busta Rhymes, ‘I Know What You Want’)
E harmonic minor: E F# G A B C D# E   (e.g. Grant Kirkhope, ‘Klungo’s Theme’)

A melodic minor: A B C D E F# G# A   (e.g. John Williams, ‘Binary Sunset’)
G melodic minor: G A Bb C D E F# G   (e.g. Temples, ‘The Golden Throne’)

N.B. Not necessarily the original keys of the song examples given

The same is true, of course, for the other 11 minor triads, with appropriate transpositions of the relative scales and modes. So when you practice a minor triad arpeggio, think of the many different harmonic contexts that it may occur in. Elaborate the chord notes with those various melodic possibilities. Try this exercise to get you started:

Ex 5


Now try those last two bars against a Gm chord. This effectively heightens the chord of Gm to Gm 13(#7) through melody alone.