The Moog Synthesizer was originated by Dr Robert Moog in the mid-sixties and launched commercially in 1970. The synthesizer used electronically modulated oscillators to produce a wide range of artificial sounds.
Ostensibly a keyboard, the instrument was capable of making a vast range of electronically generated sounds, which opened the door for many aspiring groups to proceed beyond the limited vista of two guitars, bass, and drums.
Walter Carlos’ CBS album Switched-On Bach (1968) was the first well-known album to be played almost entirely on a Moog, while The Beatles were amongst the first to use a Moog in the rock field.
Unfortunately, they were bulky, extremely complex devices that were operated by university researchers or composers of experimental music.
The introduction of the Mini-Moog on 24 January 1970 brought this technology to musicians in a portable format and at an affordable price. Even suitable for onstage work, its disposal of the spaghetti forest of wires that were previously the lot of electronic musicians – not to mention the remarkably low price of $2,000 – put the Mini-Moog within the reach of all but the unambitious.
To the left of the keyboard on the Mini-Moog was the pitch wheel, which enabled musicians to bend pitch and add vibrato. These “rollers” were a unique feature of the Mini-Moog that endeared themselves to musicians, especially to Prog Rock musicians in the 70s who rushed to buy them.
The American Federation of Musicians were uncertain about its advantages to the organization, however, and considered a ban on the instrument they were concerned might affect the ability of some of their members to earn a living as musicians.
By the early 80s, the guitar was clearly fighting a losing battle to remain the preferred instrument of popular musicians and the synthesizer sound was ubiquitous.