Classic Gear: The Minimoog

Minimoog

Bob Moog’s modular systems were some of the first widely used synthesizers, but the Minimoog was created for portability and performance, designed for keyboard players looking to easily tweak some expression into their playing. Use of the Minimoog gained popularity in the early 70s and quickly found its place in nearly all genres of music. Today the Mini is still the most in-demand vintage analog synthesizer and has achieved iconic status.

Sound is produced by one, two, or three oscillators – basically tone generators that can produce sawtooth, square, or triangle waves – and then processed through a mixer, noise generator, filter, and amplifier, all with fully adjustable controls. Further control of the sound was easily accessible via the modulation and pitch wheels located to the left of the keys.

It’s a monophonic synth, meaning you can only play one note at a time (ie. no chords). Mono synths are useful for leads however, in that quick melodic runs (and bass lines) never have overlapping notes and sound exceptionally neat and fluid. Besides, tweakable sound modules hardwired inside this unit guaranteed that the lack of polyphony could never be a limitation. Performing with the Minimoog goes beyond the keyboard; to truly master the instrument you have to play the knobs.

Today Minis trade at high prices on ebay and demand has led Moog Music to produce a reissue, the Minimoog Voyager boasting MIDI support and the ability to save presets. For analog purists they have even introduced the Voyager Old School with absolutely no digital interference. French company, Arturia has even released a faithful software emulation of the Mini, the Minimoog V (as well as several other classic synths).

Note: the word “Moog” rhymes with “rogue” or “vogue.” This is detailed at the Robert Moog wikipedia page and the official Moog homepage. It is considered polite not to correct people who pronounce it with a cow’s “moo” but those insisting that your “mogue” pronunciation is incorrect will not be tolerated.

Examples
Sun Ra’s “Seen III Took 4” from The Solar-Myth Approach Vol. I is a great example of the minimoog. I believe he used a prototype that he got directly from Bob Moog on a trip to Trumansburg in 1970. It was the model B, as opposed to the Mini D that became the standard. –Kenneth

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Sun Ra – Seen III Took 4

Don Preston tears the Mini apart during the encore of the Mothers performance on Fillmore East, June 1971.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The Mothers – Lonesome Electric Turkey

After three experimental records, Kraftwerk released Autobahn in 1974, a massive success and a blueprint for much of electronic pop to come. Here’s an awesome cut from side 2:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Kraftwerk – Kometenmelodie 2 (Comet Melody 2)

To be honest, it can be difficult discerning which records used the Minimoog unless it is specifically noted in the credits. But I am sure the Beach Boys had a Mini lying around during the Love You sessions. First time listeners and critics often mistake this 1977 record for a low point in the Beach Boys career, but I assure you it is brilliant synthesizer pop and the best Brian Wilson album.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The Beach Boys – I’ll Bet He’s Nice

Let us know if you think of some other essential Minimoog recordings!

Dr. Bob Moog Demonstrates the Minimoog
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z0cbMkOvY0[/youtube]


Also Recommended

6 Comments.

  • Great post! I love anything related to the Moog. Hearing these cuts leads me to believe that The Residents made heavy use of this instrument in their early days.

  • ib

    Cool, Brendan! I am one of those (no doubt intensely annoying) people who has until now pronounced “Moog” MOOO!g… Believe me, this is not the first time I’ve gotten egg all over my face! Forgive me if I’m starting to sound like “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”.

    Great sonic illustrations of the MiniMoog at work, and interesting technical specs. Cheers!

  • I’ve been pronouncing it wrong also.
    never realised Kraftwerk used Moogs either. that song sounds warmer and less mechanical than others I have heard by them.

    love that Beach Boys song.

  • Cool post. Brian Eno played the minimoog on “My sex” as well as other tracks off the first Ultravox album. I have it up on my site if you want to give it a listen. Love your site.

  • amanda

    Hi a friend of mine has a 1960’s moog is it worth anything. can any help? thank you

  • Brendan

    Check out this great new Minimoog documentary:

Leave a Comment