Classic Gear: The 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.
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
Sun Ra – Seen III Took 4
Don Preston tears the Mini apart during the encore of the Mothers performance on Fillmore East, June 1971.
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:
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.
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