Ed Driscoll

Dr. Robert Moog Died

A friend in Manhattan sent me a link to this BBC article; Bob Moog was one of the great pioneers of musical synthesizers. Indeed; for much of the 1970s, his last name was synonymous with synthesizers, the same way that in the 1950s and ’60s, saying the words “Fender Bass” to any musician caused instant recognition of a new type of instrument and its inventor.

In the 1980s, synthesizers seemed to usurp the electric guitar as the dominant instrument in popular music, becoming more wildly popular than Moog could have possibly imagined. It was for very much the same reason as the electric guitar became possible: it was relatively easy to learn how to play competently, and was capable of a universe of cool sounds.

These days, both instruments share the stage with a sort of wary respect, and a large degree of cross-over is possible. Beginning in his Jeff Beck and Miami Vice days, Jan Hammer used a MiniMoog through a guitar amp to create an amazingly convincing electric guitar sound, and guitarists can play synthesizers themselves, with the right sort of interface.

Moog’s instruments of the ’70s, particularly the MiniMoog, remain popular with musicians such as Hammer, who incorporate them into their line-ups of more advanced instruments in the same sort of way guitarists covet electric guitars from the 1950s: these early devices, while outpaced by newer synths with many more features, are still capable of some pretty nifty sounds.

These days, software-based synthesizers are the rage–allowing a computer to store literally thousands of different sounds. And yet, many of these 21st century programs contain instruments patterned after Dr. Moog’s.

Not a bad legacy for any musician or inventor.

(Also on Blogcritics, with some Amazon links to Moog-related books and even a documentary DVD.)