Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dr Robert A. Moog (born May 23, 1934) is the inventor of the Moog synthesizer. A native of New York City, he earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Queens College, New York, a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in engineering physics from Cornell University.
One of the most mispronounced names in popular culture, the surname "Moog" is properly pronounced "moague" :
- — Reviewer: First off: Does your name rhyme with "vogue" or is like a Cow’s "moo" plus a "G" at the end?
- — Dr. Robert Moog: It rhymes with vogue. That is the usual German pronunciation. My father's grandfather came from Marburg, Germany. I like the way that pronunciation sounds better than the way the cow's 'moo-g' sounds.
The Moog synthesizer was one of the first widely used electronic musical instruments.
Robert Moog created the first playable modern configurable music synthesizer in 1963, and showed it at the AES convention in 1964. It sometimes took hours to set up the machine for a new sound. It is believed the first record to feature a Moog synthesizer was Cosmic Sounds by The Zodiac. The first mainstream music album to feature the instrument was Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, Ltd. by The Monkees. Wendy Carlos released two major Moog albums in 1968: Switched-On Bach and The well-tempered synthesizer. The former earned Carlos three grammys.
Robert Moog set up a company to manufacture and market his synthesizers. Unlike the few other 1960s synthesizer manufacturers, Moog shipped a piano-style keyboard as the standard user interface to his synthesizers.
Moog also established standards for analog synthesizer control interfacing, with a logarithmic 1-volt-per-octave pitch control and a separate pulse triggering signal.
The first instruments were modular synthesizers. In 1971 Moog broke into the mass market with the Minimoog Model D, an all-in-one instrument. The Minimoog was a 44 key scaled-down version of Moog's custom modular synths and featured 3 oscillators with six choosable waveshapes, an oscillator mixer, and a pitch wheel and a modulation wheel. The third oscillator could also function as an LFO (low frequency oscillator). The Minimoog attained and remained the status of "the ultimate monophonic synthesizer" during the 70s. It has been said that Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame did all the bass on Nine Inch Nails' debut album Pretty Hate Machine using a Minimoog.
Another widely used and extremely popular synth of Moog's was the Taurus bass pedal synthesizer.
Released in 1974, these pedals were similar in design to organ pedals , but triggered bass synth sounds, instead. They were known for their "fat" bass sound and were used by musicians such as Rush, U2, Yes, The Police, and many others. Production of these synths was discontinued in 1981.
Eventually, digital synthesizers began to replace their analog counterparts. However, since the mid-1990s analog synthesizers have seen a resurgence in popularity and are now highly sought after and prized for their "retro" sound. As of 2004, more than 15 companies are making Moog-style synthesizer modules.
The company making the Moog synthesizers went through various changes of ownership, eventually being bought out by musical instrument manufacturer Norlin. Norlin produced a number of synthesizers under the Moog name, but they were less successful than Moog's own designs. Moog Music closed its doors in 1986.
After leaving his namesake firm, Bob Moog started making electronic musical instruments again, with a new company, Big Briar. Their first specialty was Theremins, but by 2000 Big Briar was producing analog effects pedals. Moog managed to buy back the Moog Music name in 2002 and is producing a new version of the Minimoog called the Minimoog Voyager. The Voyager features all of the above in regards to the model D, as well as a variable waveshape controller, dedicated LFO, FM capabilities with oscillator 3, and expansion capabilities via the Moogerfooger effects and the VX-351 Voyager Expander.
Robert Moog constructed his own Theremin as early as 1949. Later he described a Theremin in the hobbyist magazine Electronics World and offered a kit of parts for the construction of the Electronic World's Theremin, which became very successful. In the late 1980s Moog repaired the original Theremin of Clara Rockmore, an accomplishment which he considers as high point of his professional career. He also helped to produce her album "The Art of the Theremin". In 1996 he published another do-it-yourself Theremin guide. Today Moog Music is the leading manufacturer of performance-quality Theremins.
- Synth Museum article about Bob Moog
- Amazing Sounds interview with Bob Moog
- Salon article about Robert Moog's career
- Moog Music official website
- Robert Moog interview in New Scientist magazine
- Pictures of Bob Moog
- Article with pictures of Bob Moog and various Moog synthesizers
- Audio Samples from the Moog Modular
- Picture archive of a large number of analog synthesizers, including Moog
- Bob Moog's links
- List of current modular synth mfrs
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