Sunday, April 01, 2012

Minimoog model D (text in english)

In the early 50's Robert Arthur Moog - then a student and future electronic engineer - became interested in the functioning of theremins and began to manufacture and sell kits to assembly the instrument. In 1953 he founded his own company, R. A. Moog Theremins Co. In the beginning Robert Moog manufactured vacuum-tube theremins but, in 1961, he marketed his first transistorized theremins and it was precisely this novelty, the transistor (much smaller and cheaper than traditional vacuum-tubes) the element that enabled the research, invention and development of the instrument that was about to completely change the music world: the Moog synthesizer!

In late 1963 Robert Moog met the composer and teacher Herb Deutsch at a conference in New York and throughout the following year they worked together on the development of a sound synthesizer prototype. The first public presentation of this new instrument was in October 1964 and the big novelty was the use of Voltage Controlled, developed by Robert Moog, which (applied to the oscillators) allowed the instrument to be played through a keyboard similar to an organ or a piano, with certain stability in pitch. This first model still took three years of improvements until 1967, when the NY musician and recording engineer Walter Carlos (now Wendy Carlos) shown interest in the Moog Synthesizer and purchased some modules to build her own synthesizer. Carlos also suggested several changes and facilities to Robert Moog and in the same year the world saw the released the first Moog synthesizer to be marketed, the model 900. A demonstration record, written and produced by Carlos, was made. In the following year - 1968 - Walter Carlos and Rachel Elkind (then secretary of the CBS president, Goddard Lieberson) began to record a series of Johann Sebastian Bach pieces, fully realized on the Moog - some pop artists had already used the Moog on records, but the first experience using only the new instrument was the album that resulted from these recordings: "Switched-on Bach"! This album is still one of the higgest selling classical music records ever released! "Switched-on Bach" not only paved the way for an infinite number of Moog records that would come later but also it definitely put the Moog synthesizer on the spotlight!

But the first Moog synthesizers were still huge modular instruments, full of patch cables connecting its modules and its shipping was too complicated to use in shows (although Keith Emerson used to play one with his band The Nice since 1968). So at the end of 1969 Robert Moog, along with electronic engineer Bill Hemsath, began the project to build a portable model called Minimoog (there were three prototypes - A, B and C - before the now classic Minimoog model D went into the production line). This model was manufactured for more than a decade (1970-1981), and is the best known of all Moog synthesizers (although only 13.259 Minimoogs were manufactured).

The original concept of the Minimoog was based on the use of some basic components of the modular synthesizer and integrated them into a compact unit that did not required the use of patch cables interconnecting the modules. The initial idea was that the Minimoog buyers would be basically musicians who wanted a smaller version of the Modular Moogs to use in shows. Robert Moog had no idea how this portable unit would be mounted - put side by side the photos of a Minimoog and of a Modular Moog Synthesizer and you'll undestand why - so many sketches were made untill they had the final design (and almost nothing changed on it during the following years!). Many of the first designs and prototypes used plastic on the Minimoog chassis, but the decision to use wood in the final version was made because, with wood, it would be possible to make the chassis inside the workshop installed in R. A. Moog Co. The first public demonstration of the Minimoog was in June 1971 (more than 40 years ago) at the convention of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).

The Minimoog is relatively simple to operate. Its system consists of three oscillators (each with a selector for six variations in the waveforms generated, another switch to select octaves and individual tuning knobs in ocillators 2 and 3), a mixer, a pink/white noise generator, a VCA (voltage-controlled amplifier) and classic and unbeatable - and characteristic of the Moog synthesizers - 24dB/oct filter. In the audio output stage a switch that triggers a note A (440 hz.) is placed on the right side of the instrument's front panel and a completely independent output for headphones is also featured. A knob for tuning the Minimoog, another to add noise to the modulation wheel and another to add portamento between notes complete the front panel of the Minimoog. On the left of the keyboard - with extension of 44 notes, from F to C - there are two wheels: one to control pitch and another one to control modulation. The Minimoog is a monophonic instrument so only one note can be played at a time (the priority is to the lowest one).

At the back of the Minimoog (or at its top, since the instrument's panel is foldable, which allows better access to all controls), there are two audio outputs (low and high impedance) and there's also an audio input that allows to pass any signal through the filter. Moreover, an S-trigger input and jacks for external controls of loudness, filter and oscillator allow the use of ribbon controller, a sample-and-hold unit and many more accessories that have been invented and developed for use with the Minimoog.

It's almost impossible to compute the number of artists that used - and still use - the Minimoog in their recordings and concerts. To name the most popular (and my favorites, so the most important according to my conception) artists I mention the jazz musician Sun Ra (I had already mentioned him as one of the first artists that recorded with a Wurlitzer electric piano). Robert Moog gave him one of the first prototypes of the Minimoog, the model B, and there is even a video of him playing this instrument! Keith Emerson was the first artist that put a Minimoog on the road, on Emerson Lake and Palmer's "Pictures at an Exhibition" tour, in 1970. Another important figure in the first days the Minimoog was David Borden. In 1969 he formed the Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co., considered the first band to use exclusively synthesizers (even before Tonto's Expanding Head Band and Tangerine Dream). David had a very close contact with Dr. Robert Moog and was also one of the first artists to use a Minimoog in a concert, in June 1970 at Trinity Church, in New York.

Other great and very well known artists that used (some of them still use) the Minimoog are: Kraftwerk (on youtube there are several videos of Ralf Hutter using a Minimoog, mainly for the bass lines of the songs), Rick Wakeman (in almost all of his records, both on solo career and with Yes. Three of his solo albums are worth listening: "Journey to the center of the earth", "Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the knights of the round table" and "No Earthly Connection"), Benny Anderson (his Minimoog was painted white and there is a video of an Abba concert at Wembley Stadium, in London, in which Anderson appears playing the famous intro to "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! A man after midnight", sampled by Madonna in her song "Hung Up"), Mark Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale (Casale used one to play the bass lines of various songs from Devo), Fabrice Quagliotti (from the french space-rock band Rockets), Gary Numan (his 1979 album, "Replicas", was almost entirely recoded with a Minimoog), David Bowie, Tangerine Dream, Ultravox, Blondie, Vince Clarke (with Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure), Giorgio Moroder, Brian Eno, Bernie Worrell (from Parliament/Funkadelic and Talking Heads), Manfred Mann, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Rod Argent (with Argent, his progressive rock band), Patrick Moraz and Geoff Downes (both from Yes. Patrick used a "double Minimoog" with Yes on some of their 1975 "Relayer" shows), Steve Hillage (he had a blue colored one), Tony Carey (with Rainbow and in his solo career, which is pretty cool), Chick Corea, Jan Hammer (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Klaus Schulze, Harald Grosskopf, Francis Rimbert, Herbie Hancock, Flavio Premoli (from the Italian band Premiata Forneria Marconi. There is a video on youtube in which Flavio demonstrates a Minimoog on the Italian TV channel RAI UNO, in 1972), the french band Space, Larry Fast (in his solo project, Synergy, in Peter Gabriel's band and as a musician and synthesizer programmer in Serge Gainsbourg album "Love on the beat"), the electronic band Hot Butter and my (now) friends Gershon Kingsley (composer of "Popcorn"), Brian Kehew (Moog Cookbook, his duo with former Jellyfish member Roger Manning Jr.) and Herb Deutsch (already mentioned in this text).

I bought my Minimoog in September 2008. A few weeks earlier I had gone to visit Cardoso, my friend and the great technician who repairs my equipment. When I arrived at his workshop, the first thing I did was to put my eyes on the Minimoog that was there. I asked Cardoso who was the Minimoog's owner and he informed that it belonged to Angelo Pastorello (former bassist of 80's brazilian band Violeta de Outono) and he also told me that the band's keyboardist, Fernando, had brought it to calibrate and fix. And he also said that Fernando was going to be there within some minutes! I waited Fernando to arrive, got Pastorello's contacts and we began to negotiate. At first he asked me much money, but I bought for half of what he wanted (which still was a small fortune, to me at least). Finally we had a deal, money on his bank account but I still had to pick up the instrument at Fernando's home - at this point the Minimoog had already been repaired by Cardoso. As any money I owned was used to purchase the instrument, no way to go by taxi. I went and returned from his house (very far from mine) by bus, bringing the Minimoog with me. And without a hardcase! But every effort was worthy, the instrument is in great condition, I believe that it has not been widely used in shows by Violeta de Outono, although all of their albums (untill 2008 at least) has the sound of this Minimoog! I use my Minimoog whenever is possible, in concerts and recordings. My latest album, "Zeitgeist / propaganda", is almost entirely based on the sounds of this Minimoog (either as the lead instrument or using low-frequency oscillators as the basis of rhythmic music or even passing the Minimoog through the vocoder). I'm also using it on stage with Lirinha, a brazilian artist that I play with.The serial number of my Minimoog is 9071 (it was tested and left the factory on July 13, 1977)!

photos: Kay Mavrides/internet

I recorded this video on Friday, June 24th 2011!

Here's a video from Violeta de Outono playing Beatles' song "Tomorrow never knows" live at Teatro do SESI, São Paulo, on august 21st, 2001. The bass player Angelo Pastorello plays the intro on the Minimoog that now belongs to me (he gently sold me it on september, 2008). Angelo doesn't play on Violeta de Outono anymore and he is a very well known photographer here in Brazil!

...and now I use this Minimoog on almost all my works, both on my solo career and playing with Lirinha. In these video we play "Ducontra" at SESC Pompéia on february 10th, 2012 (I'm playing the Minimoog, a Wurlitzer 200A electronic piano and a Crumar organ):

Other cool videos are:
Brief history of the Minimoog:

Excerpt from a documentary made by BBC in 1980 with Dr. Robert Moog Minimoog demonstrating a Minimoog:

Herb Deutsch talks a little bit about the Minimoog (his R. A. Moog era Model D is serial number 94) and plays his piece "I lost your number):

Sun Ra using his Minimoog model B (prototype "borrowed" by Dr. Robert Moog):

Emerson Lake and Palmer - Karn Evil 9 live at California Jam, april 6th, 1974.
Keith Emerson plays the bass lines on the Minimoog during Greg Lake guitar's solo and his own first Hammond organ solo. In this show Emerson also used the prototypes of Moog Lyra and Moog Apollo (known as the Moog Constelation or Moog Polyphonic Ensemble, along with Moog Taurus Bass pedals). The Moog Constellation was planned as an answer to the Yamaha GX-1 (premiered in the US in 1973 at the NAMM convention), the three units were also going to be sold separately but however, the Constellation was never sold (Moog Taurus was sold as a separate unit later that year and the Moog Apollo prototype was redesigned and became the famous Polymoog Synthesizer in 1975):

Kraftwerk - Autobahn (live on US tv, 1975):

A very early Devo show at Kent State University, US, 1973)

Rick Wakeman - Arthur (live 1975):

Abba - Gimme gimme gimme (a man after midnight), live at Wembley, 1979.
Benny Anderson playing his custom white painted Minimoog:

Bob Marley - Stir it up

Chicory Tip - Son of my father (1972)
A Moog/MuSonics Minimoog here. There was a very short period during 1971/72 in which Moog Music - which had just merged with the smaller muSonics company - manufactured this one (note the different nameplate and the transparent pitch and modulation wheels):

Rockets - Cosmic Race (1978)

Space - Magic Fly

Steve Hillage - It's all too much (live in Berlin, 1977)
Paul Hodge on Minimoog/keyboards, Basil Brooks and Miquette Giraudy on other synthesizers:

Ultravox's singer Midge Ure demonstrates a Minimoog (modified by Warren Cann, Ultravox's drummer)

Premiata Forneria Marconi - Dove... Quando (live at RAI Italian tv channel, 1972)
Flavio Premoli demonstrates the Minimoog and the Mellotron:

The Rah Band - The Crunch (Top of the pops, 1977)

Mother Mallard
David Borden interview and excerpts from some of Mother Mallard presentation in NY on june 29th, 2011:

Photo of the Minimoog Model A:

Photo of the Minimoog Model B:

Another photo of the Minimoog Model B:

Photo of the Minimoog Model C:

Photo of the four Minimoog models side by side:

Robert Moog with two Minimoogs:

Original ads I found on the Internet:

Two rare photos of David Bowie with a Minimoog:

And here is the manual of the Minimoog Model D (downloadable in pdf):


  1. great post, thanks so much. awesome technology.

  2. You're welcome! And thank you for your interest!

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