A synthesizer, or synth, is an electronic musical instrument that creates sound by generating electrical signals. These signals are then manipulated and shaped to produce a wide range of sounds, from simple sine waves to complex textures and effects.
The basic function of a synth is to generate a waveform, which is then modified by various components to create a desired sound. The waveform can be shaped by oscillators, which generate the initial signal, and filters, which remove or emphasize specific frequencies. Envelope generators can control the amplitude, or volume, of the sound over time, while LFOs (low frequency oscillators) can create modulations in pitch, filter cutoff, and other parameters.
Synths may also include various effects, such as reverb, delay, and distortion, as well as tools for sequencing and arpeggiation. In addition, many modern synths allow for the creation of complex patches and presets, which can be saved and recalled for later use.
Overall, the technical function of a synth is to generate and shape electrical signals to produce a wide range of sounds and textures for use in musical compositions and performances.
The history of the synthesizer spans over a century, beginning with early electronic instruments such as the Theremin and Ondes Martenot in the early 20th century. However, the modern synthesizer as we know it today was developed in the mid-20th century and has since become a cornerstone of modern music production and performance.
In the 1950s and 1960s, electronic music was largely created using tape machines, oscillators, and other analog equipment. However, in 1964, American engineer Robert Moog developed the first modular synthesizer, which used voltage-controlled oscillators and filters to create a wide range of sounds. The Moog modular synthesizer was used by many notable musicians in the 1960s and 1970s, including The Beatles and Pink Floyd.
In 1971, Moog introduced the Minimoog, a portable and more affordable synthesizer that became the first commercially successful synthesizer. The Minimoog’s compact size and user-friendly interface made it a popular choice for musicians and it helped to popularize the use of synthesizers in popular music.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, a number of other companies, including ARP, Oberheim, and Roland, developed their own synthesizers, many of which became staples of popular music. The ARP 2600, for example, was used by Stevie Wonder and The Who, while the Roland Jupiter-8 was used by artists such as Duran Duran and Tangerine Dream.
In the 1980s, digital synthesizers such as the Yamaha DX7 and the Roland D-50 were introduced, offering a wider range of sounds and more advanced synthesis techniques. These digital synthesizers became popular in a variety of genres, from pop and rock to electronic and new age music.
In the 1990s and 2000s, software synthesizers and digital audio workstations (DAWs) began to emerge, offering musicians even more options for creating and manipulating sounds. Today, synthesizers continue to evolve, with new models incorporating a variety of advanced features and technologies.
In addition to their use in popular music, synthesizers have also become an important tool in film and television production, video game soundtracks, and experimental music. They have played a significant role in shaping the sound of modern music and continue to be a vital tool for musicians, producers, and sound designers.
Here’s a quick timeline of some notable events and synthesizer models:
|1920s||Invention of the Theremin and Ondes Martenot|
|1964||Robert Moog develops the first modular synthesizer|
|1971||Moog introduces the Minimoog|
|1975||ARP introduces the ARP 2600|
|1975||Yamaha introduces the CS-80|
|1977||Oberheim introduces the OB-X|
|1978||Roland introduces the Jupiter-8|
|1983||Yamaha introduces the DX7|
|1985||Roland introduces the D-50|
|1987||Korg introduces the M1|
|1990||Roland introduces the JD-800|
|1995||Access Music introduces the Virus|
|2002||Native Instruments introduces Absynth 2|
|2010||Arturia introduces the MiniBrute|
|2012||Korg introduces the MS-20 Mini|
|2016||Behringer introduces the DeepMind 12|
|2017||Roland reissues the Jupiter-8|
|2018||Moog releases the Moog One|
Note that this is just a small selection of notable events and models in the history of synthesizers, and there are many other important models and developments that are not included here.
The history of the synthesizer is a fascinating one, tracing its roots back to the early 20th century and encompassing a wide variety of technological and musical developments over the years. From the early days of the Theremin and Ondes Martenot in the 1920s to the modern digital synths of today, the synthesizer has had a major impact on music and culture in many different ways.
One way to track the development of the synthesizer is to look at some of the most notable events and models throughout its history. The table provided above lists some of the key milestones in the development of the synthesizer, from the introduction of the Minimoog in 1971 to the release of the Moog One in 2018. This timeline highlights some of the most important moments in the evolution of the synthesizer, including the introduction of classic models like the Yamaha CS-80, the Roland Jupiter-8, and the Yamaha DX7, as well as the emergence of newer models like the Behringer DeepMind 12 and the Korg MS-20 Mini.
Overall, this table provides a useful overview of the history of the synthesizer and the many different models and developments that have shaped its evolution over the years. Whether you’re a musician, a synth enthusiast, or simply someone interested in the history of technology and music, there is much to learn and appreciate in the story of the synthesizer.