Background

In the early seventies, synthesizers were starting to take-off in rock music. The sixties had been the era of the huge modular systems popularised by Wendy, (then Walter) Carlos with her infamous "Switched on Bach" album. Soon, many of the rock keyboard elite would be seen on-stage with equipment that bore more similarity to a 1930's telephone exchange than the more traditional Vox Continental and Rhodes. No two ways about it, these modular beasties were a roadie's nightmare. These monolithic systems whilst impressive to audiences and peers, were more at home in a laboratory than on a hot sweaty stage or being hauled around on trans-continental tours.

Bob Moog answered touring musicians' prayers when, in 1970; he released the most infamous synthesizer of all time - the Minimoog. An explanation seems hardly necessary as it's so well known, but effectively the Mini was a 3½ octave monophonic synth in a wooden chassis with a hinged control panel, (effectively a 3 Oscillator micro-modular system) weighing in at 28lbs and just over 28 x 16 inches in size. In short, you could sling it under your arm.

Whilst undoubtedly, the Minimoog was one of the "giant leaps" in synthesizer development, musicians wanted more…

What was wrong with synthesizers back then was that they didn't have presets and were monophonic. Whilst the lack of polyphony didn't stop them from producing incredible lead or bass lines, you couldn't play chords on them and the only way to produce pads was by detuning the oscillators to intervals or multi-tracking each note onto tape in the studio. Also, in order to change sounds between numbers, the musician would have to alter the patches manually using the synth's control panel and rely on paper patch sheets to duplicate previously marked settings. In a live situation, this was extremely difficult and the keyboard player had only two options - to learn to change settings rapidly "on the fly" (filling in with other keyboards whilst frantically twiddling the knobs and switches), or to buy several units and have each one already set up with the sounds required, (impractical if you were on a limited budget). Bob Moog attempted to address this with a budget preset synthesizer called the Satellite which was released in 1973. This only solved half the problem however. Moog really needed to develop a polyphonic synthesizer with preset patches...