Thursday, January 28, 2010

Important Prog Rock Instruments: The Moog Synthesizer

Most don't pronounce the name correctly. They look at the name on paper and see Moog and think it's pronounced with a long 'oooooo' sound. Like Food or Mood. This just isn't correct. You see, the Moog was named after its creator Dr. Robert Moog. His name is pronounced with a short 'o' sounds like Vogue or Toad. Say it aloud with me. Moog. Very good. Now don't you ever get it wrong ever again.

Now, here's a pretty amazing video. The late-great Dr. Robert Moog recounts how Keith Emerson's first use of his then new synthesizer on the ELP hit single "Lucky Man". Clearly this was a great way to introduce this strange new sound to the public as it was featured regularly on the radio. This pleased him greatly. Emerson himself takes the stage and proceeds to jam away on the Moog (Tarkus style). Check it out. See that huge mass of wires? That, my friends, is the original Moog in all its glory. It was a big honking thing.

This Wikipedia article will explain how it works. While that big honking machine opened up a new world of sound to progressive-minded keyboardists, it was a pain in the ass to drag around on tour. Enter the Minimoog. Mr. Moog explains...

The smaller form factor allowed Rick Wakeman to go out on tour and play crazy stuff like this:

Wacky. Anyway... Some may say that the Moog now sounds corny and dated. Others would argue that the vintage analogue sound generated by the Moog is timeless and is way more resonate today then the early digital synths of the 80s. In fact, with modern technology it is possible to generate the same sort of tones digitally. When I make my own music I often try to recreate the sounds that legends like Wakeman and Emerson used in the 1970s. What do you think? (Skip ahead to 6:30 for the minimoog solo)

A phenomenon perhaps unique the the world of Progressive Rock? Probably. But anyone who listens to the Prog of the early-to-mid 1970s knows that the Moog's sound can be something appealing even today when we aren't limited by antiquated technology. Sure, maybe it does seem a little cheesy. I don't know. In fact it may be the mellotron that is the real lasting legacy of the Prog keyboardists. We'll take a look at that instrument's story in a few weeks. For now, just enjoy those analogue tones.

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