History of the Synthesizer – A Brief Look Back
The synthesizer was a long time in the making. The history of the synthesizer is one that goes back long before electricity – many of early composers conceived of the concept, but could never put it into practice. In fact, it would take the invention of the silicon chip to make synthesizers possible.
The first synthesizers were very crude in their abilities. They date back well over 50 years. They were wired manually to create a given sound. They consisted of an oscillator, or tone generators, in one of three basic waveforms. These were sawtooth, square, or sine waves. This signal was then passed through several other modules to alter the initial tone. These first synthesizers were not triggered by a keyboard like they are today and they were abstract in their uses.
It didn’t take long for many rock musicians in the 60’s and 70’s to realize the benefits of these instruments. Many companies were formed in these days. For example, Moog, Arp, and Oberheim were some of the manufacturers that would produce the first synthesizers. Most of these first models were only able to produce one note at a time. In 1978, the first polyphonic units were created. They were still typically analog in their design and had a very distinct sound.
Dates To Know:
1940’s and 1950’s: A variety of different automated electronic musical controllers were built.
1950: RCA produces an experimental device that synthesizes voice and music.
1958: Daphne Oram from BBC Radiophoic Workshop produces the Oramics technique.
1960’s: Real time synthesizers were designed but were mainly used in studios. They were simply too large.
1964: The Moog Synthesizer was the first to be displayed at Audio Engineering Society Convention. Four years later, it was a hot product.
1967: The album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, Ltd became the first album to hit number one with a synthesizer used on it. It was from The Monkees’.
1970: The first synthesizer with a built in keyboard was designed by Moog.
Synthesizers enjoyed many innovations over the course of the following few years. They would become self contained and then movable, allowing them to be used throughout the home and recording studios. The synthesizer has continued to evolve and is widely used today.