I have been meaning to brush-up on my analogue synthesis for some time. Between online teaching, writing and practicing I have been re-exploring the nitty-gritties. These nitty-gritties will unquestionably become a blog post in the future 😊 My intent to 'brush-up' must be born from my fascination with all electronic gadgetry - see my previous blog post ‘Washing-up eBay’. I have my Dad to ‘blame’ for that - his back room is filled with wonders of the 20th and 21st century. Condenser microphones, audio mixers, effects pedals - a whole tribe of different guitars festooned on every wall. Much to my Dad’s dismay, I didn’t become a guitarist; to this day I can only manage a handful of chords and some Bob Marley on the Ukulele. Arguably, the greatest wonder of my Dad’s backroom - and MY childhood - the entire back catalogue of Star Trek from Kirk to Archer.
Don’t roll your eyes.
Anyway, what is an analogue synthesiser I hear you buzz? Basically, an analogue synthesiser is a revolutionary musical instrument that gives the freedom to shape sound generated through analogue circuitry via AC current. These are the ancestors of digital synthesisers (those that use computer programming to generate sound). In 2020, many synthesisers are software instead of hardware based. Personally, I am a bit of a hybrid - I use analogue synthesisers in my home studio but also an array of software plug-ins that emulate famous analogue synthesisers including the Korg MS20, Arp Odyssey and MiniMoog.
Artists such as Kraftwerk, Herbie Hancock, Wendy Carlos, Madonna, Muse (the list is endless!) have all harnessed the unique musical freedom of these devices.
NOTE: You WILL have heard one of these - even without realising. Have a look at https://www.factmag.com/2016/09/15/14-most-important-synths/ - they are not all analogue but it’s a superb introduction to some of the sounds.
There is currently an analogue synthesis renaissance with many manufacturers releasing ‘modern’ or ‘revamped’ versions of some of their legacy instruments. This has included Behringer, Korg and Moog e.g. the recent Behringer Odyssey.
Some of your may have heard of Wendy Carlos’ ‘Switched On Bach’ - have a listen on Spotify or if you’re lucky enough, a vinyl - I’m not lucky enough unfortunately. This album was created meticulously using analogue synthesisers one layer at a time. This exemplifies the different sounds the instruments can produce brilliantly.
There is a rare interview with this pioneer below…
Unfortunately, my pockets - as a humble freelance musician - aren’t deep enough to explore some of the vintage synthesisers ‘hands on’ although the array of software versions is staggering. I would highly recommend looking at Moog’s Minimoog Model D iOS app. This has just been made available free to download during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whilst I don’t claim to be a synthesist - the technology, process and creative possibilities really are inspiring. Perhaps a Star Trek inspired, analogue-based track might just make Kirk proud?