|Price||$1,495 (new, 1970)|
$4,000 to $9,000 (used, 2015)
$3,495 (new, 2016)
|Oscillator||3 VCOs, white/pink noise|
|LFO||Oscillator 3 can function as LFO|
|Synthesis type||Analog subtractive|
|Filter||24dB/oct, 4-pole lowpass filter|
with cutoff, resonance,
ADSD envelope generator,
|Attenuator||ADSD envelope generator|
using oscillator 3/noise
|Keyboard||44-note, low-note priority|
|Left-hand control||Pitch bend and mod wheels|
|External control||CV/gate, MIDI in/out/thru (2016 reissue only)|
In the 1960s, synthesizers - in the form of large, expensive, and complex modular synthesizers - were inaccessible to most musicians. The Minimoog was designed as an affordable, portable, simplified instrument which combined the most useful components in a single device. It was the first synthesizer sold in retail stores. It was first popular with progressive rock and jazz musicians and found wide use in disco, pop, rock and electronic music.
After the sale of Moog Music, production of the Minimoog stopped in the early 1980s. In 2002, after founder Robert Moog regained the rights to the Moog brand and bought the company, the Minimoog Voyager, an updated version, was released. In 2016, the company, now rebranded as Moog Music, released a new version of the original Minimoog.
In the 1960s, RA Moog Co manufactured Moog modular synthesizers, which helped bring electronic sounds to music but remained inaccessible to ordinary people. The modular synthesizers were difficult to use, requiring users to connect components manually with patch cables to create sounds, were sensitive to temperature and humidity, and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Most of these synthesizers were owned by universities or record labels, and used to create soundtracks or jingles; by 1970, only 28 were owned by musicians.
Moog engineer Bill Hemsath wondered if the company could create a smaller, more reliable synthesizer. He created a prototype, the Min A, by sawing a keyboard in half and wiring several modules into a small cabinet. Moog president Robert Moog felt the prototype was fun, but did not initially see a market for it. Hemsath and other engineers, and later Moog, created several more prototypes, adding features such as the suitcase design to aid portability.
In early 1970, Moog Co began losing money as interest in its modular synthesizers fell. While Moog was away, the engineers, fearing they would lose their jobs when the company closed, developed a version of Hemsath's miniature synthesizer, the Minimoog Model D. Moog chastised them, but came to see the potential in the Model D and authorized its production.
The engineers could not get the power supply to stabilise properly, which meant that the Minimoog's three oscillators were never completely synchronized. Although unintentional, this created the synthesizer's "warm, rich" sound. Its voltage-controlled filter was unique, allowing users to shape sounds to create "everything from blistering, funky bass blurps ... to spacey whistle lead tones". The Minimoog also was the first synthesizer to feature a pitch wheel, which allows players to bend the note of the synthesizer as a guitarist or saxophonist does, allowing for more expressive playing. Future synthesizers incorporated their own pitch wheels. According to David Borden, one of the first users of the Minimoog, "If [Robert Moog] had patented [the pitch wheel], he would have been an extremely wealthy man."
Moog Co released the first Minimoog in 1971. Moog said the Minimoog was "conceived originally as a session musician's axe, something a guy could carry to the studio, do a gig and walk out. We thought we'd sell maybe 100 of them." Moog hired engineer and musicologist David Van Koevering to travel demonstrating Minimoogs to musicians and music stores. Van Koevering's friend Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell, allowed him to use a building on a private island Bell owned in Florida. Van Koevering used the building to host an event he billed as "Island of Electronicus", a "psuedo-psychedelic experience that brought counterculture (minus the drugs) to straight families and connected it with the sound of the Minimoog".
The Minimoog was in continuous production for thirteen years and over 12,000 were made. It was the first synthesiser sold in retail stores. Despite the success of the Minimoog, Moog Co could not afford to meet demand, nor had credit for a loan, and Moog sold the company. Production of the Minimoog stopped in the early 1980s and the company ceased all production in 1993. In 2002, Robert Moog reacquired the rights to the Moog name and bought the company. In 2002, Moog Co released the Moog Voyager, an updated version of the Minimoog that sold more than 14,000 units, more than the original Minimoog. In 2016, Moog Music began manufacturing an updated version of the Model D. Moog announced the end of Model D production in June 2017. Numerous companies, including Arturia and Behringer, have developed clones and software emulations of the Minimoog. In 2018, Moog Music released a Minimoog app for iOS.
According to TJ Pinch, author of Analog Days, the Minimoog was "the first synthesizer ever to become a 'classic'".Wired described the Minimoog as "the most famous synthesizer in music history ... a ubiquitous analog keyboard that can be heard in countless pop, rock, hip-hop, and techno tracks from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s". It was also important for its portability.David Borden, an associate of Moog, said that the Minimoog "took the synthesizer out of the studio and put it into the concert hall". According to the Guardian, "Tweaked now so that the synthesiser could reliably perform as either a melodic lead or propulsive bass instrument (rather than just as a complex sound-generating machine), the Minimoog changed everything ... the Moogs oozed character. Their sound could be quirky, kitsch and cute, or pulverising, but it was always identifiable as Moog."
The Minimoog changed the dynamics of rock bands. For the first time, keyboardists could play lead solos in the style of lead guitarists, or play synthesised basslines, particularly popular in funk, as in the track "Flash Light" by Parliament. Wakeman said: "For the first time you could go on [stage] and give the guitarist a run for his money...a guitarist would say, 'Oh shoot, he's got a Minimoog', so they're looking for eleven on their volume control - it's the only way they can compete." Wakeman said the instrument "absolutely changed the face of music."
It was also popular in jazz, and Sun Ra became perhaps the first musician to perform and record (on his 1970 album My Brother The Wind) with the instrument.Herbie Hancock, Dick Hyman and Chick Corea were other early adopters. It became a staple of progressive rock. In the early 1970s, Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, made the Minimoog a central part of his performances. Rick Wakeman of Yes would use five Minimoogs on stage so he could play different sounds without having to reconfigure the synthesizer. It was also used by electronic artists such as Kraftwerk, who used it on their albums Autobahn and The Man-Machine, and later by Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Gary Numan. In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, it was widely used in the emerging disco genre by artists including Abba and Giorgio Moroder.