|Manufactured by||Moog Music|
|Dates||1971 - 1983|
|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,
ADS envelope generator,
|Attenuator||ADS envelope generator|
using oscillator 3/noise
|Keyboard||44-note, low-note priority|
|Left-hand control||Pitch bend and mod wheels|
The Minimoog was designed in response to the use of synthesizers in rock and pop music. Large modular synthesizers were expensive, large, and delicate, and were not ideal for live performance; the Minimoog was designed to include the most important parts of a modular synthesizer in a compact package, without the need for patch cords. It later surpassed this original purpose, however, and became a distinctive and popular instrument in its own right. It remains in demand today, nearly four decades after its introduction, for its intuitive design and powerful bass and lead sounds.
At its most basic, the Minimoog control panel can be broken up into 3 sections:
To produce a sound, the musician would first choose a sound shape to be generated from the VCO(s) and/or the type of Noise (White or Pink). The VCO provides a choice of several switchable waveforms:
The signals are routed through the Mixer to the VCF (Voltage Controlled Filter) where harmonic content can be modified and resonance added.
The filtered signal is then routed to the Voltage Controlled Amplifer (VCA), where its contour is shaped by a dedicated ADS (Attack, Decay/Release, Sustain) envelope generator. Part of the appeal of this instrument over the early modular Moogs was the fact that the Minimoog required no patch cables; its signal and control voltage path is hard-wired, or "normalled". While this imposed the signal flow limitation outlined above (VCO -> VCF -> VCA), there are ways to tweak the sound. For example, in reality, the Minimoog has six sound sources. Five of these sound sources pass to a mixer with independent level controls:
And the VCF can itself be made to oscillate, thus comprising the Minimoog's sixth sound source.
The voltage-controlled filter (VCF) and voltage-controlled amplifier (VCA) each have their own ADSD envelope generator (or Attack-Decay-Sustain- Decay). Musicians who are familiar with more modern synthesizers might expect the last letter to be R for "Release" (as in ADSR). However, on the Minimoog, the envelopes are ADSD as the Decay setting also sets the time for what's regularly known as Release. In other words, there are 3 knobs to control 4 sections of the sound (most modern synths have 4 knobs, one for each section) -- a "shortcoming" that doesn't seem to diminish the Minimoog's popularity in any way. There is also a switch above the pitch and modulation wheels to engage the final decay stage as well as a switch for engaging the glide circuit.
The VCF is of transistor ladder type, a famous, even envied design patented by Moog (US 3,475,623).. Rumors that Moog had to go to court over the patent seem to be nothing more; 'differences' with ARP at one point were settled amicably.
The output of the third oscillator and/or the noise generator can also be routed to the control voltage inputs of the filter and/or oscillators. The amount of pitch or filter modulation thus realized is controlled by the modulation wheel, which is the right one of the two plastic disks located to the left of the keyboard. In this way the third oscillator is frequently used as a low-frequency oscillator to control pitch (oscillator modulation) and/or harmonic content (filter cutoff frequency modulation).
The Minimoog can be controlled using its built-in, 44-note keyboard, which is equipped with modulation and pitch-bend wheels or by feeding in an external one-volt-per-octave pitch-control voltage and triggering the envelope generators with an inverted Switch trigger (S-Trigger in Moog terminology). External pitch control does not pass through the glide circuit, nor is presented to the VCF tracking switches and thus, the external inputs were not designed for external keyboard control. The lowest note played on the keyboard determines the pitch, a condition that is referred to as low-note priority. The envelope generators do not retrigger unless all notes are lifted before the next note is played, an important characteristic which allows phrasing. The modulation and pitch-bending wheels were an innovation that many instrumentalists found to be extremely playable. The pitch-bend wheel is on the left of the modulation wheel. It is normally kept in the centered position. It is not spring-loaded; the player must return it to the centered position to play in tune. There is a delicate detent mechanism to help the player find the center position tactually. In sharp contrast to later synthesizers that also have pitch-bend wheels, there is no deadband near the center of the wheel's travel; the wheel produces minute changes in pitch no matter how slightly it is moved in either direction. The wheel can therefore be used to introduce slight vibrato or nuance, as well as accurate pitch changes. However, Moog later recommended adding a deadband mod and published this mod in their factory service notes. The detent mechanism can be somewhat adjusted in its strength.
David Borden, an early associate of Moog, has said that the Minimoog "took the synthesizer out of the studio and put it into the concert hall". Jazz composer and bandleader Sun Ra used one of the first Minimoogs, a prototype lent him by Moog in 1969: "We loaned it to him and Sun Ra’s way of working is that when you loan him something you don’t expect to see it back."
Keith Emerson was the first musician to tour with a Minimoog, in 1970, during Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Pictures at an Exhibition shows. Many essential pitch-bending techniques were first demonstrated by him, and many keyboardists learned how to pitch-bend by following his example. He immediately adopted it as one of his main instruments.
Keyboardist Rick Wakeman says of the Minimoog's invention: "For the first time you could go on [stage] and give the guitarist a run for his money...a guitarist would say, 'Oh shit, 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."
Due to the design of its 24dB/octave filter, its three oscillators, and tuning instabilities which tend to keep the oscillators moving against one another, the Minimoog can produce an extremely rich and powerful bass sound. Despite the advent of low-cost digital synthesizers and samplers, the Minimoog remains in high demand with producers and performers of electronic pop and electronic music.