Breaking down the music – Synthesizers

Every now and then, you will get a small breakdown of some of the sounds you hear in almost all current house music production today. This sound is usually the driver for most of the melody and feel of the music that we listen to and these are known as synthesizers.

complex modular synths

Synthesizers were made in a time when most music was produced with regular old instruments by musicians that wrote and studied music. In the  1940’s the face of music was about to be changed forever, and theses would be through the collaboration of two professions that were unlikely to work together at the time, and that was of musicians and electronics engineers. Most electronics were created to change the waveform that pass through the circuit, I will not get into the deep electronics of it all, but what can be said is that electronics was an emerging field in that time, and this meant that the circuits were fairly simple and made the use of resistors and transistors to modify this analog sound.

Synthesizers are originally electronic circuits that produce a wide variety of sound waves, which may be changed and modified by means of analogue circuits called filters. The real breakthrough came from scientific research that was investigated by Herald Bode in the development of modular synthesizers and this research opened the flood gates to what we know as digital music production today.

the google search page commemorating Robert Moog’s 78th Birthday 23 May 10.

As you may have seen on the google search page yesterday (May 23rd), there was an interactive image of one of the earliest and first modular systhesisers. This was to commemorate the 78th Birthday of the inventor of the first minimoog synthesizers -Robert Moog, which took the music industry by storm and changed the face of contemporary and popular music at the time and now, which is why almost every song made today is made digitally and the minimoog modular synthesizer was the pioneer of that sound.

one the early developments of the moog. Image: oesquema.com.br

The minimoog was the first modular synthesizer to be ever put into production through the 1970’s  and almost every music genre found a place for this new sound in their track. The construction of the protoype of the minimoog was Robert Hemsath who worked during his lunch breaks to assmeble  the first prototype from scrap material that lay at  the R.A Moog Co. workshop – an engineering company that produced guitar amplifiers. It was made using scrap parts from an old keyboard and various other synthesisers modules. This was the first time a keyboard was ever bolted to a synthesiser and there were countless number of sounds that could be produced from these instruments. Another interesting thing was that the punchiness of the sound produced by the minimoog was a result of a miscalculation in one of the electronic circuits that caused an overdrive of the filters which resulted in that particular sound. The mistake was not realised right up until the units were sent into production and everyone decided to just go with the mistake and let the units to continue being produced. This was in the time before the advancement of microchips of todays technology known as integrated circuits.

At the time, sound signals could not be driven through those integrated circuits as they were not advanced enough to process musical sound. Looking to now the present day where computers have advanced to levels never dreamed of, processing musical sound has now become so easy through the use of modern day computer software and the number of sounds that can be produced have virtually become limitless as new and more interesting genres pop up as a result of this technology.

Most of the worlds music genres began to pick up the minimoog as the instrument of choice as it provided new sounds that the producers could tinker with mid-production. These were genres ranging from rock, jazz, reggae, and even house music of today. The first time Bob Marleys band was seen to pick up the minimoog was in one of their early perfomances on BBC live broadcast andit didnt end there as most reggae artists also use the moog synthesizer, you can see this in the first seconds of the video below of one of Bob Marley’s early perfomances on BBC television.

Bringing things home, a lot of deep and soulful house music producers embrace the sounds of the minimoog as one of the lead synths for the production of their tracks and that gives the music a soulful touch most instruments dont provide. A sample of how jazz instruments and loops is shown in the video below, as you will observe this is where many of the sounds of todays deep and soulful music come from this should provide you with the opportunity to see where the music really comes from.

In the end what remains though is that the sound produced from the original minimoog synthesisers were authentic and original and it will be very difficult for that to be reproduced digitally to give the same effect as using the original minimoog and that is where the soul in soul music comes from. This takes me back to a conversation dj Trybe and I had some months ago where he asked which sound does it for me in house music. My reply was “keys” and his was “the moog”  and constantly made references to dj Spinna who makes one of the best uses of the moog in production and remixes of deep and soulful house music today, little did we know we were talking about the same thing. Enjoy the last video of how it all comes together in one of Dj Spinna’s remixes of Sean Escoffery’s – Space rider enjoy.

 

yours in sound – kMoe

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