Robert Moog

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Dr. Robert A. Moog (pronounced to rhyme with "vogue" (/moʊg/, not /muːg/)) (May 23, 1934August 21, 2005) was a pioneer of electronic music, best known as the inventor of the Moog synthesizer. A native of New York City, he earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Queens College, New York in 1957, another in electrical engineering from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in engineering physics from Cornell University. He received a Grammy Trustees Award for lifetime achievement in 1970. In 2002 he received an honorary doctorate degree from Berklee College of Music. He died of a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor at the age of 71 in Asheville, North Carolina. The Bob Moog Foundation has been created as a memorial, with the aim of continuing his life's work of developing electronic music.

Development of the Moog synthesizer

The Moog synthesizer was one of the first widely used electronic musical instruments. Early developmental work on the components of the synthesizer occurred at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, now the Computer Music Center. While there Moog developed the voltage controlled oscillators and ADSR envelope generators.

The Moog Music logo

Moog created the first modern, realtime playable and reconfigurable music synthesizer in 1963 and demonstrated it at the AES convention the following year. It sometimes took hours to set up the machine for a new sound.

Robert Moog employed his theremin company (R. A. Moog Co.) to manufacture and market his synthesizers. Unlike the few other 1960s synthesizer manufacturers, Moog shipped a piano-style keyboard as the standard user interface to his synthesizers. Moog also established standards for analog synthesizer control interfacing, with a logarithmic one volt-per-octave pitch control and a separate pulse triggering signal.

The first Moog instruments were modular synthesizers. In 1971 Moog broke into the mass market with the Minimoog Model D, an all-in-one instrument. The Minimoog was a 44-key scaled-down version of Moog's custom modular synths and featured 3 oscillators with six selectable waveshapes, an oscillator mixer, a pitch wheel and a modulation wheel. The third oscillator could also function as an LFO (low frequency oscillator). The Minimoog became the most popular monophonic synthesizer of the 1970s, selling approximately 13,000 units between 1971 and 1982.

Another widely used and extremely popular synth of Moog's was the Taurus bass pedal synthesizer. Released in 1975, its pedals were similar in design to organ pedals and triggered synthetic bass sounds. The Taurus was known for a "fat" bass sound and was used by musicians such as Genesis, Rush, U2, Yes, The Police, Yngwie Malmsteen and many others. Production of the original was discontinued in 1981, when it was replaced by the Taurus II. Moog Music was the first company to commercially release a keytar, the Moog Liberation.

Moog synth in culture

It is believed that the first record to feature a Moog synthesizer was Cosmic Sounds by The Zodiac. The first popular music album to feature the instrument was Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, Ltd. by The Monkees. Wendy Carlos released major Moog albums in 1968 and 1969: Switched-On Bach and The Well-Tempered Synthesizer. The former earned Carlos three Grammys. Also in 1969, The Beatles used a Moog throughout the Abbey Road album. It was also featured prominately on Emerson, Lake & Palmer's song "Lucky Man," Keith Emerson's Moog solo at the end making it arguably the group's most popular piece. Another popular Moog user was Tangerine Dream in the electronic landmark Phaedra album 1974.

A popular Moog user (and programmer) in recent times remains Stevie Wonder who went on to win numerous Grammy awards in 1973 for his synthesizer rich Talking Book and also in 1974 where he grabbed the 'Album of the Year' award with yet another Moog-tinted album Innervisions.

Popularity surged in the 1970s then declined in the 1980s as digital synthesizers gained traction in the market. By the mid-1990s, analog synthesizers were again highly sought after and prized for their classic sound. As of 2004, more than 15 companies are making Moog-style synthesizer modules.

Company and market history

In 1972 Moog had changed his company name to Moog Music. It went through various changes of ownership, eventually being bought out by musical instrument manufacturer Norlin. Norlin produced a number of synthesizers under the Moog name, but they were less successful than Moog's own designs. Moog Music closed its doors in 1987.

After leaving his namesake firm, Bob Moog started making electronic musical instruments again with a new company, Big Briar. Their first specialty was theremins, but by 1999 they expanded to producing a line of analog effects pedals under the moogerfooger moniker. Also in 1999, Bob partnered with Bomb Factory to co-develop the first digital effects based on Moog technology in the form of plugins for Pro Tools software.

Bob Moog bought back the Moog Music name in 2002 and produced a new version of the Minimoog called the Minimoog Voyager. The Voyager includes nearly all of the features of the model D, as well as a variable waveshape controller, dedicated LFO, FM capabilities with oscillator 3, and expansion capabilities via the Moogerfooger effects and the VX-351 Voyager Expander.


Robert Moog constructed his own theremin as early as 1949. Later he described a theremin in the hobbyist magazine Electronics World and offered a kit of parts for the construction of the Electronic World's Theremin, which became very successful. In the late 1980s Moog repaired the original theremin of Clara Rockmore, an accomplishment which he considers as a high point of his professional career. He also helped to produce her album The Art of the Theremin. In 1996 he published another do-it-yourself theremin guide. Today, Moog Music is the leading manufacturer of performance-quality theremins.


The surname Moog is one of the most frequently mispronounced names in popular culture. The following interview excerpt reveals the correct pronunciation:

— Reviewer: First off: Does your name rhyme with "vogue" or is like a cow’s "moo" plus a "G" at the end?
— Dr. Robert Moog: It rhymes with vogue. That is the usual German pronunciation. My father's grandfather came from Marburg, Germany. I like the way that pronunciation sounds better than the way the cow's "moo-g" sounds. [1]

In a deleted scene from the DVD version of the documentary Moog, Dr. Moog describes the three pronunciations of the name Moog: the original, Dutch pronunciation ("moch"), the later, German pronunciation (the preferred, rhymes with vogue), and the more common pronunciation in English-speaking countries (with the long /ü/ sound). Dr. Moog reveals that different parts of his family prefer different pronunciations of the name, but he (and most certainly his wife) prefers the German pronunciation.

Recent work

Dr. Moog gave an enthusiastically received public keynote lecture at NIME-04, the international conference on New interfaces for musical expression, held in Hamamatsu, Japan's "City of Musical Instruments", in June, 2004.

Moog: proposed unit of measure

Shortly after Bob Moog's death, it was proposed in his honor that the word Moog become the ANSI standard unit for expressing volts per octave. This term is used in reference to the exponentially-scaled voltage controlled oscillators found in analog synthesizers. The symbol is "Mg".

One Moog (1 Mg) means one volt per octave (1V/oct), which is the most common standard. Other scaling factors have been used, such as the 1.2 Moog scale of Buchla synthesizers and the Minimoog Voyager's 0.98 Mg scaling.

See also

External links

Interviews and articles

Moog products




Other links

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