Synthesiser – the history!

The synthesisers been the icon of many a 1980’s music fan. Indeed, Chase Music were iconic for them back in the day. They did not, however, find themselves fame properly until Yamaha (who are, of course, now widely known for their fantastic range of digital pianos and keyboards) released the Synth DX7.

Synthesisers complete history
Synth – the icon of the 1980’s

So where did they come from?

It has been noted throughout history that nobody quite knows the exact inventor of the Synth. In fact, it has been said that there are variations as far back as the 1800’s, when Elisha Gray, an electrical engineer accidentally discovered and invented a basic single note oscillator.

Many other musical discoveries occured after this, and thus the music industry began to take off and instruments such as the audion piano,and Trautonium began to be produced in the turn of the 20th century. Most of these instruments used ‘heterodyne circuits’ to produce audio frequencies and for a great period of time did not have great synthesis capabilities.  Over the years, these instruments were continuously developed and altered.

In Germany in the 1930’s, the polyphonic synth was first developed, followed promptly by the USA. In 1939, the year the second world war broke out, the Hammond Novachord was released, which was an electronic keyboard consisting of 12 sets of top-octave oscillatores with octave dividers which were used to generate sound.

Jump forward to the 1940’s, and throughout this decade, various innovations began to emerage and electronic music began to be created by contemporary composers. The result of this was electronic music studios being built the world over!  These studios consisted of oscillators, filters, and audio consoles and soon became known as a ‘sound synthesiser’.

In popular culture

A man by the name of Harald Bode developed a modular synthesiser in the late 50’s. His ideas were adopted by Donald Buchla and Robert Moog in the United States. Thus, the Moog prototype was born  in the late 1960’s, synthesisers became well priced, as well as compact and portable.  This, along with the development of MIDI, made synthesisers the perfect instrument to use in music composition. The synthesiser had a massive effect on pop music in the 20th Century, and can be found on many popular albums of the 1970’s and 80’s, including from iconic artists as The Doors and the Rolling Stones to name just two.

Digital Revolution of the Synthesisers

By the end of the 1970’s, the synthesiser began to take the shape of what we know as the synth. More portable, smaller and cheaper instruments.  Around this time, many variations and brands began to become popular, including the Yamaha CS-80  and the Prophet 5.

As previously mentioned, in 1983, Yamaha released the revolutionary DX7 synthesiser, which became no doubt the icon of 1980’s music everywhere.  The synthesiser began the trend of producing music using digital sounds. This was no double the influence of the next wave of popular digital instruments instroduced.

Jump forward to the 1990’s, and the synthesiser really took off and became popular in electronic dance music. More recently, new analog synths, mainly in keyboard form, were released alongside digital hardware instruments.

Even today, in 2016, though not as common, it has become a staple for dance music everywhere, and remains one of the most influential and iconic instruments of the age.


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