Synthetic sounds dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when manufacturers used electricity for making string instruments as a means of direct control and creation. Early versions included the Theremin (1922), the Ondes Martenot (1928), and the Trautonium (1930).

Hammond Organ Clock Company – 1935

The 1930s were marked by electromechanical and electroacoustic instruments. Introduced mechanical devices with electronic components into the instrument, similar to the Hammond organ.

Modular synthesizer – 1965

Attempts to resynthesize traditional instruments. In 1952, the RCA (Radio Corporation of America) developed the first synthesizer created by Harry Olson and Herbert Belar, capable of artificially creating sound. At the same time, Max Matthews invented digital synthesis: unusual sounds could be created from digital signals. Engineer Paolo Ketoff’s Synket was a pioneer, including elements which would later be used in most synthesizers.
Robert Moog developed voltage control and an instrument controlled by a keyboard, but made up of autonomous modules. At the same time, another American, Donald Buchla, had the idea of using interconnectable modules.
The VCS-3 synthesizer, developed in 1969 by the English company EMS, was the first to have non-separated modules, and was instead designed as a whole. This marked the beginning of models with pre-wired modules, determined in advance by the various manufacturers.

MiniMoog monophonic analog synthesizer, Moog–1974

After just 10 years, laboratory prototypes gave way for instruments bring produced on an industrial scale. The synthesizer industry began with two types of equipment: synthesis-based equipment, such as the Synclavier, which offered sound programming possibilities, and equipment stemming from electronic organs such as the Moog synthesizer.


In 1982, Yamaha’s launch of the first digital synthesizer, the DX7, was a huge moment. Compared to other synthesizers, the DX7 generated richer sounds with less manipulation required, while also retaining the functionality of electronic organs.

CMI II synthesizer and sampler–Central unit, 1982

The 1980s marked an important turning point in the history of electronic violin making: real-time computing was now widespread, and thanks to the MIDI interface, the personal studio became standardized and allowed exchanges.
There was also the explosion of virtual music, the home studio on personal computers, and the widespread development of sound editing and processing software. In addition to the synthesis processes by physical modeling, the 1990s also saw the return of analog synthesis. Old analog synthesizers became increasingly sought after, both by musicians and collectors, and new analog instruments began to emerge.


Synthesizers Jupiter 8, Roland – 1982

Synthesizers tended to gradually dematerialize with the arrival of software offering device simulation. Computers and synthesizers thus came together to offer the musician a more developed instrumental palette.


Reference: Instrument history: the synthesizer — Google Arts & Culture

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