Minimoog Model D

Limelight hog

The name MOOG stood for many as a synonym for synthesizer par excellence. It was probably the first big name among the synthesizers. This is the Minimoog Model D, which, in contrast to the large modular systems, was designed as a stage synthesizer and spread quickly. The sound has the highest recognition value.

MOOG had not attracted me that much before, but after a few hours with this little monster, it has changed. The Minimoog D offers 3 three Oscillators, but only two simple Envelopes, no S/H and no Ring Modulation - actually, it is not very versatile and does not offer any complex circuits - it follows a different principle.

The combination of the very rich sounding VCOs with the (rightly) famous Filter is extremely musical. By its warmth (adding even harmonics) the Mini is also quite "dirty", which can lead to wonderful sounds. Its orientation is rather to be seen in the interplay of the three VCO's - also Tunings and Filter progressions. Wonderful sounds are generated by Frequency Modulation when Osc3 is modulating the Frequency for Osc1 and the Mod Wheel is open.

Sounds reminding of screaming electric guitars are stimulated by the parameter "Amount Of Contour" - the effect of the Filter also makes Amount look like a kind of Drive control. By returning the signal to the Audio Input, even more extreme, distorted sounds can be generated. Really dirty!

This synthesizer exerts a strict magic and it is hard to escape this magic. A powerful synth for every kind of melody, but also for more abstract sounds. Abstraction is achieved mainly by detuning the 3 VCO's, by Filter progressions and the use of the Modulation Wheel. Filter-Emphasis (Resonance) and Contour-Amount are crucial parameters that ideally complement the sound of these VCO's.

The MiniMoog Model D, especially the "old" Oscillator (like in my model), is the only synthesizer I know, that sounds like a big - very big - synthesizer. It's not quite "Mini" either. And it has a considerable weight. It is, without question, one of the most beautiful synths ever built and the fold-up control panel is unsurpassed to this day.

The Minimoog Model D is a "conglomerate", also in its construction: everything has to do with everything! Just tuning the Oscillators (6 trimmers, which are tuned to one another) is a nightmare and symbol of this instrument, as far as technology is concerned. The interior is deterrent (crowded) and beautiful at the same time. It compensates for the lack of modulation possibilities (e.g., RM) by its "richness" in the sound.

It has a very clear character and thus also an extremely high recognition value! For some it was a problem. Joseph Zawinul is probably the best known. When we talked about our Rhodes Chroma and ARP 2600, he once told me, "When people come to the concert hall, they should be the first to recognize Joe Zawinul, and if I play a Minimoog, they first recognize the Minimoog." This could be the best short description of the Minimoog Model D. But I have to add that I have managed to make the Mini sound not Moog: with the EMS Filterbank B1-II, completely different worlds!

Although I really liked the instrument, I never used it in musical projects. It is too much focused on "pop music" and modifications were not for me. Together with Eric van Baaren I helped (of course under his guidance) to restore the instrument so beautifully. When I got the instrument in Chicago (for chicken feet), a nest of mice was in it! The entrance was among the highest three keys and the nest under the Pitchbend. The black stripe (at the top) was a Velcro tape, on which I attached two Joysticks (with MIDI-board). In order to finance the Buchla, I finally separated from the Mini.

EDP Wasp Deluxe

Electronic Dream Plant

With this, extremely rare, EDP WASP Deluxe (serial number 003), my second Synth-odyssey had begun again. In 2003 it came to me and I was thrilled to get/listen /play an analogue synth again. The enthusiasm remained, also, after I learned that the WASP is completely digital - actually it was one of the first digital synths. But it does not sound digital at all. A maverick and great synth. I liked the "Deluxe" better than the little Wasp - already because of the keyboard.

The Wasp may be somewhat one-sided, but everything that can be done with it sounds good. It's famous for the filter design. Everything has character and its own charm. The direction is rather psychedelic, spacey, but it's also great for melodies. It was nothing to travel - it is astonishingly large (but light), and, with under 80 instruments ever built, far too rare to expose it to such strains.

Since it was not enough for my musical interests, I sold it to finance the following ARP Odyssey odyssey.


In the end of the 80s I had moved to 19 inches - I was not in the mood to carry the 50kg Rhodes Chroma and the ARP 2600 could not do what I wanted. I just made my first computer experiences (also I had MIDI-fied the Rhodes Chroma). The Yamaha synths brought digital FM and were completely Remote Controllable via SysEx data. Then came Max and my first Apple (SE30). Max allowed me to write programs with SysEx addresses and that was like a revolution! The equipment was not yet really smaller or lighter - I had a 12U and a 10U case, both hardly to move by one person. But suddenly I was able to do what I used to do with invaluable and non-transportable machines! Through the software environment Max and the Computer these instruments became powerful monsters.

Casio CZ101


In the end of the 80s, this toyish thing was my entry into the world of digital sounds. It was an ideal opposite to the Rhodes Chroma (ARP) and I got the craziest sounds out of it.

The CZ101 was almost cheap against the DX7 (I think DM 300.-), but could keep up in a certain way - for my purposes it sounded even better / more ingenious. The synthesis was called "Phase Distortion Synthesis" and was close to FM - but much easier to program.

Yamaha TX816

8x DX7

I had never liked the Yamaha DX7 - most of the music in which I could locate the DX7, I found terrible. All those whole plastic synths, that suddenly came onto the market, gave me no good feeling - neither listening nor playing. The changes of the synths into preset slings was suspect, the elimination of the controllers (pots and sliders) a reason for exclusion.

Then the Yamaha TX816 convinced me:

8x DX7 in a 19 '4U housing! A Beast! Despite enormous weight still significantly lighter than eight Dx7. The TX816 had 128 voices - via SysEx in real-time editable! (At the time, MIDI controllers were still very expensive and the computer allowed multiple assignments.) The TX816 seemed inexhaustible.

It was particularly interesting to load identical sounds into all modules and slightly detune them against each other. Incredible binaural beats could be generated just by volume changes. The TX816 became obsolete for me when I received my M.A.R.S. - that had to be paid somehow - so I sold my TX816. It might still live in the "Experimental Studio of the SWF".

Yamaha TG77

hybrid Synthesizer

The Yamaha TG77 liked me - maybe it was even the "closest" Synthesizer to me at the beginning of the 90s (before I got the M.A.R.S.). The Multimode I have hardly used - even the "hybrid" part (Waves). So I did not use most of it.

The TG77 was also controllable via SysEx and could create fantastic FM sounds. I found it so good that I later purchased also a SY99, the version with large keyboard. It was the first time I had been working "straight" on a synthesizer.

Without the software package "Max", the TG77 would probably not have been interesting to me, but with Max, it became one of the most accessible synths that one could get at the time.

Here is a live recording (1991) of a piece (in the rarely used Multi-Mode) that I had done with this setup and Max. Frank Gratkowski plays alto saxophone - partly I too (as a non-distinguishable sample). Lars Lindvall plays trumpet and pipes, Norbert Pfammatter plays drums. The e-bass, marimba, vibraphone etc. - everything is TG77. And everything is live - no sequences. At that time I was interested in "intelligent extensions" of the craftsmanship of performers.

Yamaha DMP11


The many synth outputs wanted to be organized and I had discovered the 4-channel world. For 4ch I used a Mackie desk with OTTO (MIDI-Automation). For the 8 outputs of the TX816, I used the Yamaha DMP11 Mixer - it was also MIDI-controllable and enabled me to do things that were previously impossible - or too big and too expensive to think about at all.

I forgot how, but it was quite a trickery. Both mixers did not understand all MIDI commands, or did not allow everything, but in the addition of both it was possible to break through the barriers. Together with TX816 and TG77, this was a powerful 4ch FM instrument!

AKAI S1000


The Sampler is absolutely essential to my synth archive page, because it was also an important part of the setup 1989-93. While I did not use the waveforms in the TG77, the AKAI 1000 offered more than the replacement for it. Also for the S1000 I wrote SysEx-Max patches and was then able to operate a kind of live sampling (I've seldom used pre-recorded samples).

The SysEx data simulated button pressures (in the ramping step menu of the S1000) - I noted all the button pressure adresses needed to get into the menu "xy" (8 or 10 button-clicks) and dumped it, as a sequence, within a millisecond - just before a MIDI value changed. So i could instantly change any part or point (eg, "attack" time of an envelope). The value of the "variable" was (internally) always controlled with the same controller-address (as it was usually then). It was the "active value changer" in every menu block. So all parameters, almost in "real-time", could be edited and I could sample live and the play the recorded sample directly with variable envelope curves or other editing. The audio quality of the S1000 was then almost shockingly good! Through Max, the S1000 was mutated into a monster. Also the AKAI S1000 became for me obsolete with the M.A.R.S. - and then the luggage got smaller.

Here is a live recording (1990) of a piece that I had realized with the AKAI and Max. Frank Gratkowski plays the soprano saxophone. All my sounds are sampled live of Frank's sounds. At the beginning of the pieces the AKAI had empty memory (which was very practical). I think hardly anyone could work on the S1000 as fast as I did at that time (with Max).

In Max i had some cool chords in a coll-object and many, partly automated sliders and knobs via Sysex to AKAI for changing Envelopes etc. (- reaching the EDIT-area with simulated button drops in ms).

Pillow (Gratkowski, Bohnes 1990)

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