History of Synthesizer Music

Synthesizers are a kind of electronic instrument that creates sounds.  A synthesizer instrument can imitate the sound of a bass guitar, any natural sound or even make a completely new sound. As provided by Performer magazine, the synthesizer was first created by Thomas Edison in 1877 when he cut a signal into a cylinder and synthesized his own voice. According to Britannica, the first synthesizer made for the sole purpose of creating music was built by two acoustical engineers, Harry Olson and Herbert Belar, in 1955 at the Radio Corporation of America, but it wasn’t until the 1960s-70s that the synthesizer was actually used as a device to create music.

As stated by Performer, during the 1970s, Engineer Bob Moog collaborated with an experimental composer named Herbert Deutsch. This collaboration led to them creating a prototype synthesizer used for music called the Moog Modular Synthesizer. The Moog Modular Synthesizer was the first step in synthesizers in pop music. Then in 1968, according to BBC, “‘Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach as the first popular album to incorporate synthesizers, which had been confined to use by experimental artists until that point.” Carlos performed pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach on the Moog modular synthesizer, which showed the potential the prototype had in making music. A decade later,  real musicians began using synthesizers; Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream are electronic bands from Germany in the 1970’s that used the synthesizers to create a new sound. The synthesizers helped Kraftwerk in 1974 to recreate the sounds of trucks, cars and bridges that could be heard driving through Germany.

These experimentations with the synthesizer gave rise to the “synth-pop era.” According to BBC, most of the pop groups that started using synthesizers in the late 70s used futuristic sounds with pop hooks; their music in the late 70s made it to the top in no time. Without any of the artists that experimented with the synthesizers, we wouldn’t have a portion of the music we listen to now; in fact, some of Lady Gaga’s early music would not have been the same without the use of synthesizers. 

Prog-rock, soul, hip-hop, grime and more genres of music also use synthesizers. For instance, artists like Snoop Doog, Kanye West, Pink Floyd and De La Soul have used synth music to create top hits, and  if you want to listen to popular synth-music, then consider listening to “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish, “I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran featuring Justin Bieber, “ME!” by Taylor Swift featuring Panic at the Disco’s Brendon Urie and “Talk” by Khalid.

Photo: S. Imbrock

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