5 Classic Keyboards Every Synth Geek Should Know

(Editor's note: this article is reprinted with permission from www.ericwbarfield.com.)

There are so many amazing synths on the market that it’s easy to get lost in the subtleties of each one. In my humble opinion I believe you can know almost everything you need to know about classic synths by studying these 5 retro synths: 

 

1. Minimoog

 

The MiniMoog was the first widely popular (and relatively affordable) synth to hit the market in the mid 60’s. It included 3 oscillators that could be triggered as one combined tone, giving it a thick sound. Everyone from the Beatles to Elton John bought one, and used it extensively both live and in the studio.

 

To hear it in action, listen to: 

 

Stevie Wonder- Boogie On, Reggae Woman

Nine Inch Nails- Head Like A Hole

 

 

2. Dave Smith Instrument’s Prophet 6

 

The Prophet 6 was one of the first polyphonic synths, which made it tremendously useful for keyboardists that were looking to get another sound similar to a Rhodes or organ live. Like the MiniMoog, the Prophet had a super warm, thick sound because of it’s analog oscillators and filters. 

 

To hear it in action, listen to: 

 

Pink Floyd- Dark Side Of The Moon Album

 

 

3. Roland Juno 106

 

The Juno 106 was originally released as a cheaper polyphonic analog synth, and quickly grew to cult status because of it’s distinctive tone. It’s big claim to fame is its exceptionally “warm” built in chorus, and it’s hands on control. 

 

To hear it in action, listen to:

 

Bruno Mars- 24k Magic

Mutemath- The Best Of Intentions

 

 

4. Yamaha DX7

 

The DX7 practically launched the sound of the 80’s- it’s FM synthesis type could create clear, bell-like sounds that were revolutionary in the age of analog synths, and the versatility of the unit made it a staple for keyboards of that era. You can literally hear it on everything from Prince hits to Star Trek: Next Generation sound tracks. 

 

To hear it in action, listen to:

 

Cindy Lauper- True Colors

Bruno Mars- Versace on the Floor

 

 

 

5. Eurorack Synths  

 

While not a classic yet, synth modules built to the Eurorack spec are bringing a revolutionary approach to modern synths. Instead of buying a single keyboard, synth geeks can buy a filteroscillator, and even delay unit and patch them together using cables called CV cabling. This allows almost endless options for creating cool new frankenstein synths, and have launched a new generation of synth players experimenting (which is always a good thing for synthesizer innovation). 

 

To hear it in action, listen to:

 

Nine Inch Nails- Hesitation Marks Album