Keyboards and synthesizers are instruments that electronically replicate the sounds of pianos, organs, strings, horns, woodwinds, and even voices. One of the first synthesizers was the Novachord, which had 169 vacuum tubes, weighed in excess of 500 pounds, and made its debut at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, where a quartet of Novachords, plus a Hammond organ (Laurens Hammond was one of the machine’s designers), serenaded visitors to the Ford Motor Company Pavilion with other-worldly sounds.

Another mid-20th-century keyboard pioneer was Robert Moog, although he cut his teeth on making kits for keyboard-less Theremins in the 1950s. By 1964, though, Moog had created his first synthesizer, which featured two keyboards and a pair of freestanding modules, each riddled with jacks and knobs.

In fact, the 1960s were a formative decade for electronic keyboards. The Mellotron Mark II appeared in England in 1964, and was immediately embraced by Mike Pinder of The Moody Blues, who used the instrument on songs like “Nights in White Satin.” Pinder was an effective evangelist for the Mellotron in England, convincing The Beatles to use it (you can hear its "flute" intro to “Strawberry Fields Forever”), and that got it on the radar of prog-rockers like Genesis and Yes. Around the same time, Hohner, whose claim to fame had been harmonicas, introduced the Clavinet. Simpler by several orders of magnitude than a Moog or even a Mellotron, the Clavinet was supposed to be an electronic Clavichord, but it sounded nothing at all like a staid Renaissance instrument in the hands of an artist like Stevie Wonder, whose funky 1972 hit, “Superstition,” was performed on a Clavinet C.

In the 1970s, electronic keyboards were suddenly everywhere. EMS in London introduced a string of products throughout the decade (Pink Floyd was a big customer); ARP of Lexington, Massachusetts, produced formidable competitors to the Minimoog (its Odyssey and 2600 models were big sellers); and in 1977 a company called Sequential Circuits introduced the Prophet-5, which was the first machine that could store a musician’s customized sounds, known as patches. In the 1980s, though, digital synthesizers and keyboards, many from Japanese manufacturers such as Yamaha, Roland, and Korg, elbowed analog devices out of the marketplace, although vintage analog keyboards and synthesizers are still sought by discerning musicians.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Synth Explorer

Vintage Synth Explorer

Matt Friedman’s not-for-profit Vintage Synth Explorer lets you browse hundreds of synthesizers by manufacturers s… [read review or visit site]

National Music Museum

National Music Museum

The National Music Museum, which is located at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, features 15,000 instru… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Rheem Kee Bass - 1960s Analog Bass Synthesizer Synth *good Working Cond*Moog Rogue Analog SynthesizerRoland Juno-106 Analog Polyphonic Synthesizer Vintage Synth Keyboard Midi 61 KeyMoog Source SynthesizerDave Smith Instruments Tetr4 / TetraMoog Minitaur Analog Bass SynthesizerRoland Pg 800 Programmer For Jx 8p, Jx 10, Mks 70Sequential Circuits Pro One Keyboard SynthesizerVintage Akai Ax60 Programmable Polyphonic Vco Analog Synthesizer KeyboardRoland Juno 106 Analog Programmable Polyphonic Synthesizer CleanRoland Sh-101 Keyboard SynthesizerMutable Instruments Elements Eurorack Modular Synthesizer ModuleSynthesizers.com Portable Modular Synth Roland Jd-xi 37 Analog Digital Crossover Synthesizer Midi Keyboard Synth W/ BoxElektron Analog Keys Keyboard SynthesizerArturia Microbrute Analog Monophonic Synthesizer. Excellent ConditionRoland Hs 80 Synthplus 80 Alpha Juno 2 Synthesizer KeyboardRoland Mks 70 Jx10Korg Poly 6Roland Sc-55mk2 Sound Canvas (with Adapter)Roland Sh-101 Syntheziser5-octave Ensoniq Esq-1 Electronic Digital Wake Synthesizer KeyboardVintage Virtual Analog Synthesizer Access Virus Xl (virus C Rack)Antique 1930s Hohner, Tango V, Classic Art Deco Accordion & Case, NrAccess Virus Ti2 Desktop Synth W Rack OptionAlesis Ion 8 Voice Synthesizer With Manual And Carry BagAkai Professional Mpk25 Usb/midi Performance Keyboard With Live Lite 8Suzuki Omnichord Om-84 System Two With Original Box And Manual Works GreatAccess Virus Ti2 Desktop Synthesizer Midi Synth Best Synth Ever!Korg Tr 61 Music Workstation KeyboardCyclone Analogic Tt-303 Mint Condition(tb-303)Music Thing Modular Turing Machine + Expanders Eurorack Modular NewM-audio Axiom Pro 49 Semi-weighted Keyboard Midi ControllerAlesis Qs6 6 4 Voice Expandable Synthesizer Soft Case Electronic Keyboard PianoMoog Sub 37 Keyboard SynthesizerRoland Rs-505 Paraphonic Synthesizer Roland Jupiter 6 Keyboard SynthesizerYamaha Tq5 Tone Generator Fm Synthesizer In Original Box With Manual And A/cKorg Sv1-88 Keyboard Piano Swan Flight Case (blue) ClearanceKorg Microkorg Virtual Analog Synthesizer-great Condition!Moog Liberation KeyboardYamaha Motif-rack Tone GeneratorNovation Morodernova Mininova Synthesizer With G. Moroder Patches Incl. + BonusKorg Krome 61 Keyboard SynthesizerYamaha Np-32 Keyboard Piano Swan Flight Case (black Fp) ClearanceMusic Thing Modular Turing Machine Mkii Eurorack Modular NewRoland D-50 Linear SynthesizerRoland G-1000 Arranger Workstation - Midi Keyboard - Works Great!Teenage Engineering Op-1 Portable Synthesizer Op1 Synth Digital Drum Machine General Keyboard 637mm X 295mm X 67mm Piano Swan Flight Case (orange) ClearanceStudio Electronics Se1xDave Smith Instruments Pro 2 Monophonic SynthesizerNovation Ultranova Nova Series Analog-modeling SynthesizerAjh Synth Minimod Transistor Ladder Filter Eurorack Modular Synthesizer ModuleOmnichord Suzuki System One Om 36 Pro Audio Keyboard Synthesizer W/power AdapterKorg Ds-8 Synthesizer Keyboard With Soft CaseVintage Suzuki Omnichord System Two Om-84 Digital Synthesizer W/ Case & AdapterKorg Triton Rack-midi Tone ModuleYamaha Ex5r Rack-mount SynthesizerRoland S760 Sampler With Video Expansion & Mouse, Manuals, Cd Drive