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    

Oberheim Ob-xa - Awesome Mega Synth - Obxa Obx Ob-xKorg Dw-8000 SynthesizerVintage Eml Module Synthesizer Lot Electronic Music Lab W/box 1970's Mogg Era Sequential Circuits Pro One SynthesizerRoland Juno-60 Project SynthesizerMoog Minitaur Analog Bass SynthElektron Monomachine Sfx-6 Oberheim Ob-8 Synthesizer / Keyboard And Dsx SequencerMfb Tanzmaus Analog Drum MachineClavia Nord Lead 2x SynthesizerTruly Vintage Moog Theremin! Low Serial #15196 W/stand And Power Cord Studio Elka Panther Duo Combo Electric Organ Keyboard W/ CasesRoland Juno-106 Programmable Polyphonic Synthesizer KeyboardRoland Gaia Sh-01 SynthesizerYamaha Cs01 Analog Mono Synthesizer Cs01 With MidiNovation Supernova 2 Synthesizer Module Working.Korg Poly 800Moog Little Phatty Stage Ii Synthesizer / Keyboard (blue Lights)Roland Jd-990 Synthesizer Rack ModuleKorg Sq-10 Analog SequencerKorg Microkorg Analog Modeling Synthesizer With Vocoder ...usb Connector61 Key Electronic Music Keyboard Piano Electric Organ - Full Size W/ Usb InputYamaha Vl70-m Vl 70 Vl-70 Virtual Acoustic Tone Generator And Bc3 Bc-3 Breath CoLimited Edition White Arturia Microbrute SeKorg X3 Keyboard 61 Keys S-cat (0885) Circuit Bent (desktop) Casio Mt-40 Keyboard (20 Modifications)Korg Poly 800M Audio Key Station 88 88key Usb Midi Keyboard Controller 379024 R13Yamaha Motif Xf8 SynthesizerRoland Sh-101 Synthesizer MintRoland Juno-g 61 Key Workstation Keyboard 128 Voice Expandable SynthesizerYamaha Tx802 Fm Tone Generator/synth ModuleYamaha Tx 81z Fm Tone GeneratorRoland Fantom Xr Rack Mount SynthAkai Professional Mpk Mini Compact Keyboard & Pad Controller 379050 E5Yamaha Tx81z Pro Audio Fm Tone Generator Synthesizer Midi Module - Rack MountOrigina 1976l Oberheim Two Voice RestoredVintage Ensoniq Esq1 With Sound Cartidge - Works Great. Korg Microkorg As IsDave Smith Instruments Mopho Se Analog SynthesizerArturia Microbrute Special Edition Analog Synthesizer WhiteRoland Alpha Juno-1Korg Volca Keys Analog Loop Synth - Includes Original Box & ManualElektron Monomachine Sfx-60Korg Microkorg Synthesizer 37 Key Keyboard With Power Cord Critter & Guitari Melody Mill Midi Cv Controller + Pittsburgh Cell Case EurorackNovation Impulse 61 Midi Controller With Drum PadsArp Quadra Analog Synth SynthesizerNord Electro 4d Sw61 W Bag, Pedal, 1/4" Cable - Perfect ConditionMoog Little Phatty Stage Ii SynthesizerNovation A Station Polyphonic Analog Modeling Synthesizer Rack Synth ModuleM-audio Venom 12-voice Synthesizer With Built-in Usb Audio InterfaceNovation 61 Sl, Sl61 Mkii Keyboard Midi Controller - Open BoxOriginal Korg Monotron JapanOpen Labs Neko Lx5 Keyboard Workstation SythesizerStudiologic Sledge 2.0 SynthesizerKorg Triton Le 76key Music Workstation KeyboardKorg Mini Midi Model Ms-20 Ms 20 Synthesizer Keyboard Interface Project No WorkNovation Impulse 49 Usb Midi 49-key Professional Keyboard BlackKorg Microx Synthesizer 25 Key With Case