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    

Synthesizer / Keyboard / Roland Jp 8000 Incl. Case Vintage Memorymoog Plus 18 Vco Pure Analog Synthesizer Moog Keyboard Piano 345aRoland Juno-60 Synthesizer W/ Protective CaseRoland Juno-106 SynthesizerClavia Nord Electro 4d Mit Keyboardtasche Und Sustain-pedalNovation Bass Station Analogue Synthesizer Module, Power & Manual Novation Remote Sl Mkii 49 Usb Midi Controller KeyboardVintage Rare Korg Polysix Ps-6 Programmable Polyphonic Synthesizer KeyboardYamaha P-35b Digital Piano Keyboard 88-keyWaldorf BlofeldNovation Bass Station Ii 25 Key Analog Keyboard Synthesizer MintE-mu Proteus 2500 128-voice Expandable Synthesizer Module W/ Composer Rom Yamaha Psr 3000Yamaha Motif Xf8 88-key Workstation KeyboardKorg Ms2000r Analog Modeling Synthesizer Mixer Roland Xv-3080 Rack-soundmodul Synthesizer Explorer 128 Voices VintageMoog Slim Phatty Analog Synth With Wooden Trim, Boxed Ex-demo 3 Month WarrantyNovation A Station Polyphonic Synthesizer, Power & Manual Korg Electribe Ea-1 Mk2 Analogue Modelling Synthesiser SequencerVirus Ti Series Access Synthesizer, Power, Usb, Manual, Spare Lead & KnobsTeenage Engineering Op-1 Synth/sampler With Extras !Alesis A6 Andromeda SynthesizerAccess Virus Ti2 KeyboardCyclone Analogic Bass Bot Tt-303, Analog Synth/sequencer!X0xb0x - Assembled - Adafruit's Tb303 CloneRoland Sh 101 Vintage Synthesizer Yamaha Ypg-535 88-key Portable Grand Piano KeyboardKorg Polysix Analog Synthesizer Nearly Mint Partially WorkingRoland Juno-stage 76-key Expandable Synthesizer KeyboardKorg Lp-10 Vintage Analog Polyphonic Synthesiser SynthKorg Poly 800 Synthesizer Pitch/modulation-stick DefektVintage Yamaha Tx7 Fm Expander Tone Generator With ManualKorg Ms-20 SynthesizerDave Smith Instruments Mopho Keyboard + Original BagHemingway Digitalpiano Dp 201 - Black Edition E PianoRoland Alpha Juno 1 + Preconfiguered Behringer Bcr 2000Yamaha P80 Electric Stage Piano 88 Key - Great Condition.Yamaha S90xs Keyboard Synthesizer 88 Balanced Weighted Key Digital PianoKawai K5m Additive Rackmount SynthesizerTechnics P30 / Sx-p30 Digital Piano / Keyboard With Stand And Foot Pedal Roland Xv- 5080 SynthesizerYamaha Sy 77 Synthesizer Synth Dx7 Dx Serviced Roland Jd-990 Synth Sound Module - With Vintage Synth Expansion Card FittedRoland Jp-8000Access Virus Ti Snow Desktop Synthesizer AnalogKorg Microkorg 37-key Analog Modeling Synthesizer / Vocoder Keyboard Kurzweil Pc3le 8 Masterkeyboard | Restgarantie | Wie NeuKorg Microsampler Ms1 Sampling Keyboard: Adapter, Manual, Unused Mic, BonusYamaha Ypg535 88-key Portable Grand Digital KeyboardCasio Celviano Ap 45v Upright Digital PianoM-audio Axiom Air 61 61-key Usb Midi Keyboard Controller + Pro Tools New ModelNovation Remote Sl 25 Mk1 Usb Midi Controller Keyboard Automap Original BoxElektron Monomachine Sfx-60 Mkll SynthesizerOriginal Korg Microkorg Synthesiser VgcThomann Dp-25 - E-piano, E-klavier, Keyboard - Fast Wie Neu!Korg Kaossilator Dynamic Phrase SynthesizerYamaha Einsteiger Keyboard Ypt-220 Mit StStar Wars Millennium Falcon Korg Delay Monotron Ribbon Synthesizer Keytar AnalogOriginal Vintage Moog Minimoog Model D Synthesizer: Ken RichKorg Lp-380 88-key Limited Edition Digital Piano Red New*