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    

Sunsyn Jomox True Analog 8-voice SynthesizerYamaha Cs-15 Synthesizer #37Korg Poly-800 Synthesizer #36Original Korg Ms-20 Synthesizer Synth Analog Semi Modular (nol 30)Oberheim Obxa Ob-xa Excellent Condition 8 Voice 120 Programs Vintage SynthesiserVintage Arp Odyssey Mk Iii Model 2823 Analog Synthesizer Clean Cond. $9 NrDave Smith Instruments Poly Evolver Analog/digital SynthesizerVintage Mellotron 400 Keyboard Owned By Devo With Road Case Must See Nr!Vintage Arp Odyssey Mk I Synthesizer Works With Issues No Reserve!Vintage Kawai Sx-210 Sx Keyboard Synth Project Non Working Parts Must See Nr!Moog Little Phatty Stage Ii Synthesizer / Keyboard With Padded Moog Gig Bag!!!!Oberheim Matrix 1000 Analog Synthesizer Rack MountVintage 80s Roland Juno 106 Keyboard Midi Synth Very Nice Good Condition Nr!Ppg Wave 2.2 Vintage Analog Digital Synthesizer, Newly Serviced. Great ConditionRoland Juno-106 Analog Synthesizer Minor IssuesVintage Moog Rogue Analog Synthesizer Nord Electro 4d Sw61 Drawbar Performance Keyboard W/ Gig BagEnsoniq Esq M Digital Wave Synthesizer Module, Estate Find, No ReserveRoland Jupiter-6 Synthesizer With Europa No ReserveFuture Retro 777 Analog Synthesizer (futureretro 777) - Near Mint ConditionKorg Electribe Emx-1 Groovebox Analog Synthesizer Drum Machine Keyboard Midi ¤Dave Smith Prophet '08 Pe Synth Module No ReserveNord Electro (nord Electro 2) 61Roland Mks-80 Super Jupiter Synthesizer (rack Version With Mpg80 Programmer)Roland Sh-1000 Vintage Analogue SynthesizerAlesis Fusion 6hd Digital Audio Workstation SynthAkai Professional Mpk49 Usb/midi Performance Keyboard W 49-key &12mpc Pads E/395Moog Satellite // Vintage Analog Synth // Rare!Vintage Roland Jupiter 4 Synth Keyboard Non-working Project As-is Nr! Roland A-88 Midi Keyboard ControllerArturia Minibrute 25 Key Analog Synthesizer - Mint ConditionClavia Nord Modular Rack Virtual Modular Synthesizer Excellent Condition!Korg M3 (expanded) (firewire) Music Workstation/sampler ModuleRoland Alpha Juno 2 61key Keyboard/synthesizer Analog Vintage 1985 Works!Classic 1980’s Roland D-50 Linear Synthesizer Synth + Flight Case Needs Sounds!Axon Ax 100 Guitar Synthesizer Midi Controller Ax-100Roland Gr-55 Guitar SynthesizerStudio Electronics Atc-1 Tone Chameleon Analog Synth - Filter Modules/switcherCrumar Otr Orchestrator 61-key Synth Fully Polyphonic Orchestral String MachineYamaha An1x Synthesizer Vintage Keyboard - Perfect Condition - An1-x Yamaha Motif Rack Es Synth Synthesizer Sound ModuleRare Beige Korg Microkorg Xl Synthesizer KeyboardRoland Mks-50 Vintage Rack Mount Sound ModuleVintage Roland Juno-106 Analog Programmable Polyphonic SynthesizerRoland Jd 990Elektron Machinedrum Sps 1 Mk Ii Drum Machine In Great Condition!Paia Gnome Micro Synthesizer4ms Quad Pingable Lfo (qplfo) Eurorack Synthesizer ModuleYamaha Dx7 Iid Vintage Synthesizer Dx7iidRoland Sh-32 Desktop Analog Modeling SynthesizerSequential Circuits Profit 5 And Remote KeyboardClavia Nord Electro 2 Seventy-three Stage KeyboardNord Stage Ex Digital Piano Practically ** Brand New ** ~ No Reserve ~Access Virus Kc Synthesizer! Digital Synth Wavetable SynthesizerArp Solina String Ensemble Vintage SynthNovation X-station 25 Controller Keyboard Audio Interface & SynthesizerRoland Mks-50 Synthesizer Module, Estate Find, No ReserveArp Axxe Model 2323 Sythesizer, For Parts Or Repair, Estate Find, No Reserve4ms Pingable Envelope Generator (peg) Eurorack Synthesizer ModuleM-audio Keystation 88es 88-key Usb Midi Keyboard Controller W/semi-weighted Keys