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    

Clavia Nord Wave synthesizer 49-key Synth Keyboard Mellotron Lead Electro PianoVermona Drm1 Mkiii Mk3 Analog Drum Synthesizer Box Manual No Reserve Oberheim Matrix 6r Rack Mount Vintage Synthesizer Matrix-6r SynthRoland Sh-101 In Very Good Condition * Free Shipping* With Universal AdapterTt-303 Bass Bot Tb-303Oberheim Matrix-6r Rackmount Analog Synthesizer 6-r 6 12 Dx Dmx SynthMoog Voyager Rme Rack Mount MinimoogArp By Korg Arpodyssey 37-key Duophonic Analog Synthesizer With Slimkey Keybed*Fender Chroma Polaris Model 2123 Synthesizer - Synth - KeyboardArturia Microbrute Synthesizer 25 KeyYamaha Loopfactory Dx200 Desktop Control Synthesizer Fm Synthesis ModuleKorg PolysixYamaha Fs1r Rackmount Tone Generator Formant Shaping/fm Synthesis Synthesizer NrYamaha Motif Xs8 SynthesizerYamaha Motif Xs8 Keyboard 88 Key Workstation, Mint With Gator Case Roland-v-synth/xt Rack Synthesizer - Excellent CondNord Stage 2 Ha-76 Keyboard W/ Music Rest, Rolling Case. Nice Shape! No Reserve!Preenfm2 Digital Fm Desktop Synthesizer + Animodule Tranimodule Eurorack ModuleRoland Hs 60 Analogue Synthesizer Untested As Is For Parts Repair54 Key Keyboard Digital Electronic Electric Piano W Mic Record Playback NewRoland Jupiter 4 Synthesizer VintageRoland Sh-101 Vintage Analog Synthesizer , Blue Sh101, Sh 101Alesis Ion Analog Modeling Synthesizer - Synth - Keyboard - With CaseWaldorf Pulse 2 Analog SynthesizerArp AxxeKorg Poly-61 Analog Synthesizer Not Working Parts Repair As IsYamaha Wx5 And Vl70-m Fully Functional Many ExtrasRoland Jp8080Yamaha An200 Desktop Control Synthesizer Analog Physical Modeling SynthRoland Sh-101Realistic By Moog Concertmate Mg 1 32 Key Analog Synthesizer VintageArp By Korg Arpodyssey 37-key Duophonic Analog Synthesizer With Slimkey Keybed*Casio Dg-1 Digital Electric Guitar Vintage Synth Guitar W / Hard Case No ReserveYamaha Motif Xs8 Synthesizer 88 Key Music Production SynthesizerElektron Analog Four W/ Wooden StandRoland Aira Tb 3 Bassline Synthesizer54 Key Digital Electronic Keyboard Electric Music Piano W Mic Record Playback Vintage Roland Juno-106 61 Key Programmable Polyphonic Synthesizer, See Desc.Korg Microkorg Synthesizer W/ Vocoder Microphone And Original Ac AdapterAkai Professional Mpk49 Usb/midi Performance Keyboard Controller 05/l158228aMoog Etherwave Plus Theremin - Ash FinishErica Synth AcidboxDave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 Roland Jp8080 Jp 8080 Rackmount Analog Digital SynthesizerKorg Monotron SynthesizerYamaha Moxf8 88 Key Weighted Piano Hammer Action Synth With Gig BagKorg Ms2000 R Rack SynthesizerMemory Cards For Roland D-50 And D-550Dave Smith Instruments Mopho Keyboard SynthesizerMake Noise Optomix Low Pass Gate Vca Vcf Eurorack ModularOberheim Matrix-6rKorg Ms2000brE-mu - Mp-7 Command Station - Midi- 7760 - Digital Effects - Musical InstrumentsAkai Mpk49 KeyboardAkai Hybrid 3 Wobble Mpk Mini Compact Keyboard & Pad Controller Korg King Korg 61 Key Analog Modeling Synthesizer Keyboard Synth KingkorgRoland Juno-g Keyboard Suzuki Omnichord System Om-84 Synthesizer In Case New Batteries Works Great! Nr!Korg Monotribe Barely UsedAlesis Y40lqpjtx Vortex Wireless Midi Keytar Controller Accelerometer 237481