Don’t get me wrong, ‘geekiest’ is a term of endearment.
Engaging with the Moog fanbase, or indeed the modular synth community as a whole, is a bit like showing up to a cult meeting. Asking someone to explain the basics usually gets a scoff. The best summary I’ve gotten so far is, “It’s a bunch of circuits and each groups of circuits has a job, to do something like making a certain range of sounds or apply effects to a sound.”
That’s according to my buddy Paul, an electrical engineer who’s been messing around with this stuff for more than 10 years now. “Building you own Eurorack modular system is insanely fun but also insanely expensive. I currently have about 20 modules, which is probably well over $5,000 worth of gear.”
Eurorack is the nittiest of the grittiest in the world of modular. It essentially lets you build an electronic instrument from scratch, picking out each piece one at a time.
But for those interested in playing music right out of the box, the baby sister of Eurorack is called semi-modular: all-in-one units being rolled out like crazy by big and little brands alike.
The latest industry shockwave is the Moog Grandmother, a semi-modular synth with all the basics and then some: a 3-octave keyboard, 2 oscillators, an arpeggiator, reverb tank, and multiple filters. For the uninitiated, this means there are about a million ways to mess with the sound, all of which make it sound like a famous synth sounds from the 60s, 70s, and beyond.
And don’t worry, this won’t be an ad for Moog and their ‘krazy kontraptions.’ But the Grandmother is an interesting step forward for what is potentially a huge market.
What was once a niche community of engineers and musicians has now gained a much larger mainstream audience, i.e. basement guitar players middle-aged insurance adjusters, and gamers and computer programmers who can tackle Arduino script in half an hour or less.
And in response to this potential, companies like Moog are cashing in, putting out sexy, inviting machines that appeal to nostalgia and a very basic desire to put hands on something in the physical world and not just open another computer program.
I can’t stress this enough: interacting with these instruments makes you feel like a mad genius. You start to forget that there are virtual versions of all these instruments that provide 1:1 imitations of each and every sound. You’re made to feel like a professional, which is what every amateur musician secretly longs for.
So if you have some disposable income, you’re welcome for introducing you to your newest hobby. And if you don’t, I apologize in advance for your inevitable credit card debt.