The Moog Minimoog definitely looked different at its inception. The prototype was boxy, clunky and runt-like, compared to its closest kin, the big Moog modular synthesizer. Moog synths were beautifully complex and sonically amazing, but they were also so costly that only universities, big recording studios and rock stars could afford them.
Bill Hemsath built the Model A prototype as an experiment, as he felt that his employer, R. A. Moog, Inc. might benefit from a reliable and flexible synthesizer designed for the live performance market. Pared down from its synthesizer siblings, this instrument would contain the modules necessary for a musician to perform live and in the studio. Yes, you would sacrifice many sonic options by using just these core modules, but would it sound great? Would it interest the buying public?
This mini modular was presented by Hemsath in November of 1969 and Bob Moog wasn't into it. Yet, sensing Hemsath's passion and the coworkers' intrigue, Moog pressed forward with the instrument's development. Prototypes Model A, B and C were developed by the Moog team, with Model D being the final release. This is why the Minimoog is often referred to as the Model D.
Jim Scott was one of the team members on this historic project, along with Hemsath, Moog and Chad Hunt. On an early 2020 engineer-in-residence session at EMEAPP, Jim offered us his thoughts on the prototypes, some of the prized synths in EMEAPP's collection.
"First Prototype. Only one built. Created and built by R A Moog, Inc. engineer Bill Hemsath on his own time during lunch hours, and on his own initiative. Uses mostly modified castoff standard modules with patch cords eliminated. Rescued by Moog composer/keyboardist Dave Borden around 1975 when Hemsath's estranged wife was fixing to trash it"
"Second prototype. This is the survivor of the two built by Hemsath and Robert Moog. Uses standard production modular circuit boards behind a single "integrated" front panel. Used by Dick Hyman ca July 1970. The other one, loaned to Sun Ra, was lost in a pawn shop fire"
"Third Prototype. Marked II inside the case. This is the only known example of the four designed and built by the Moog engineering staff - Hemsath, Moog, Project Leader Jim Scott and Chad Hunt. The circuits are all new design and nearly identical to the Model D. Of the other three, (I, III and IV), one was lost in a fire, one was converted to a Model D and one is missing in action."
Transitional model. Of the four C Models, S/N III was converted in the spring of 1971to a Model D by Bob Moog for pioneering performer Chris Swansen. Done by replacing the entire upper hinged portion. For this, Bob recycled the one and only discarded first engineering version of the D Model metal enclosure and control panel from about November 1970."
"The synthesizer incorporates a set of production D Model circuit boards that were made about 1971. This is the only D Model ever built with the sliders in the left-hand controller (left over from the C Model). One of the sliders and one of the pushbuttons are disconnected. Chris primarily used the ribbon controller to bend pitch."
Please visit www.emeapp.org for more great info on our Minimoog research.