Monday, May 28, 2012

Moog Music Inc. "Moog Custom Engineering" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1978

Moog Music Inc. "Moog Custom Engineering" 1/4-page black and white advertisement from the bottom half of page 46 in the June 1978 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

Originally I was only going to post the scan of the Moog Custom Engineering advertisement, but that Sam Ash ad sitting beside it also rawks so much and provides such a stark comparison to the Moog ad that I just had to include both. In no way should it take away from what I think was historically beginning to happen at Moog post Bob. 

If synth mags were any indication, customizing gear seemed to be starting to become more common around this time period. I'm not sure if it just seems that way with my limited knowledge of the past, or if it was just a fad, or if was around this time that enough Minimoogs and other gear had been sold that it just reached a tipping point where companies could make a bit of cash through mods. No matter, reading through these mags now just makes *me* feel that way. And my therapist always tells me my feelings are relevant. :)

I first started thinking about the rise in modding because I had pulled out and was flipping through the December 1977 issue of Contemporary Keyboard. Doing so brought up not one, but at least three references to two different companies that offered kits to modify Minimoogs.

The first was in Dominic Milano's Questions section on page 61 - "What's involved in the Valley Sound second-voice kit for the Minimoog?"

In his answer, he references John Glennon of Valley Sound, explaining that the second-voice circuit requires the installation of two circuit boards and a toggle switch that is installed on the lower left front panel of the Mini.Once installed, "with VCOs one and two on, if you press one key, both VCOs play that note. Holding a key down and pressing any key above the first key, VCO two plays the higher note. VCO three isn't affect at all and remains usable as a modulation oscillator. The second note depressed doesn't retrigger the envelope generators, and there is no second-voice memory." Interestingly, the kit won't work with "the original  Moog oscillator board", explaining you could distinguish the original boards by the nine trim pots on them. Cost for the kit was $105.00 and would only take about an hour with a good soldering iron. The company would also replace Minis with the old oscillator board to one compatible with the kit for $100. Not a bad price, even in the 70s, eh?

Then on the following page was a small 1/16th-page advertisement for Valley Sound's kit. hmmm... 

The second reference to Mini mods in that December issue was in the Spec Sheet section, for a modification by Professional Musicians Electronics:
"Minimoog Modification. The stock Minimoog is a single trigger instrument. This modification changes it to a multiple-trigger instrument  - new filter and volume envelopes are generated each time a note is depressed whether or not another note is depressed. Price is $125.00 Professional Musicians Electronics. 2830-D De La Vina, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.
Other magazines were mentioning mods too. For example, the April/May 1978 issue of Polyphony had an article titled Expanding the Patchability of the Minimoog by Marvin Jones. He introduces the article with this little gem:
"Anyone who works with electronic music in any way can't help but respect the Mini-Moog. Robert Moog and is concept of modular voltage controlled sound generation elements really threw the musical world for a loop. When acceptance of these "far out" gadgets came to the popular music market, it was primarily because of the development of the Mini-Moog."
 "Far out" is right. And right on!

Anyways, after a bit more of an introduction, he gets down to business pointing out that there are a "great number of patch points in the circuitry where jacks could be added to facilitate future expansion or 're-patching' of the Mini's normalization scheme". In this first of what was to be a series of articles, he focuses on what he believed were the two "most needed and most useful expansion jacks" - Keyboard Control Voltage Output and Standard Gate/Trigger Input/Output. The article includes step by step instructions and photos. Not too shabby.

Enough examples - my point being that it makes sense that with all these modifications going on, including Moog gear, that Moog itself would want to get in on the action. And so I think they did just that - pulling the Custom Engineering peeps out of the back room and giving them their own (albeit comparatively small) voice in advertisements.

The ad itself is very minimal, very technical looking. Whether on purpose or not, it looks very... very... "engineering"-like. Now check out that Sam Ash advertisement beside it, with its variety of fonts, logos and general fun and creative layout.

Looking at the two together is like looking at the brain itself - creativity on the right and logic on the left.

Some would say that Sam Ash ad might "drown out" the Moog ad. But for me, that Moog logo would be enough of a magnet, with that solid "o" in the logo would act like a bull's eye. That Moog logo was (and still is) so synonymous with quality and the Moog sound that I would guess anyone thinking about dealing with Moog Custom Engineering after looking at this ad would have know exactly what they would be getting.

Although I like to think of myself as pretty balanced between the creative and the logical, if I was being honest with myself I would have to say I lean more towards the logical. Yah, don't ask me to draw a dragon or anything.

But if I recall, even someone as logical as Spock played an instrument, didn't he?

So, there is hope for me yet...

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