A synthesized synthesizer

Some Google Doodles are better than others, but today’s is my favorite so far. It is a synthesizer in honor of what would have been Robert Moog‘s 78th birthday (he died in 2005). I’m sure it’s quite simplified in comparison with real synthesizers (doesn’t that sound a bit like an oxymoron?) today, but it’s certainly good enough to have fun playing around.

An article at the Christian Science Monitor explains how to play the Moog Doodle. I was very frustrated when I tried to play it earlier in the day, on a computer where I use Internet Explorer as my browser. I don’t know if the problem was IE, or the settings on my computer, but I couldn’t play a single note. All that happened when I clicked anywhere on the graphic was that it performed a search on “Bob Moog.”

Now I am using Firefox, and it works just fine. (It did take me a few moments to find the link to do the search on Bob Moog, which is to the right of the picture of the synthesizer.) Using the computer keyboard, rather than using the mouse to click on the synthesizer keyboard, makes it possible to play the notes more quickly. But it does require remembering what letters and numbers play what – or (as I do) just playing notes kind of at random.

It’s been a very long time (almost forty years) since I played around with a synthesizer. One of the choices in music class in sixth or seventh grade (I forget which) was a brief course in electronic music. We learned how the synthesizer worked, and got to try using it. I wasn’t interested enough in the subject to try to really understand what I was doing, but I liked being able to produce weird electronic noises.

Today I have a slightly better understanding of what the oscillator controls, filters, and envelope controls do. But I still am more inclined to just play around and enjoy the strange sounds I can make than try to methodically produce any particular kind of sound. If I had lots of time on my hands, maybe I’d try out some of the examples given in the CSM article.

But at heart I like words even better than music. So instead I’m writing a blog post.

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