Historical Context - Music Tech Performance

Timeline created by RXEdm
In Music
  • The Telegraphone

    The Telegraphone
    Danish engineer Valdemar Poulsen patented the first magnetic wire recorder, called the "Telegraphone".
  • Invention of the Theremin

    Invention of the Theremin
    The Theremin (invented in 1919) is an electronic instrument which is played without even touching it. This instrument was common in electroacoustic music. It grew in popularity in modern pop/rock music after it was used in the Beach Boys' 1966 track 'Good Vibrations'.
    An interesting fact - the Theremin was created as a by-product of Russian research into motion sensors.
  • The first Vocoder

    The first Vocoder
    The first Vocoder (short for 'Voice Encoder') was originally developed in 1928 by Homer Dudley for Bell Labs. its intended use was to reduce bandwidth of voice information, allowing it to be transferred across further distances. The Vocoder has since gone on to be an incredibly useful tool for instrumentalists and vocalists alike, and has been used for making robot sounds in films and TV.
  • The Rickenbacker "Frying Pan"

    The Rickenbacker "Frying Pan"
    The "frying pan" was the first ever electric guitar produced, and was created by George Beauchamp in 1931. It was subsequently manufactured by Rickenbacker Electro. The guitar was a lap steel guitar, designed to cash in on the popularity of Hawaiian music during the 1930s. Beauchamp was not awarded a patent until 1937.
  • The Magnetaphon (Analogue tape recorder)

    The Magnetaphon (Analogue tape recorder)
    Before the days of sampling and computer manipulation of
    sounds, musicians used analogue tape recorders to record
    natural sounds and tape splicing techniques. In 1932, German company AEG worked with BASF to develop magnetic recording to be used as the first analogue tape recorder - this was called the Magnetaphon K1.
  • John Cage releases 'Imaginary Landscape No.1'

    John Cage releases 'Imaginary Landscape No.1'
    In 1939, John Cage (one of the pioneers of American experimental music) released his first 'Imaginary Landscape' track. This track (arguably a precursor to Musique Concrete), combined pure electronic sounds with percussive, natural sounds - this was an early form of electroacoustic music, and was mostly unheard of at the time.
  • The Hammond Novachord

    The Hammond Novachord
    The Novachord was one of the earliest examples of a polyphonic synthesiser, meaning that multiple notes could be played at the same time - even the Moog couldn't do this. This model of synthesiser can be heard on tracks dating way back to 1939 – Vera Lynn used a Novachord on her song “We’ll Meet Again”.
  • Musique Concrete - Pierre Shaeffer

    Musique Concrete - Pierre Shaeffer
    Musique Concrete was a style of avant-garde music developed in the 1940s. This style was first developed by experimental composers, and was constructed by mixing natural sounds (water dripping, metal pans banging, etc...). Pierre Shaeffer (pictured) is widely recognised and well-known for his accomplishments with experimental music, such as Musique Concrete.
  • Pierre Henry's involvement with Musique Concrete

    Pierre Henry's involvement with Musique Concrete
    A year prior, Pierre Shaeffer started pioneering the Musique Concrete style of music. Henry's involvement from 1949 onwards was vital to the development of this style of music. Along with Shaeffer, Henry was one of the founding fathers of Musique Concrete.
  • Development of Multi-track recording

    Development of Multi-track recording
    The development of the loop pedal owes a lot to the development of multi-track recording in the 1950s. This idea of layering multiple pre-recorded tracks in the studio was the precursor to doing the same but in a live setting using live loops.
  • Electroacoustic Music

    Electroacoustic music is a style of music that originated in the early 1940s/late 1950s. It is heavily manipulated sound. Whereas Musique Concrete used tapes to manipulate sound, Electroacoustic Music used electronic processing on acoustic instruments. Electroacoustic Music was also prominent in Germany, whereas Musique Concrete was more in France. The electronic processing can lead to some rather unexpected and unusual sounds.
  • Robert Moog sets up company to build amps and theremins

    In 1954, Robert Moog set up a company to build amps and Theremins. He did so after a boom in the electric guitar market.
  • The BBC set up studio for experimental soundtracks

    The BBC set up studio for experimental soundtracks
    In 1958, a reluctant BBC allowed a group of experimental music enthusiasts to buy some gear and establish themselves in two studio rooms in London. These rooms became a studio for creating experimental soundtracks. The 'Doctor Who Theme' was one of thousands of signature pieces of music created in this studio.
  • The Tornadoes release 'Telstar'

    The Tornadoes release 'Telstar'
    In 1962, The Tornadoes released 'Telstar'. This was an instrumental album that featured prominent use of an early synthesizer model, the Clavioline. This release was important, as synthesizers were used for the main melody as well as in the background. The Clavioline went on to be used multiple other releases, including The Beatles' 1967 track 'Baby, You're a Rich Man'.
  • Milton Babbitt releases 'Philomel'

    Milton Babbitt releases 'Philomel'
    in 1964, US composer Milton Babbitt released 'Philomel'. This was very much an electroacoustic track. Babbitt was a prominent electronic composer, and helped popularise the electroacoustic 'genre'. If you ever get a chance to listen to 'Philomel', I recommend it; it's incredibly weird and at times unsettling, but interesting.
  • Bob Dylan's use of the Telecaster

    Bob Dylan's use of the Telecaster
    Dylan owned a 60s model Fender Telecaster, which was one of his first electric guitars. This guitar shaped Dylan's iconic sound (and helped propel him to worldwide fame), and was used on his 1966 tour of Europe and Australia.
  • The Moog Synthesizer is commercially available

    The Moog Synthesizer is commercially available
    In 1967, Robert Moog took already-existing technologies and improved them, creating the Moog Synthesizer - the first modular synth. This model had four key components - oscillators; filters; amplifiers; and envelope generators, and a keyboard was used as a 'controller'. The Moog Synth wasn't a polyphonic synthesizer - meaning multiple notes couldn't be played at once. Interestingly, a lot of pioneers of the synth were considered electronic engineers, not musicians.
  • Terry Riley releases 'A Rainbow in Curved Air'

    Terry Riley releases 'A Rainbow in Curved Air'
    In 1969, US Jazz man Riley released 'A Rainbow in Curved Air'. This was one of the first compositions to ever incorporate tape loops into a live performance.
  • The Beatles release 'Abbey Road'

    The Beatles release 'Abbey Road'
    In 1969, The Beatles released their 11th studio album, 'Abbey Road'. This album featured four songs to use the Moog Synthesizer: "Because"; "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"; "Here Comes the Sun"; and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)". With the latter song, the white noise sound was created with the Moog Synthesizer
  • The Moog Minimoog

    The Moog Minimoog
    Released in 1970, the Moog Minimoog was one of the first portable synthesisers. It effectively changed music massively. It was now easier than ever for artists to use synthesisers in their music. One genre the Minimoog impacted was the hip-hop genre.
  • Graeme Edge develops a playable electric drumkit

    Graeme Edge develops a playable electric drumkit
    In 1971, The Moody Blues' drummer Graeme Edge developed a playable electric drumkit. He did so with the help of Sussex University professor, Brian Graves. This electric drumkit can be heard on the 1971 album 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' (pictured).
  • Iannis Xenakis releases 'Persepolis'

    Iannis Xenakis releases 'Persepolis'
    In 1971, well-known electroacoustic composer Iannis Xenakis released 'Persepolis'. There isn't really a melody to this, but it's an interesting piece of electronic music regardless. Similar to Babbitt's 'Philomel', it can get a bit unsettling at times.
  • Kraftwerk release 'Autobahn'

    Kraftwerk release 'Autobahn'
    In 1974, German band Kraftwerk released their 4th studio album, 'Autobahn'. This was their first album to feature heavily the electronic, synth-y sound that they would go on to be known for. In fact, this album was very much a precursor of the electronic/synth-pop/synth-wave scene, and was also a precursor of the synth heavy music that would go on to be incredibly popular in the 80s and 90s.
  • The Pollard Syndrum becomes the first commercially available electric drumkit

    The Pollard Syndrum becomes the first commercially available electric drumkit
    The Pollard Syndrum - created by Joe Pollard - became the first commercially available electronic drumkit. There were three major types of the Syndrum - Syndrum 1, Syndrum TwinDrum and the Syndrum Quad (pictured). This piece of equipment was used by drummers such as Terry Bozzio (drummer for Frank Zappa).
  • Peter Frampton releases 'Frampton Comes Alive!'

    Peter Frampton releases 'Frampton Comes Alive!'
    In 1976, Peter Frampton released his breakthrough solo album, 'Frampton Comes Alive!'. The album's top two tracks, 'Do You Feel Like We Do' and 'Show Me the Way', feature heavy use of a talk box and introduced the talk box to a larger audience. A talk box is basically a cousin of sorts to the vocoder. Other artists who have used talk boxes include Bon Jovi, Joe Walsh, and Foo Fighters.
  • The Van Halen "Frankenstrat"

    The Van Halen "Frankenstrat"
    The Frankenstrat, designed by Eddie Van Halen, was an attempt to combine a Gibson and a Fender. This model of guitar marked the beginning of guitars made for the faster, more technical playing. Shortly after the Frankenstrat was made, nearly every manufacturer raced to create a model like it.
  • Roland release the TR-808 Drum Machine

    Roland release the TR-808 Drum Machine
    In 1980, Roland released the TR-808 model drum machine, the successor of the CR-78 CompuRhythm. Memory chips (to replicate the 'real drum' sounds) were too expensive, so engineers used analogue synthesis to create the sounds. The TR-808 was accessible and creative - people could now easily record and store their own beats. It went on to become a hugely popular instrument within the hip-hop/dance scene. It was only manufactured for two years (1980-1982).
  • Hip-Hop in the 80s

    Hip-Hop in the 80s
    Hip-hop is a genre of music characterised by rapping, beats and DJ mixing, with cultural origins in Funk and Disco. The 80s saw hip-hop become increasingly popular, both in the US and the UK - artists such as LL Cool J and Run DMC (pictured) gained huge popularity. Like nearly every other genre, hip-hop has since gone off and spawned several sub-genres, including: Drill/Trap music, House, and Techno.
  • The Commodore 64 Launched

    The Commodore 64 Launched
    Home computer music making really got going when the Commodore 64 was released in 1982. The model was notable for the inclusion of the SID sound chip, allowing users to create music using three channels of synthesis.
  • The Musicians' Union tries to ban Synthesizers

    The Musicians' Union tries to ban Synthesizers
    In 1982, the Musicians' Union ran a campaign to try and ban synthesizers. They did so in the defence of orchestral musicians' careers, which were at risk of being 'replaced' by the growing-in-popularity synthesizers. This could also have been down to the music industry's struggle with accepting change - the synthesizer was seen very much as something new and was a very unconventional instrument at the time.
  • The 'Birth' of MIDI

    The development of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) was of crucial importance to music-makers. The introduction of MIDI allowed computers, synths and other hardware to 'talk' to each other and create music. Without MIDI, computer music would be vastly different. Its unclear who exactly created the idea of MIDI.
  • Yamaha release the Yamaha DX7 Synthesiser

    Yamaha release the Yamaha DX7 Synthesiser
    The Yamaha DX7, released in 1983, was the first ever commercially successful digital synthesiser. It went on to become one of the best-selling synthesisers in history. Even more impressive was that it was released in the 80s, a decade dominated by analogue synths.
  • Atari releases the ST Computer

    Atari releases the ST Computer
    When it was first released, the Atari ST was the machine that every computer musician wanted to own. It was fitted with MIDI ports, making it the perfect piece of kit for those looking to bring external hardware under the control of their computer. Whilst to the non-musician user these MIDI ports wouldn't have been used, the prospect of connecting a computer to other MIDI-based devices was life-changing for musicians.
  • Def Leppard release 'Hysteria'

    Def Leppard release 'Hysteria'
    In 1987, English band Def Leppard released their fourth studio album, Hysteria. Prior to this album, drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a tragic car accident. To make it so he could still play drums, Allen used his left foot to play what his left arm would've. This was achieved through using drum triggers, drum pads and modules, combining electronic drums with acoustic drums. This was a breakthrough at the time.
  • Roland release the Roland D-50 Synthesizer

    Roland release the Roland D-50 Synthesizer
    You could argue that the synth went on to define 80s music. In 1987, Roland released their first fully digital synthesizer, the Roland D-50. It was the D-50 that, arguably, began the music industry’s love affair with sample-based synthesizers. The D-50 had 8-bit sampled attacks, loops, and synthesized waveforms. You could say that the D-50 was way ahead of its time. It’s only limitation, however, was in polyphony. No more than 4 notes could be played at the same time.
  • Akai release the Akai Sampler s1000

    Akai release the Akai Sampler s1000
    In 1988, Akai released one of the first ever professional quality, 16-bit stereo samplers. You could argue that a sampler is very similar to a synthesiser; a sampler uses a recording as the initial sound, whereas a synthesiser uses a waveform as the initial sound. There were lots of editing capabilities with the s1000: looping, sample merging and truncating (shortening the duration) are just a few examples of what it could achieve
  • Steinberg releases Cubase

    Steinberg releases Cubase
    Cubase was one of the first DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). The first version of Cubase - released in 1989 - introduced the concept of the 'arrange page', with its vertical list of tracks and a horizontal timeline. This design soon became the staple interface for all commercially developed sequencers and DAWs.
  • The Ibanez 7-string Guitar

    The Ibanez 7-string Guitar
    The 7-string guitar was originally developed in the early 90s by Steve Vai with Ibanez guitars. The seven-string guitar became prominent when the band Korn used Ibanez Universe guitars on their 1994 debut album. This period marked a high point in the popularity of the seven-string guitar, with 7 string guitars continuing to be massively popular among artists such as Muse and Dream Theater.
  • Roland release the Roland TD-10 electric drum model

    Roland release the Roland TD-10 electric drum model
    Roland released their TD-10 model in 1997. The model had two important electronic drum innovations. One of these innovations was a mesh head pad. The pad was produced in collaboration with acoustic drumskin manufacturer Remo.
  • The Prodigy release 'Fat of the Land'

    The Prodigy release 'Fat of the Land'
    In 1997, English electronic/rave/dance band The Prodigy released their third studio album, 'Fat of the Land'. One of the tracks, "Smack My Bitch Up" uses samples from various artists, such as Kool and the Gang and Randy Weston. These samples are so manipulated and altered that it would be hard to believe that they're samples at all. "Smack My Bitch Up" was released as the album's third single.
  • BOSS release the RC-20 Loop Station

    BOSS release the RC-20 Loop Station
    In 2001, music tech masters BOSS released the RC-20 Loop Station. This twin-foot switch unit arguably changed everything, and turned live looping into a mainstream phenomenon. This early model had a five-minute sampling time, overdub, and real-time tempo change functions.
  • Ableton releases Ableton Live

    Ableton releases Ableton Live
    The release of Ableton Live made both users and developers realise that there wasn't just one way of making computer music. When it was released, it looked and felt like no other sequencer available at the time, and is now used by musicians all over the world. Artists who use Ableton Live include Daft Punk, Deadmau5, and Junkie XL.
  • Daft Punk release 'Discovery'

    Daft Punk release 'Discovery'
    Arguably one of the biggest modern-day artists to use vocoders, Daft Punk released their second studio album, 'Discovery', in 2001. Tracks such as 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger' feature heavy use of a vocoder.
  • Logic Pro 7

    Logic Pro 7
    Logic Pro, owned by Apple, is another widely used and popular DAW, and has seen many iterations and updates. When Logic Pro 7 was released in 2004, the user interface was shaped in Apple's image, slowly but surely becoming the user-friendly interface users have come to known. The only downside to Logic is that you need an Apple Mac to use it.
  • Synthwave becomes a Notable Genre

    Synthwave becomes a Notable Genre
    Inspired by synthesizer soundtracks from various films of the 1980s, synthwave solidified itself as a genre in the early 2000s as part of the music industry’s revival of electro and electronic music. Artists such as Daft Punk and Carpenter Brut are prominent examples of synthwave artists, with the former also using instruments such as vocoders to create an electronic sound. Both artists create music that is reminiscent of the 80s, and create songs that feature heavy synth.
  • KT Tunstall on 'Jay Leno'

    KT Tunstall on 'Jay Leno'
    Throughout the 90s, there was a boom in the manufacturing of affordable gear and technology for musicians, this advanced the loop pedal's accessibility in the market. However, the potential of the loop pedal wasn't really demonstrated until KT Tunstall incorporated it into her performance on the Jay Leno show in 2006. It didn't take long after that performance for the loop pedal to become ubiquitous.
  • The "Guitar Hero" Controller

    The "Guitar Hero" Controller
    The "Guitar Hero" series has had a massive cultural impact, and has helped rekindle people's love for the guitar. The controller combined the technology behind the electric guitar with the technology behind gaming. The game itself lead to the growth of the 'rhythm game' market (think DJ Hero, Rockband, etc...).
  • Korg release the microKORG XL + Synthesizer/Vocoder

    Korg release the microKORG XL + Synthesizer/Vocoder
    In 2008, Korg introduced the microKORG XL +. This model expanded on the original microKORG model, known for its unmistakably unique exterioir and its inimitable sound. The original microKORG set the standard for synthesizers and modern day vocoders.
  • Roland release the SPD-SX Drum Pad (Sampling Pad)

    Roland release the SPD-SX Drum Pad (Sampling Pad)
    In 2011, Roland released the SPD-SX Drum Pad (or sampling pad). This model features multiple effects and allows for expressive playability. This model fitted in nicely with both electric and acoustic drumkits. Lastly, the model features 9 velocity/pressure-sensitive pads, with the option to completely turn off velocity sensitivity. In 2017, Roland launched the SPD-SX Special Edition.
  • Waldorf release the Waldorf Lector Vocoder Software

    Waldorf release the Waldorf Lector Vocoder Software
    German synthesizer company Waldorf introduced Lector in 2011. The Waldorf Lector offered a new 'dimension' of vocoding, based entirely on software as opposed to hardware. The Lector software has a user-friendly interface, and is incredibly versatile.
  • John Carpenter releases 'Lost Themes'

    John Carpenter releases 'Lost Themes'
    Known for his directing and soundtrack work for films such as Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing, Carpenter released his debut standalone album in 2015. With no attachment to any films, Carpenter had full freedom in what the music sounded like. The music is very synth-y, and in similar vein to the synthwave genre. It sounds very 80s, but that’s the point. Carpenter released a follow up in 2016, and is releasing a third album in 2021, aptly titled Lost Themes III.
  • Ed Sheeran @ Glastonbury

    Ed Sheeran @ Glastonbury
    Armed with just a guitar, a keyboard and a loop station (live looping), Sheeran headlined Glastonbury 2017. Arguably one of today's biggest live looping technology users, Sheeran was able to dazzle thousands of crowd members.
  • Andrew Tomasello releases 'Neon Grey'

    Andrew Tomasello releases 'Neon Grey'
    A very modern take on the electroacoustic genre, Andrew Tomasello released 'Neon Grey' in 2018. On the album, Tomasello processes live guitar and piano using a modular synthesizer, and creates electronic sounds that sound both unsettling and intriguing. .
  • Logic Pro X Live Loops Update

    Logic Pro X Live Loops Update
    Logic Pro X (the Apple DAW) has long had the function of adding pre-recorded loops into a recording. The 2020 update of this software saw the introduction of live loops. With Live Loops, you can now create music in new freeform and non-linear ways. Loops, samples and recordings can be organised into a new musical grid.