Tutorial: How to Make Five Legenday Minimoog Sounds

October 1, 2010

Without a doubt, the Minimoog is the classic analog synth, so much that early recordings often attributed any synth simply as “Moog” on album sleeve credits. The progressive rock and jazz-fusion movements pushed the Mini into the spotlight during the ’70s. Let’s check out some of the Mini patches that made it famous, with patch diagrams from today’s Minimoog Voyager Old School. These translate to the “regular” Voyager (though the modulation section is configured somewhat differently), and soft synth imitations equally well.

A couple of general notes: No two analog synths are alike, so if the oscillator tuning, filter settings, or envelope of a patch doesn’t sound quite right to you, experiment with very small knob movements. Also, we’ve left the second modulation bus blank, as it’s not critical to any of these patches. You could use it to add more performance control, e.g. opening up the filter a bit when you apply aftertouch.

Click images below for larger versions.

dia1_nr1. Super Funky Bass
Here’s the funky, squirty bass patch used in the Bee Gees’ “Jive Talkin’” and countless disco classics. We’re using all three oscillators with the first two set to sawtooth waves, and the third set to a square wave for thickness. The oscillators are detuned very slightly: +1 cent for oscillator 2, and –1 for oscillator 3. Filter cutoff is 50% open and resonance is about 60% of maximum.


  • Audio Examples: Super Funky Bass


dia22. Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” Lead
One of the most recognizable synth leads ever. The secret to this patch is two sawtooth oscillators just barely detuned from each other. You’ll need to tweak oscillator 2’s fine-tune knob until the oscillators almost sync—check out the online audio examples for reference. Another critical aspect: just a little bit of glide, i.e. a fast rate. (Clockwise = slower on the Voyager’s glide knob.)


 Audio Eamxples: Tom Sawyer Lead


dia3_nr3. ELP’s “Lucky Man” Lead
The other most recognizable synth lead! Keith Emerson sets all three oscillators to slightly detuned square waves with the filter wide open and a generous amount of glide. Add some reverb for flavor, and go nuts with the octave and resonance knobs at the end.




  • Audio Examples: ELP "Lucky Man" Lead


dia44. Wakeman Wah
Rick Wakeman really put the classic ladder filter to use in his “Catherine of Aragon” from The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Three slightly detuned saw oscillators, a whole lot of filter resonance, and a very slow filter envelope are the keys to this patch.



  • Audio Examples: Wakeman Wah


dia5_nr5. Pseudo-Theremin
As heard in the Portishead track “Humming” from Roseland NYC Live, this simple one-oscillator sawtooth patch with heavy vibrato from the LFO, along with a fairly slow glide, evokes ’50s sci-fi shows. This patch sounds great with spring reverb emulation or a warm delay, and is way easier to play than a real theremin!


  • Audio Examples: Pseudo-Theremin
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