Dave Smith, Whose Synthesizers Formed Digital Music, Dies at 72

Dave Smith, Whose Synthesizers Formed Digital Music, Dies at 72

In contrast to a piano or organ, early synthesizers, just like the Moog and ARP, might generate just one word at a time. Shaping a specific tone concerned setting a number of knobs, switches or dials, and attempting to breed that tone afterward meant writing down all of the settings and hoping to get comparable outcomes the following time.

The Prophet-5, which Mr. Smith designed with John Bowen and launched in 1978, conquered each drawbacks. Controlling synthesizer capabilities with microprocessors, it might play 5 notes without delay, permitting harmonies. (The corporate additionally made a 10-note Prophet-10.) The Prophet additionally used microprocessors to retailer settings in reminiscence, offering reliable but customized sounds, and it was transportable sufficient for use onstage.

Mr. Smith’s small firm was swamped with orders; at instances, the Prophet-5 had a two-year backlog.

However Mr. Smith’s improvements went a lot additional. “After you have a microprocessor in an instrument, you notice how simple it’s to speak digitally to a different instrument with a microprocessor,” Mr. Smith defined in 2014. Different keyboard producers began to include microprocessors, however every firm used a unique, incompatible interface, a state of affairs Mr. Smith stated he thought of “type of dumb.”

In 1981, Mr. Smith and Chet Wooden, a Sequential Circuits engineer, introduced a paper on the Audio Engineering Society conference to suggest “The ‘USI’, or Common Synthesizer Interface.” The purpose, he recalled in a 2014 interview with Waveshaper Media, was “This is an interface. It would not should be this, however all of us actually need to get collectively and do one thing.” In any other case, he stated, “This market’s going nowhere.”

4 Japanese firms — Roland, Korg, Yamaha, and Kawai — had been keen to cooperate with Sequential Circuits on a shared commonplace, and Mr. Smith and Mr. Kakehashi of Roland labored out the main points of what would turn into MIDI. “If we had achieved MIDI the same old approach, getting a typical made takes years and years and years,” Mr. Smith advised the Crimson Bull Music Academy. “You might have committees and paperwork and da-da-da. We bypassed all of that by simply principally doing it after which throwing it on the market.”

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