Video: How to Choose a Moog—Minimoog vs. Matriarch vs. Grandmother and More

As one of the world's pioneering synthesizer brands, Moog has been making modular, semi-modular, and keys-based synths for more than half a century, with its Moog Ladder filter being one of the most distinctive sound sculptors in all of synth-dom. That means there's a veritable spread of synthesis to go around, whether you're looking to grab a brand-new creation or a vintage favorite.

In our video above, artist and sound designer Lisa Bella Donna shows off six different Moog synths, guiding you through considerations and offering tips so that you can find the best Moog for your music-making needs.

Minimoog Model D

Originally built in the 1970s, the Minimoog was Moog's gift to working musicians who wanted the sounds of large Moog modular systems in a portable instrument. Those musicians gifted Moog back by using it on everything; you can hear the Minimoog on the funk basslines of Parliament-Funkadelic, the psychedelic leads of Pink Floyd, and the G-funk of Dr. Dre. (Learn how to recreate those sounds in our video here.)

These days, you can find those same tones on vintage units, Moog's own reissues, and the affordable Behringer Model D clone.

Any will give you similar sonic options. As Lisa demonstrates above, three oscillators tuned in unison will give a tight and direct sound—for basslines and leads. You can detune all three oscillators slightly for a thick, pad-like sound. And from there, tweaking the filter and envelope can make your lines squeal. Though monophonic (meaning you can only play one note at a time), you can tune each of the three oscillators to different pitches, letting you play a (pre-defined) chord with one key.

Subsequent 37

A modern classic first built in 2014, the Sub 37 (the first model) and SUBsequent 37 (the later model, often still called the Sub 37), builds on Moog's slightly older Sub Phatty monosynth. However, it does one better, with the addition of two-note paraphony—which means that you can play two notes on the keyboard at a time (though both will go through the same signal path). It's "an extremely rich and delicious synthesizer," Lisa says.

The Subsequent 37 has two oscillators and a full analog signal path. However, unlike the Sub Phatty before it, the Subsequent 37 has an easy-to-navigate display screen along with its digital memory, meaning you can save and recall patches and sequences on the fly. It also offers a built-in 64-step sequencer and arpeggiator.

The multi-mode filter allows you to select between different slopes (to choose a tamer or more aggressive amount of attenuation). And the additional sub-oscillator can add deep lows to any pattern at the twist of a knob.

The Sub 37 comes in a few variants itself: The current standard Subsequent 37 with its Multidrive dirt section, the discontinued Sub 37 Tribute Edition, and the limited-run Subsequent 37 CV Paraphonic.

Grandmother

The Grandmother, released in 2018, is yet another newer synth from Moog that has captured the imagination of synthesists. It includes an arpeggiator, a sequencer, and built-in spring reverb.

Like the Mother-32 before it, the Grandmother is a semi-modular synth—meaning you can easily patch it into (and receive patches from) other synths. If you're looking for an affordable keyboard-based synth that can allow you to branch out into Eurorack in time, the Grandmother is a great option.

That said, anything with CV outs and ins can be used in conjunction with the Grandmother—and you can build your own patches between the Grandmother's own separate sections. For example, Lisa takes the mixer output and patches it into the high-pass filter, then patches it back into the mixer. "It sounds really creamy and rich," she says.

Matriarch

The Matriarch, as its matronly name suggests, is the new reigning queen of Moog's new synths. Whereas the Grandmother is monophonic, the Matriarch allows for up to four notes at a time.

While Moog likes to delineate between paraphony (where all the notes travel through the same signal path) and polyphony (where multiple notes each have their own path), what this means to the player is that you can play a chord of up to four notes at once. And that's a greatly expanded take on the Grandmother's design.

It has a multi-mode arpeggiator and a powerful step sequencer that can handle 256 notes total (four notes on each of its 64 steps)—which can also be used operate external gear. And like the Grandmother, it's a semi-modular setup, offering 90 patch points to find your own sounds within the Matriarch or use the synth with other instruments.

DFAM and Mother-32

In our video above, Lisa shows off the DFAM alongside the Mother-32.

While mothers tend to be younger than grandmothers, for Moog, the family lineage is inverted. The Mother-32, first released in 2015, was the company first leaf on the tree that now includes the Grandmother and Matriarch.

The Mother-32 is a semi-modular desktop synth that also fits within a Eurorack case. You get a classic Moog voice, a step sequencer, and connect to external instruments via MIDI or CV, with the Mother-32's 32 individual patch points.

The Drummer From Another Mother—originally unveiled as a one-off project at Moogfest 2017—went into full production in 2018. It's the rhythmic counterpart to the Mother-32's melody, offering percussive synthesis based on two oscillators, a 10-octave range (from subby kicks to chirping hats), and includes the Mother-family trait of semi-modular patch points.

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