It's rare that we ever get an instrument that shapes the landscape of music. We saw this happen with the invention of the electric guitar as it paved the way for artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. This one instrument single-handedly established and set the groundwork for rock music for the generations of artists and musicians to come.

However, we can't talk about landmark instruments without discussing the ARP 2600. The ARP 2600 is an instrument considered by many to be one of the pioneering devices of the electronic music genre. If you want to learn more about this iconic instrument, read on as we give you a brief history of the ARP 2600 Analogue Audio Synthesiser.

This article has been written by guest blogger, Juliet Palmer.

History of the ARP 2600

The ARP 2600 synthesiser debuted back in 1972 and was released by the late Alan Pearlman's synthesiser company ARP Instruments. The ARP 2600 was originally intended as an educational instrument, targeting schools that wanted to give their music departments a tool that would help students that wanted to learn how to use synthesisers. This explains the instrument's intuitive design and clear layout, making it easier for beginners to just jump in and play around with it. While this may sound like a strange idea today, the 1970s were a very different time and synthesisers weren't as popular back then as they presently are. So with that in mind, targeting schools was a good idea in order to increase awareness of this new device and bring more musicians into the fold.

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Our Piano grade 6 cover star, Herbie Hancock, was one of the first pioneers to use the ARP 2600.

Despite its original purpose, the ARP 2600 eventually found itself in the hands of professional musicians from different genres. Musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, and Pete Townshend were some of the more popular figures that were known to use the ARP 2600, thus cementing its place in modern music history.


How the ARP 2600 Shaped Music

And while the history of the ARP 2600 is quite fascinating, how has it affected music today? Contemporary artists continue to make use of the historic synthesiser. Everyone from Brian Eno to Owl City have made use of the instrument, adding to the instrument's legacy. It also can't be understated how the ARP 2600 set up future experimental instruments, as it brought the futuristic sounds into the mainstream.

Today, we have a number of devices that just would not be possible if the ARP 2600 didn't set the precedent for such devices to be made. The Boss SY-300 brought the synth sound to guitars, even partnering up with famous synth maker Roland to make sure they got the sound just right. The highly experimental Korg Miku turns electric guitar signals into the voice of a popular animated character. But devices like this are only the tip of the iceberg as companies continue to push the boundaries of what's possible when it comes to making music. The Mi.Mu Smart Gloves by Imogen Heap does exactly that, as it allows users to control synthesisers using specialised gloves that instantly respond to one's movements. These are just a few instruments that would not be here today if it weren't for the ARP 2600 and considering that Korg have resurrected the iconic synthesiser for a limited run, there are bound to be more people inspired by this device for the years to come.

If you want to learn more about the history of music-making, check out our article on ‘A Brief History of Music Production’.

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From by Juliet Palmer. Image Credit: Joe Mabel, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 -