Introduced at Moogfest 2019, the Moog Matriarch is a 4-voice paraphonic synthesizer. Building on the success and designs found in Grandmother, Matriarch adds significant functionality and sound design options. We recently chatted with the team at Moog Music to learn more about how it came together. 

The HUB: Was the design informed by functionality or a specific desired sound? I.E. “We want it to do this.” Vs. “We want it so sound like this.”

Moog Music: The design process at Moog always strikes a balance between functionality and sound­–where each quality is informed by the other and the goal is to consider the synthesizer experience as a whole. Sometimes new ideas for functions will inspire sonic developments and vice versa–with constant tweaks occurring throughout the development process as the individual synthesis components evolve together into a complete musical instrument.

The HUB: What did you learn from Grandmother and how may that have informed Matriarch?

Moog Music: In designing Matriarch, much of the early work was already accomplished in Grandmother, leaving us more time to focus on new and additional functionality for the instrument. One new addition that we are really excited about are the CV patchable Attenuators (3 of them on board!). By patching audio waves into both inputs of the Attenuators, you can get into some very interesting wave shaping areas and ring modulation effects. Additionally, the easy-to-use Arp/Sequencer and onboard analog effect were all amazing sound creation tools developed for Grandmother that we evolved further for Matriarch. The Arp/Sequencer returns with deeper pattern memory and chord sequencing capabilities to take advantage of Matriarch’s 4-note paraphony, Matriarch adds 3 bi-polar attenuators (now CV-patchable to enable ring modulation), and a stereo analog delay section based on the MF-104M.

Moog's Matriarch Synthesizer

The HUB: At what stage of development do you start listening to how it sounds?

Moog Music: We’re always listening! In the early stages of development, we’re listening to individual modules and making necessary adjustments, and then following that sonic evolution down the path as the parts of the whole begin to come together. You can listen to all the modules individually, but it’s hard to know the exact experience until you get the whole synthesizer together. That’s when you can make the real tweaks to finesse sound of the complete instrument.  

The HUB: Why did you choose to go with Analog Delay and not Spring Reverb? Was this connected to the recent limited re-issue of the Moogerfooger delay pedal?

Moog Music: The Moogerfooger MF-104 delay uses a vintage BBD chip that is no longer in production. As less and less of these vintage BBDs become available, it becomes nearly impossible for us to build new MF-104s (for our most recent run, we were able to source enough vintage BBDs for just 100 units). Matriarch uses a circuit design from the MF-104m and Moog 500 Series Analog Delay, with a few tweaks to allow for the use of a modern and readily available BBD. Matriarch was the perfect opportunity for us to continue the development of our analog delay designs, while offering a new sonic pallet in the Moog Semi-Modular family of synthesizers.

The HUB: What made you choose a paraphonic design as opposed to polyphonic? 

Moog Music:  Paraphonic synthesizers elicit unique performance behaviors that are not traditionally available on a polyphonic instrument. Because all oscillator voices are running through a common filter, playing Matriarch in 2-note or 4-note mode using multi-trigger and legato styles will take on a whole new sound when compared to its polyphonic counterparts.  

The HUB: Can you explain the benefits of each of the Matriarch's voice modes (mono vs. 2-note vs. 4-note)?

Moog Music: Mono mode stacks Matriarch’s oscillator section to create a massive 4 oscillator monosynth. 2-note splits the oscillators into a duophonic configuration in which you can control 2 independent notes, where each note triggers a pair of oscillators. 4-note mode splits Matriarch’s oscillator section into 4 independently controllable pitches, allowing you to play chords via the keyboard or create harmonizing patterns with the Arp/Sequencer.  

The HUB: Can you explain how the “round-robin” voice triggering works?

Moog Music: When using the sequencer or arp, each successive note will be sounded from a new oscillator. ie, First note goes to oscillator 1, second note goes to oscillator 2, third note to oscillator 3, and fourth note to oscillator 4. The fifth note returns to oscillator 1 and the round-robin process begins all over again. By setting each oscillator to wave forms and inputting sequences with an odd number of notes, you can create patterns in which the sequence of pitches does not line up symmetrically with the sequence of waveforms, resulting in a generative style pattern reminiscent of polyrhythm or hocket.

Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen gets his hands on Matriarch.

The HUB: What do you consider to be the most performance-friendly feature of Matriarch?

Moog Music: Matriarch’s semi-modular architecture invites a hands-on exploration of the instrument and empowers live musical performance. Right out of the box (and without patching), Matriarch is a versatile analog synthesizer that can be played as a 4-note performance instrument via the keyboard, or programmed through the on-board sequencer to produce complex and evolving patterns while you “play the knobs”. Matriarch’s MIDI and CV connections make it easy to sync with other instruments to lock in a live performance and Matriarch’s 90 front-panel modular patch points ensure there are always new sonic possibilities to discover.

The HUB: What’s your favorite patch to make on Matriarch? 

Moog Music: Using the Modulation Oscillator’s Sample & Hold output to send a very small amount of random modulation to the oscillators creates subtle random pitch variations, resulting in a fantastic sound reminiscent of a vintage tape warble

The HUB: What sets Moog technology and Moog products apart from other synthesizers?

Moog Music: When developing a new Moog Synthesizer, we give much attention to the detail of sound and how the instrument will work as whole. Our goal is to make the technology as seamless as possible, so that the interface melts away and becomes simply a channel for self-expression, inspiring creativity for a lifetime.