8 Best Innovations in the History of Music Technology

Since the appearance of the first simple musical instruments and up to the present time, the history of music development has been directly dependent on the emergence of new technologies.

With today’s level of technological development, hundreds of musical compositions are released every day.

A person simply cannot listen to all the novelties and the appearance of the next music track will not cause him much trepidation. Just half a century ago, the appearance of a new successful hit, a trend in music, or a performance technique could cause the public to rave.

It is difficult to determine the degree of importance of a particular innovation in an era of rapid technological progress. However, we can confidently name those inventions without which modern music would not be what we are used to hearing. What would have happened if the guitar, sound recording devices, or the microphone had not been invented?

A number of specific discoveries have had a decisive impact on the development of the music industry, making it what it is today.


The first microphone was developed by the German-American inventor Emile Berliner in 1877.  One year later, the British-American inventor David Hughes introduced a more advanced device, which was further developed. The Hughes microphone contained a carbon rod with pointed ends, resting in two carbon cups and connected to a movable diaphragm.

The contact area of the rod with the cups varied with the oscillation of the diaphragm, respectively, changed the resistance of the carbon microphone and with it the electric current in the circuit. This type of microphone was perfected by Thomas Edison and was used in telephones for almost a hundred years.

Modern microphones work on other principles and have become highly sensitive devices, transmitting the tiniest tones of the human voice. Different types of microphones are placed all over the stage so that the public can hear all the subtleties of the artist’s voice and the musical instruments. They are used to create additional sound effects.

Guitar combo amplifier

The first musical amplifiers were invented to amplify the sound of a guitar. The earliest examples of such devices date back to the early 1930s when the advent of electrolytic capacitors and rectifier lamps made it possible to build an economical built-in AC-powered power supply. Electric guitar amping spread in the 1930s and 40s in the wake of the popularity of Hawaiian music, in which amplified Hawaiian guitars were widely used.

Tone control in early guitar amplifiers was very simple and mainly consisted of amplifying the high-frequency component of the sound. However, the early circuitry, imperfect loudspeakers, and low power of the first amplifiers did not allow quality reproduction of the upper and lower parts of the sound spectrum.

The best models of those days also included effects like spring reverb and electronic tremolo. Early Fender amps referred to tremolo as “vibrato” and the vibration lever on the Fender Stratocaster guitar was (and still is) called the “tremolo lever.”

In the 1960s, guitarists experimented with sound distortion by deliberately overloading their amps. The Kinks guitarist Dave Davis would get the overdrive effect by plugging the output of one amp into the input of another, a use that the designers couldn’t even imagine.

Later, most guitar amps came equipped with a special overdriven preamp, and effects pedals and other equipment were invented to produce such sounds safely and reliably. Today, distorted sound has become an indispensable part of many styles of electric guitar playing.

Multichannel Recording

The evolution of the cassette “studio” began in 1979 with the release by TEAC of the stationary stereo deck 124 Syncaset, which allowed to re-record the signal from one stereo channel to another.

In the same year, the company, which owned its own production of professional-grade magnetic heads, announced the release of the first “portable studio” – the four-track TASCAM 144. Within a few years, the company had created the market for cassette portastudios from scratch, which was later joined by Yamaha and Fostex.

The company followed the 144 with the eight-track stationary TASCAM 238 and the two-speed stereo professional deck TASCAM 122. The 122 was purchased in large quantities by the “Big Three” American TV networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) and became an industry-standard in the United States.

In Western Europe, a similar role was played by Studer cassette recorders – the Revox B215 model due to its reliability was in demand by American studios. All of this allowed the musicians to quickly create demos of their music.

Sound card

The first computers were machines for mathematical calculations. No one ever thought of equipping them with a sound playback device. Sherwin Gooch was the first to implement this idea in 1979 for the PLATO 4 computer learning system. In the following decade, such devices began to be installed on all computers. The further development of sound cards forever changed the “balance of power” in the music industry.

The device made it possible to record, listen to and process music using a personal computer. Nowadays regular sound cards are almost as good as professional equipment in terms of sound processing. With a computer, you can operate with any audio format, as long as you have the right software.


The first mixing console was made in 1958, by Willi Studer in Switzerland. This device, called the “Studer 69”, was used as a reel-to-reel tape recorder and was considered portable, but was still quite bulky compared to modern devices.

Modern mixers are electronic devices designed to bring together audio signals: summing several sources into one or more outputs. Also with the help of the mixing console signal routing is performed.

There are analog and digital mixing consoles, both types have their obvious advantages and disadvantages. Mixers are used in all areas of audio amplification – recording studios, concert equipment, broadcast equipment, radio stations, etc.


A sampler is a piece of music in a digitized format. Samples are widely used in modern music since almost all musical compositions are created digitally. Digital sampling can be handled both by means of a conventional computer via the appropriate software and by means of separate devices – samplers.

A sampler is an electronic musical instrument that uses sound recordings of various sounds. Their use greatly facilitates the creation of music.

The first digital sampler was developed in London in 1969 by EMS, it was called MUSYS. Its authors were Peter Grogono (programming), David Cockerell (hardware and interface), and Peter Zinovieff (system design and algorithms). The system ran on two mini-computers with only 12 KB of memory each, stored on a 32 KB hard disk and a tape recorder.

In 1979, the first commercial sampler was released in Australia, the Fairlight. Two years later, the E-mu Emulator appeared in the U.S., with similar capabilities. Cheaper than the Fairlight, the Emulator became widespread among musicians.

In 1982, the sampling option was successfully implemented in the American Sinclavier II synthesizer, which (despite being expensive) also became extremely popular among musicians in the 1980s.


The mp3 format is a digital format that stores audio files. It was developed by MPEG programmers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany in 1993. In simple terms, mp3 refers to codecs that perform the task of digital coding. They playback and transmit audio information.

At the same time, audio files in this format are uploaded to social networks, Internet sites, recorded speech in mp3 format, and used in music.

At the initial stage of promotion Fraunhofer almost killed his own brainchild by excessive greed, but seeing that no one wants to pay money for a pig in a poke, made the only right step – made this format open and free. To say that after that MP3 became popular is to say nothing. It was an explosion of popularity! This audio format, so quickly accepted by the masses, had an unreal high compression ratio at quite high sound quality and easily conquered any user who liked to listen to music.

With lightning speed, an entire industry appeared: MP3 sites that dealt only with MP3, manufacturers of software and hardware players of music in MP3 format, illegal distributors of musical compositions, better known as pirates. The demand for CD-R burners and blank discs has increased unbelievably. MP3 is now an established sound format everywhere. It is used in games, codecs are built into operating systems. For the third decade now, MP3 has been at the top of the popularity scale.

Electric Guitar

The inventor of the electric guitar was George Beauchamp, who worked for a national stringed instrument company. After quitting his job, he set out to find the latest ways to increase the volume of stringed instruments.

The very first electric guitar eventually appeared in 1925. It was made out of tools and materials from the kitchen table. It looked like this: a rounded body with a small diameter and a long neck. For this look, it was nicknamed “frying pan”. With the financial and moral support of Adolph Rickenbacker, Beauchamp founded his own company, which specialized only in selling electric guitars. Electric guitars initially found widespread use in jazz bands in the ’30s. Soon, the instrument quickly gained popularity in all musical genres, due to the gigantic number of variations in timbres.

Gaurav Tiwari

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