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Early Synthesizers, Keyboard and Performance Instruments

The keyboard of Hugh Le Caine's 1970 polyphonic synthesizer, the Polyphone (860004) (CSTM)

The instruments in this section were intended for use by musicians in live performance, much the same way traditional acoustic instruments are used. They were all precursors to the instrument that became known as the "synthesizer," now understood to be a fairly small electronic keyboard instrument. The term synthesizer, however, was not in common use until the 1960s: it was first used in 1959 in relation to the RCA Synthesizer, a room-sized studio installation in New York on which live performance was impossible. In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s the voltage-controlled analogue synthesizer was standard. Now the digital synthesizer has taken its place.