Polyphonic Synthesizer (1970)

The Polyphonic Synthesizer or Polyphone, was built in 1970 and was the most comprehensive analogue synthesizer made at that time.

The Control Panel of the Polyphone.

Each key had its own waveform and pitch controls in addition to the separate control panel above the keyboard. Foot pedals were operated by graduated light sensitive controls.



  • The Polyphonic Synthesizer at McGill University
  • A Close-up view of the Control Panel


The Polyphonic Synthesizer at McGill University


The Polyphonic Synthesizer was built in 1970 for Paul Pedersen at the McGill University electronic music studio in Montréal, Québec. All functions of the Polyphone were voltage controlled. There were no stepped voltages on the instrument, and all the generators and controls were accessible independently. The instrument was built before polyphonic synthesizers were commercially available.

The 1970 Polyphone at McGill.

A Close-up view of the Control Panel


The control panel above the keyboard of the Polyphonic Synthesizer offered many features familiar in analogue synthesizers, which had been available a few years previously but in separate modules. Here they were available to one performer who could alter any or all of them during performance.

The Polyphone Control Panel.

The distinctive sliders on the keyboard, used to control the output of each key, are similar to those later incorporated into the design of the popular Tonus (ARP) analog synthesizer line.

The Polyphone Keyboard.

All rights reserved/Tous droits réservés, © Gayle Young, 1999
Photographs courtesy of the Music Division of the National Library of Canada.
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