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Who Played Synthesizer For The Who Who Played Synthesizer For The Who


Who Played Synthesizer For The Who

Written by: Ruthy Abad

Find out who played the synthesizer for The Who and explore their unique contribution to the band's iconic sound.

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The Who, one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, emerged in the 1960s as a powerhouse of musical innovation. Known for their explosive performances and revolutionary sound, The Who pushed the boundaries of rock music and became pioneers in incorporating synthesizers into their music.

The introduction of synthesizers revolutionized the music industry, allowing musicians to create a wide range of sounds and textures previously unimaginable. The Who, always at the forefront of musical experimentation, embraced this new technology and integrated it into their distinctive sound.

Over the years, The Who had multiple artists who played synthesizers, each leaving a unique impact on the band’s sound. From John Entwistle’s early foray into synthesizers to Pete Townshend’s groundbreaking innovations, the role of synthesizer players in The Who cannot be understated.

In this article, we will explore the journey of synthesizers in The Who’s music, focusing on the artists who played these fascinating instruments. We will delve into the early years of The Who, examine the emergence of synthesizers in popular music, and unravel the distinct contributions of the synthesizer players within the band’s discography.

Join us on a journey through the evolution of synthesizer players in The Who, as we discover how their sound was forever transformed by these groundbreaking instruments. Prepare to be immersed in the sonic landscapes that defined The Who’s musical legacy.


The Early Years of The Who

The Who, originally known as The Detours, formed in London in 1964 and consisted of guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend, lead vocalist Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon. From the start, The Who set themselves apart from their contemporaries with their electrifying live performances and rebellious attitude.

In their early years, The Who primarily relied on traditional rock instrumentation, with Townshend’s powerful guitar riffs, Daltrey’s dynamic vocals, Entwistle’s melodic bass lines, and Moon’s explosive drumming driving their sound. But as they continued to push boundaries, they became increasingly open to incorporating new technologies that would enhance their sonic palette.

During this period, synthesizers were still in their nascent stage, with limited access and high costs. However, The Who were quick to embrace new musical advancements, experimenting with various instruments and techniques to expand their sound. Their willingness to explore uncharted territories laid the foundation for their eventual incorporation of synthesizers.

While The Who had not yet fully dived into synthesizers during their early years, they were already known for their energetic and innovative performances. Their rebellious spirit and desire to challenge conventional norms set them on a trajectory of musical experimentation that would come to define their career.

As The Who honed their sound and gained popularity, they began to pave the way for the future of rock music. They pushed the boundaries of traditional rock, incorporating elements of mod fashion, aggressive stage presence, and anthemic songwriting. Their unique approach, combined with their explosive live shows, catapulted them into the limelight and established them as one of the most influential rock bands of all time.

Stay tuned as we explore how The Who’s musical journey led them to embrace synthesizers and revolutionize their sound. In the next section, we will delve into the emergence of synthesizers in popular music and how they paved the way for The Who’s experimentation.


Emergence of Synthesizers in Popular Music

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed a significant technological advancement in the field of music with the emergence of synthesizers. These electronic instruments allowed musicians to create a wide array of sounds, ranging from lush orchestral tones to futuristic electronic effects. Synthesizers quickly captured the imagination of both musicians and audiences, revolutionizing the sound of popular music.

Pioneers like Robert Moog and Don Buchla played significant roles in the development and popularization of synthesizers during this time. Their inventions, such as the Moog synthesizer and the Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments, brought previously unimaginable sonic possibilities to the fingertips of musicians.

As synthesizers became more accessible and affordable, they found their way into a variety of musical genres, including rock, pop, and experimental music. Artists like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Kraftwerk began integrating synthesizers into their recordings, pushing the boundaries of what was possible in popular music.

The distinctive characteristics of the synthesizer, such as its ability to produce otherworldly sounds and its versatility in manipulating and shaping tones, made it an attractive tool for musicians looking to explore new sonic territories. The synthesizer became synonymous with innovation and experimentation, as musicians harnessed its potential to create groundbreaking compositions.

During this period of synthesizer exploration, The Who were at the forefront of musical innovation. While they initially embraced synthesizers tentatively, they eventually fully embraced the instrument’s expressive power, incorporating it prominently into their music and live performances.

Now that we have explored the emergence of synthesizers in popular music, we will dive into The Who’s experimentation with these groundbreaking instruments. In the next section, we will uncover the journey of synthesizers within the band and the unique contributions of the different players.


The Who’s Experimentation with Synthesizers

As The Who continued to push the boundaries of their sound, they eagerly embraced the emerging synthesizer technology of the 1970s. Their experimentation with synthesizers allowed them to create unique textures, expand their sonic palette, and push their music into uncharted territories.

John Entwistle, the band’s innovative bassist, was one of the early pioneers of incorporating synthesizers into The Who’s music. His interest in electronic instruments led him to experiment with early models like the EMS Synthi Hi-Fli and the VCS3. These synthesizers provided him with a range of effects and textures that added a new dimension to the band’s overall sound.

Pete Townshend, the band’s visionary guitarist and primary songwriter, also played a crucial role in the integration of synthesizers. Townshend’s forward-thinking approach to music and his desire to create innovative sounds drove him to explore the possibilities of synthesizers in the band’s compositions.

One of Townshend’s most notable contributions was his use of the ARP 2500 synthesizer, which became a prominent feature on The Who’s landmark album “Who’s Next.” The album’s opening track, “Baba O’Riley,” is a testament to the power of the synthesizer, with its iconic arpeggiated synthesizer intro that perfectly captures the essence of the song.

Throughout their career, The Who continued to experiment with various synthesizer models, such as the Oberheim Two-Voice and the Yamaha CS-80, incorporating them into their recordings and live performances. The addition of synthesizers brought a dynamic and futuristic element to their music, further solidifying their reputation as musical innovators.

It is important to note that while synthesizers played a significant role in The Who’s sound, they were always used in a way that complemented the band’s traditional rock instrumentation. The synthesizers served to enhance and expand upon the band’s existing sonic foundation, rather than replacing or overpowering it.

As we delve deeper into the role of synthesizer players in The Who, we will examine the contributions of John Entwistle and Pete Townshend and their respective approaches to incorporating synthesizers into the band’s music.


Identifying the Synthesizer Players

Throughout their career, The Who had multiple members who took on the role of synthesizer players, each leaving their unique imprint on the band’s sound. Let’s take a closer look at the key synthesizer players within The Who.

John Entwistle, the band’s extraordinary bassist, was the first member to experiment with synthesizers. Known for his technical prowess and innovative approach to playing the bass, Entwistle introduced synthesizers to The Who’s sound in the early 1970s. His use of synthesizers added depth and texture to their music, creating a distinctive sonic backdrop for the band’s iconic guitar work and powerful vocals.

Pete Townshend, the band’s iconic guitarist and primary songwriter, also contributed significantly to The Who’s synthesizer experimentation. As a visionary musician, Townshend pushed the boundaries of rock music by incorporating synthesizers into the band’s compositions. His use of synthesizers, particularly the ARP 2500, added a unique and futuristic element to The Who’s sound, as heard in songs like “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Although Entwistle and Townshend were the primary synthesizer players in The Who, other members also dabbled in the instrument. For instance, Keith Moon, the band’s legendary drummer, occasionally added synthesizer elements to the band’s recordings, showcasing his versatility and willingness to experiment.

As The Who continued to evolve, new members joined the band, expanding their sonic possibilities. In the later years, synthesizer players such as Tim Gorman and Jon Carin contributed to The Who’s live performances and studio recordings, bringing their own unique style and creative expression to the band’s music.

Each synthesizer player within The Who brought their own flair to the band’s sound, contributing to the evolution of their music and the exploration of new sonic landscapes. Their collective efforts expanded the horizons of what rock music could achieve, solidifying The Who as innovators in the world of popular music.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the individual contributions of John Entwistle and Pete Townshend as the prominent synthesizer players within The Who, exploring their distinctive approaches and the impact they had on the band’s sound.


John Entwistle: The First Synthesizer Player

John Entwistle, renowned for his virtuosic bass playing, was not only a master of the four-stringed instrument but also an early adopter of synthesizers within The Who. His curiosity and love for exploring new sounds led him to incorporate synthesizers into the band’s music, making him a pioneer in the world of rock and synthesizer fusion.

One of Entwistle’s notable contributions to The Who’s sound was his use of the EMS Synthi Hi-Fli, a versatile synthesizer that allowed him to create unique effects, including distorted and harmonized bass tones. The synthesizer served as an extension of his bass playing abilities, enabling him to add layers of depth and texture to the band’s sound.

One of the most iconic examples of Entwistle’s synthesizer work can be heard in the track “Boris the Spider” from The Who’s album “A Quick One. The haunting and otherworldly synthesizer melody perfectly complements Entwistle’s distinctive vocal delivery, creating an eerie atmosphere that has become synonymous with the song.

Entwistle’s use of synthesizers in The Who’s music was not limited to the studio. He also incorporated them into the band’s live performances, further enhancing the sonic landscape of their shows. His ability to seamlessly blend traditional bass playing with synthesized elements demonstrated his versatility as a musician and established him as a true innovator.

Entwistle’s contributions as The Who’s first synthesizer player laid the groundwork for the band’s future explorations with synthesizers. His inventive approach to incorporating this new technology into their music opened doors to new sonic possibilities and cemented The Who’s status as musical pioneers.

In the following section, we will dive into the impact of Pete Townshend, who took synthesizer experimentation to new heights within The Who and significantly shaped the band’s sound.


Pete Townshend: The Innovator of Synthesizer Sound

Pete Townshend, the visionary guitarist and primary songwriter of The Who, played a pivotal role in shaping the band’s sound through his innovative use of synthesizers. Townshend’s forward-thinking approach to music and his desire to push the boundaries of rock led him to explore the creative possibilities of synthesizers, ultimately revolutionizing The Who’s sound.

Townshend’s experimentation with synthesizers can be heard prominently on The Who’s groundbreaking album “Who’s Next”. The iconic track “Baba O’Riley” features an unforgettable arpeggiated synthesizer intro, played on an ARP 2500, which instantly captivates listeners and sets the tone for the entire album. The combination of Townshend’s guitar work and the synthesizer created a powerful and immersive sonic experience, showcasing his ability to seamlessly integrate new technologies into the band’s music.

Another notable example of Townshend’s synthesizer innovation can be found in the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The track features a complex synthesizer sequence layered with his thunderous guitar chords, creating a dynamic and futuristic sound that perfectly complements the song’s rebellious theme.

Townshend’s approach to synthesizers was not limited to studio recordings. He incorporated these electronic instruments into The Who’s live performances, pushing the boundaries of what was considered possible in a live rock show. His use of synthesizers, combined with his trademark windmill guitar strumming and energetic stage presence, elevated The Who’s live performances to epic proportions, leaving audiences in awe.

Moreover, Townshend’s innovation extended beyond just playing the synthesizer. He also utilized the instrument as a tool for songwriting and composition. The versatility of synthesizers allowed him to experiment with different sounds, textures, and arrangements, adding depth and complexity to The Who’s music.

Pete Townshend’s groundbreaking work with synthesizers not only showcased his mastery of the instrument but also highlighted his ability to bring a new sonic dimension to The Who’s music. His willingness to embrace new technologies and push musical boundaries set a precedent for future musicians and solidified The Who’s position as pioneers in the world of rock music.

In the next section, we will delve into the evolution of synthesizer players within The Who, exploring the contributions of subsequent members and the lasting legacy of synthesizers in the band’s music.


The Evolution of Synthesizer Players in The Who

While John Entwistle and Pete Townshend were the primary synthesizer players in The Who, the band experienced an evolution in its lineup and the subsequent incorporation of new synthesizer players.

Following John Entwistle’s passing in 2002, The Who continued to explore the sonic possibilities of synthesizers with the addition of Tim Gorman. Gorman, a talented keyboardist and synthesizer player, brought a fresh perspective to The Who’s live performances and studio recordings. His skills allowed him to seamlessly integrate synthesizers into the band’s sound, while also adding his own creative flair.

Another significant addition came in the form of Jon Carin, who joined The Who as a keyboardist and synthesizer player in the late 2000s. Carin’s extensive experience in the world of synthesizers, including his work with Pink Floyd, brought a wealth of knowledge and expertise to The Who’s live shows. His contributions helped maintain the band’s sound while injecting new life into their performances.

With each new synthesizer player, The Who’s sound continued to evolve and grow, incorporating fresh elements that complemented the band’s iconic rock sound. The innovative use of synthesizers became an integral part of The Who’s music, allowing them to stay relevant and push boundaries throughout their ongoing career.

It is important to acknowledge that while new synthesizer players joined The Who, the groundwork laid by John Entwistle and Pete Townshend remained a significant influence. Their pioneering efforts paved the way for the band’s exploration of synthesizers and set a foundation for subsequent members to build upon.

The evolving lineup of synthesizer players in The Who ensures that the band’s sound continues to adapt and thrive, always pushing the boundaries of what is possible in rock music. The inclusion of new members and their contributions serve as a testament to The Who’s ability to embrace change while maintaining their unique identity.

In the final section, we will explore the lasting legacy of synthesizers in The Who’s music and their impact on the rock genre as a whole.


The Legacy of Synthesizers in The Who’s Music

The integration of synthesizers into The Who’s music has had a lasting impact on their sound and legacy. The band’s willingness to embrace new technologies and push the boundaries of rock music with synthesizers has solidified their position as pioneers in the genre.

Synthesizers brought a new dimension to The Who’s music, allowing them to create rich, layered compositions and explore a wide range of sonic possibilities. The use of synthesizers elevated their sound, enabling them to create avant-garde textures, atmospheric effects, and futuristic elements that added depth and complexity to their music.

One of the key legacies of synthesizers in The Who’s music is their ability to create memorable and instantly recognizable intros. Songs like “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” became iconic not only for their powerful lyrics and instrumentation but also for the innovative and distinctive synthesizer-driven intros that have become part of rock music history.

The Who’s experimentation with synthesizers also opened doors for future generations of musicians. The band’s incorporation of these electronic instruments helped pave the way for the acceptance of synthesizers in rock music, inspiring countless artists to explore new sonic territories and embrace technological advancements.

Furthermore, The Who’s use of synthesizers showcased the versatility of the instrument in a rock context. The seamless integration of synthesizers with traditional rock instrumentation demonstrated that this electronic tool could supplement and enhance the band’s dynamic sound rather than replace it.

The legacy of synthesizers in The Who’s music can be witnessed in the continued integration of these instruments in their live performances. Even today, The Who includes synthesizers in their stage setup, ensuring that the unique and futuristic elements of their sound come to life on stage.

Overall, the legacy of synthesizers in The Who’s music is one of innovation, pushing boundaries, and expanding the sonic possibilities of rock music. Their pioneering use of synthesizers has left an indelible mark on the genre, influencing generations of musicians and continuing to captivate audiences around the world.

As we conclude this exploration of synthesizers in The Who’s music, let us remember the band’s adventurous spirit and their ability to create timeless music that remains relevant and groundbreaking to this day.



The Who’s journey with synthesizers is a testament to their unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of rock music. From their early years as trailblazers in the genre to their ongoing experimentation with new technologies, The Who embraced synthesizers and harnessed their power to create a unique and iconic sound.

John Entwistle, Pete Townshend, and subsequent synthesizer players in The Who brought their own creativity and innovation to the band’s music. Each player left their unique mark, expanding the sonic possibilities and contributing to The Who’s legacy as pioneers in the world of rock and synthesizer fusion.

The synthesizers introduced a new dimension to The Who’s music, allowing them to create atmospheric textures, memorable intros, and futuristic sonic landscapes. Their integration of synthesizers showcased the versatility and potential of these instruments in rock music, inspiring countless musicians to explore and embrace the world of synthesized sounds.

As The Who’s sound continued to evolve over the years, synthesizers remained a vital part of their sonic palette. The band’s legacy with synthesizers is one of innovation, breaking boundaries, and leaving an indelible impact on the rock genre.

Through their pioneering use of synthesizers, The Who has not only enthralled audiences with their iconic hit songs but also paved the way for future generations of musicians. Their influence and experimentation continue to reverberate through the rock music landscape, reminding us of the boundless possibilities that lie within the realms of creativity and musical exploration.

So, as we reflect on The Who’s storied career and their groundbreaking use of synthesizers, let us celebrate their unwavering spirit of musical adventure and the enduring impact of their innovative sound. The legacy of synthesizers in The Who’s music will forever serve as a reminder of the band’s irreplaceable place in the annals of rock music history.

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