ARP Odyssey

From SynthTrax

Date: 1972

Type: Monophonic / Subtractive / Analogue

Table of all Songs | ARP Odyssey Full Song List


The ARP Odyssey is a strong contender for most popular monosynth of the 1970s, perhaps of all time, giving the iconic Minimoog Model D a run for its money (and actually outselling it).

The highly versatile ARP Odyssey has featured on 1,000s of tracks over the years, and is still popular to this day with a re-release by Korg in 2016 (and the inevitable clone from Behringer later), as well as several software emulations now available.

This classic 37-note monosynth evolved over the duration of the 1970s:

Mk1 (2800) - White - 4023 2-pole filter

(later was made in black & gold like later versions - but otherwise the same)

Mk2 (2810-2815) - 4035 4-pole filter (possibly infringing Moog patents!) & CV/Gate connection

Mk3 (2820-2823) - 4075 filter (had much lower high frequency of only 12kHz, compared with the previous 35kHz). It also had different oscillators and the 'proportional pitch control' was introduced (some retrofitted to mk2)

Whichever version was used, the Odyssey has a huge and powerful sound anywhere in it's range from the bottom octave to the top ("I still like to use the ARP Odyssey because it has the best window-shaking bottom end of any synth." - Gary Numan). And the simplicity of use ensured it's popularity and use by a huge number of musicians over the years.

Archetypal Track

Herbie Hancock, 'Chameleon' (1973)

The bassline of 'Chameleon' shows the Odyssey at it's funkiest; the filtered bassline driving the groove and the vibe of Herbie Hancock's classic. There isn't a better example of the Odyssey doin' it's thang!

Associated artists

There are many artists who've made notable use of the ARP Odyssey; a selection of them are listed below.

Billy Currie (Ultravox)

“I looked to what they (Kraftwerk) were doing. A shining light to how music could be put together, completely different’. Billy Currie of Ultravox has been closely associated with the ARP Odyssey since Ultravox! burst onto the scene in the late 1970s. His Odyssey solo sound is instantly recognisable; full of wide, swooping lines, running the full range of the keyboard, incorporating glissandi, pitch-bends, and liberal vibrato. He is probably the definitive Odyssey player's Odyssey player!


Despite their noted use of of custom synths, sequencers, drum machines and effects, they also made use of 'production synths' such as the Minimoog and Odyssey. Autobahn (1975), in fact made use of both as can be seen in this wonderful German TV performance from 1975. The extended 'car whooshing' sequence is especially nice! The Odyssey was also used for the lead melody in The Robots, and several other tracks.

Chick Corea

Another great soloist. Using whichever keyboard comes to hand, Chick Corea extracts the maximum impact from his instrument. Here he is trading licks on a Odyssey, with Bill Connors on guitar, in a glorious exchange.

Doctor Who theme (1980) - Peter Howell

A well known example is Peter Howell's use of the Odyssey in his reworking of the Doctor Who theme in 1980. This was part of the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop's output, which included the famous original theme music composed by Ron Grainer and originally arranged by Delia Derbyshire in 1963.

Don Airey (Deep Purple)

"I've had the Odyssey six years and never had it seen to, ARP say it'll be good for another six — an amazing machine." - Don Airey

(Electronics & Music Maker, 1982)

Boris Blank (Yello)

"The Odyssey is still one of my biggest friends” - Boris Blank (Yello) (Music Technology, 1991)

"The acquisition in 1977 of an ARP Odyssey synth to supplement the 'very basic' drum machine they already owned was a quantum leap. The man who now owns a Series III Fairlight leans forward: "I think 'Wow! Now we can do anything.” - Boris Blank (International Musician - 1986)

George Duke

"Frank Zappa told me one day that I should play synthesizers. It was as simple as that! I finally settled on an ARP Odyssey ... and was really drawn to the possibilities" - George Duke.

And here's George providing a wild solo with Frank Zappa in 1975 (on a Mk2):

John Foxx

"I wanted Billy (Currie) to get one and actually paid for it with my record company advance. That was an old ARP Odyssey, which I think he's still got, and I've got hold of another one as well. It's a beautiful instrument, there are certain sounds on it that you can't get out of anything else; I can really get my rocks off soloing with it because it's so meaty. It's not too easy to use and it's a bit clumsy to repatch, but for one or two sounds on stage it's wonderfully powerful" - John Foxx (Electronic Soundmaker, 1983)

Stuart Neale (Kajagoogoo)

"And the Odyssey is the ideal monophonic synth — it gives you a leadline sound the polyphonics cannot get.” - Stuart Neale (Electronic Soundmaker, 1984)

Gary Numan

"I use the ARP Odyssey more for bass things because it has more cut to it" - Gary Numan

(Electronic Soundmaker, 1983)

Klaus Schulze

"I have the ARP Odyssey for very 'fragile' sounds. I have pedals to control modulation - I manipulate two of these with my knees as I sit cross-legged on stage. My instruments are all on a raised platform so that I sit on this level with them. My movements as I play are part of my controlling the pedals and they do give me filter modulation whilst having both hands free to play. The pedals I use are normal ones, except that my engineer has fixed car tyre rubber strips on to them so that they always return to the off position. One pedal is for the ARP to control filter and pulse width modulation, and the other is controlling the Moog filter." - Klaus Schulz, (E&MM, 1983)

"Originally I created every sound from scratch. All the sine waves and paths on the MiniMoog or ARP Odyssey were set up by hand." Klaus Schulze, (Sound On Sound, 1993)

Bill Sharpe (Shakatak)

"The only old synth I still use on stage is the ARP Odyssey, because it's the only machine that makes sounds you can't make on anything else. Everything else goes onto one."

"I've still got my Odyssey...even with the Kurzweil at home, there are things only the Odyssey can do."

(Electronics & Music Maker, 1986)

Tony Thorpe (The Moody Boyz)

"I love it when sounds bring out an emotion, like the sound of an ARP Odyssey. There's more to sound than just having some ambient track going for 20 or 30 minutes. There's more to explore, and there's still more to be discovered.” - Tony Thorpe (Music Technology, 1994)

Peter Vetesse (Jethro Tull)

"I've found through a gradual learning process — that started with an ARP Odyssey and continued through many various analogue monophonics to analogue polyphonics and lately digital synthesisers — that there are many ways in which a computer can help my performance input techniques and means of storing the input, as well as storing prepared sequences. - Peter Vetesse (Jethro Tull) (Electronics & Music Maker, 1983)

List of all ARP Odyssey Tracks

Table of all Songs | ARP Odyssey full song list