Photo Credit: Sequential Circuits
Engineer Dave Smith, who founded Sequential Circuits and developed MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) has died at 72-years-old.
Dave Smith, legendary engineer and founder of synthesizer company Sequential in 1974 has died. On Thursday, the Sequential website released an announcement about Smith’s passing.
“We’re heartbroken, but take some small solace in knowing he was on the road doing what he loved best in the company of family, friends and artists,” the statement read.
Born in 1950, Smith went on to found Sequential Circuits in 1974, developing musical instrument Prophet-5, which had an embedded processor and featured the first fully programmable polyphonic synth. In 1981, Smith developed the MIDI specification (or Musical Instrument Digital Interface), later being honored in 1987 as a Fellow of the Audio Engineering Society. A synth pioneer, Smith continued his profession in technological instrumentation by founding Dave Smith Instruments in 2002, transitioning back to Sequential in 2018.
Prior to Smith’s death, Sequential was set to exhibit at 2022 NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show from June 3-5, which the company has backed away from out of respect for Smith’s legacy.
Focusrite CEO Tim Carroll released a statement in tribute to Smith.
“Dave’s passing is a great loss to not only the music community and music technology, but to the world itself. To say that he changed music is no exaggeration. Dave’s legacy is one of creative passion and a deep and lifelong love for music, music technology, and the musicians that continue to enrich our world by using his instruments,” Caroll said.
“At 72 he was still actively designing his next generation of synths. At the same time, he had the foresight to mentor and build Sequential into a team that will continue his work and legacy without pause. Dave will be greatly missed, but his contributions to music will never be forgotten.”
Read other tributes to Smith below:
— FLYLO (@flyinglotus) June 2, 2022
RIP Dave Smith – a pioneer. I bought my prophet rev 2 when I was 19 and have so many memories with it ❤️ I swear I’ll never learn everything it’s capable of but it’s been a blast trying. Here’s me throughout the yrs with it lol. Thank you Dave for the beautiful tools you made 🙏 pic.twitter.com/gxYQuEaoT9
— Kristin Robinson (@wordsbykristin) June 2, 2022
We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of engineer, musician and the founder of @sequentialLLC Dave Smith. He will continue to live on as a legend and our thoughts are with his family. pic.twitter.com/8BPaIVy0eF
— Native Instruments (@NI_News) June 2, 2022
Original print ad for Dave Smith’s Prophet-5 synth, 1977 🖤 pic.twitter.com/Xe2hKQXkeI
— NTS Radio (@NTSlive) June 2, 2022
Even the gods wear socks. He was that down to earth , despite his monumental accomplishments and contributions to music. He adopted us and we adopted him into our small techno community. RIP Dave Smith @sequentialLLC pic.twitter.com/gZdjCDczCC
— Kenny Larkin (@kennylark) June 2, 2022
Without Dave Smith, none of what we’ve done would have been possible. RIP to a generous friend and a true innovator. Sending our love to Dave’s family. pic.twitter.com/PcvfHMWIli
— M E T R I C (@Metric) June 2, 2022
Just heard the news that Dave Smith from Sequential Circuits , the man who “invented” the “ahead of it’s time” Prophet 5 synth in 1977 , has passed away . This is becoming a terrible year for loss.
— Rick Wakeman CBE (@GrumpyOldRick) June 2, 2022
— Telefon Tel Aviv (@telefontelaviv) June 2, 2022
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Synth pioneer and Sequential founder Dave Smith has died at the age of 72. The likes of Flying Lotus, Hot Chip, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and countless others have paid tribute to ‘the father of MIDI’, whose inventions include the Prophet-5, one of the most revolutionary synthesisers of the 1980s, later used by Radiohead on Kid A.
Sequential broke the news in a post via their website: “It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Dave Smith has died. We’re heartbroken, but take some small solace in knowing he was on the road doing what he loved best in the company of family, friends, and artists.”Smith was born in California and founded Sequential in 1974 when he was in his mid-20s. Four years later, he designed and released the world’s first fully programmable polyphonic synthesiser, the Prophet-5. It was also the first instrument to feature an embedded microprocessor.
In 1981, Smith worked with Sequential engineer Chet Wood to craft a basic MIDI interface. He took his the invention to keyboard manufacturers such as Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi, who had already proposed a universal language for electronic instruments. MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) was debuted that same year, winning Smith and his team Technical Grammys. The first MIDI synth, the Prophet 600, was released in 1983.
Yamaha took over Sequential in 1987, at which point Smith began working as a consultant for various synth companies. In 2002, he launched Dave Smith Instruments, which changed its name to Sequential in 2015 after Yamaha returned the company name. That same year, they released the Prophet-6, an updated and reimagined version of the classic Prophet-5.