Sequential Founder & ‘Father Of MIDI’ Dave Smith Has Died

Sequential announced today that founder Dave Smith has died:

“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.”

Dave Smith (1950–2022) was one of the most influential electronic music gear designers, not just of his generation, but of all time.

He founded Sequential Circuits in 1974, which went on to release a string of classic instruments, including the Prophet-5, the world’s first fully-programmable polyphonic synth; the Pro-One, widely considered to be one of the best monophonic synthesizers of all time; and the Drumtraks, the first MIDI-compatible sample-based drum machine.

In 1981, Smith presented a paper at the Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention in New York proposing a USI (Universal Synthesizer Interface), as a technical solution for interconnecting electronic musical instruments. With the input of several other companies, Smith developed this into MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), and went on to create the first MIDI synth, the Prophet-600, in December 1982. At the January 1983 NAMM show, MIDI debuted as a new standard, when a Prophet-600 and a Roland Jupiter 6 were connected and performed together.

After Sequential went under, Smith worked with both Yamaha and Korg, where he helped create the Wavestation. In 1997, he developed the first professional software synth, Reality.

Smith prefered hardware, though, so in 2002 he launched Dave Smith Instruments with the Evolver hybrid analog/digital synthesizer in 2002. This was followed with a series of modern classics, including the Prophet X, the Prophet-6 and the OB-6 (in collaboration with Tom Oberheim).

In 2013, Dave Smith and Roland’s Ikutaro Kakehashi received a Technical Grammy for their contributions to the development of MIDI.

Dave Smith (center) with fellow pioneers Roger Linn (left) and Tom Oberheim (right).

In 2018, Dave Smith Instruments changed its name to Sequential. At the time, Smith noted that he wanted to “restore the Sequential brand and bring our journey as a company full circle.” But he also said that “The name change also reflects the fact that our instruments are the result of a team effort. It’s not just me, it’s the entire company.”

As Sequential, Smith’s company has had one of the finest lines of synthesizers of any company, ever, highlighted by instruments like the OB-6, the Prophet-6, the Pro-3, the Take 5 compact poly, and the reissues of the classic Prophet-5 and Prophet-10 synthesizers.

Even into his 70s, Smith worked at a fierce pace.

In 2021, Sequential was acquired by Focusrite, where Sequential operated as an independent entity, with Smith leading engineering, product development and mentorship of Sequential’s new breed of designers. Smith also collaborated with Tom Oberheim on the recently announced Oberheim OB-X8 and was on-hand a few weeks ago at Superbooth 2022, where the OB-X8 was introduced.

 

Dave Smith

For those that might want to raise a toast to the legend, here’s his Margarita recipe:

Dave’s Margarita

  1. Pour a lot of high-quality reposado tequila over ice
  2. Add a splash of Cointreau
  3. Add fresh lime to taste
  4. Drink any time (especially these days); ideally while working on a new synth design (it helps).

 

 

Recipe from The Pyjama Cookbook

80 thoughts on “Sequential Founder & ‘Father Of MIDI’ Dave Smith Has Died

  1. So many of us owe a debt of gratitude to Dave’s involvement with MIDI plus his synths are mega cool.
    Rest well you legend.

    1. Absolutely. Dave’s Prophet 5 v3 enabled me to make a living as a working musician in the 1980s, and it became such a personal favorite of mine. Should’ve never let her go, but I’m glad that Dave kept developing his Sequential products so maybe I’ll pick up another Prophet for sentimental sake … and for live gigs and recordings.

  2. ? I am beside myself. What a legend. He will be missed by the world. My condolences to his family. I am in shock and deeply deeply sad by this news.

  3. I feel very angry about the fact such influencing pioneer of all electronic music died at such a great time for the revival and rebirth of all the things he invented or brought to this world. I hope it did not happen due to some medical mistake or something like that. I feel very sad. RIP Dave.

  4. I have a funny story about Dave: at the Synthplex Expo 2019 where Dave gave a talk and had a booth, I asked him how come they never made the filter knobs of their synths bigger than the rest of the knobs (like most synth do), and he just shrugged with a poker face. Just a few months after that, they introduced the Pro 3 that, to my surprise, has a huge filter knob! Not saying my comment had anything to do with it, as obviously they had made that decision way before, but what a coincidence! I’m glad a had the change to meet him in person.

    1. I was there and I remember your question… and his shrug. At the time I was thinking, “leave the guy alone. He’s a genius and he can make the knobs as big as he likes.” LOL Glad you shared this as it’s one of many memories I have of the unassailable Dave Smith. What a profound loss. What a towering legacy.

  5. I can’t believe it. I just ran into him at SuperBooth a couple of weeks ago and he casually shared the kindest smile with me. I was too shy to say hello that day, but I will still never forget his friendly aura.

    1. Hé wil be remembered as time goes by and the sound will stay forever as used on many records and by a lot of artist

  6. Ive owned allot of electronic instruments, my Prophet 6 is more cherished by me than even my Voyager, he was a signal design genius.

  7. I was in my last semester of Electronic school in 1986. I was very interested in the electronic music and learned about the midi specification through a Magazine called Electronic Musician. I sent away for the Midi specification and authored a technical paper for school explaining the specification. I remember my first sound card, I got from a computer manufacturer I worked for, and got my first exposure to Midi sequencing on a computer. Dave’s work was a huge contribution to music that surpassed keyboards. My main instrument is guitar and now I can play all kind of virtual instruments on my laptop using a guitar synthesizer and midi. So cool. Thank you Dave!

  8. This’s gonna be tough to try and swallow. The lump in my throat, pain in my heart & the ache in my soul will be hard to get past. I thought the recent passing of Vangelis (one my heroes) was difficult, this one shakes me to my core. Without DaveS.none of us would be doin’ what we do with synths and electronics. His grace, judgement & just his complete where with all of all things that have to do with the music world as a whole, could not of, would not of & just plain never even been, without this great man. His integrity & legend will live on forever to the farthest of fruition of infinity. Every time someone plugs into an effect pedal, connects a MIDI cable, turns a knobpot, slides a slider or simply strikes a black or white key on a keyboard, his contribution & genius for all these things we love and the inspiration he fueled by his immaculate perceptions can’t be measured by any scale or stretch of the imagination, truly one of the greats, he will be missed, may he be remembered, never forgotten & may the greatest honor be bestowed upon him & his family, you were coolest ever Dave Smith rest gently friend in paradise Rest in Peace dude

  9. puts the partnership with Focusrite in a new light. like he was given a diagnosis that he has certain number of months to live and he decided to put plans in place. releasing Prophet 5/10 as a farewell and Take 5 as a keepsake for those on a budget. just my guess. big loss. gone way too soon. he had at least 10 years in him.

  10. Very sad to hear. He seemed to be still very active. I remember when he first started DSI he set up an unassuming 10’x10′ booth at winter NAMM and it was just him and Chris. He was always incredibly friendly and definitely learned from his experience w/ Sequential Circuits. He grew DSI perfectly into what it is today. I am sure he is extremely proud.

  11. Amazing designer and amazing instruments , I own a T8 , Drumtraks and 6 Track and have loved these for years. Thank you for everything and rest well!

  12. Wow what a loss! Really caught me by surprise! I’m happy he and I drink the same brand of tequila. Vaya con Dios amigo!

  13. Awe man…that sucks. Got to chat with him a bit at Superbooth in 2019. Really nice, down-to-Earth kind of guy. I remember Yiannis (from Dreadbox) telling me that at the end of the first Superbooth, Dave was standing in line with everybody else to return the equipment that was loaned out for the event. That speaks volumes about his approach to doing his business.

  14. Thanks for all the wonderful instruments Dave!
    Good luck to the people of Sequential hope they will be able to continue.

    1. This is a great thing to remember. Almost every other digital communication protocol, musical or not, has been replaced many times over. Everyone involved with electronic music, or computer design, has to figure out how to integrate MIDI. (Even a decision NOT to integrate MIDI has to consider Dave’s work.)

  15. Dave Smith………….he always seemed so cool. He changed the world. I always remember ‘Reality’ the softsynth. That was a big game changer. It is great that he got Take 5 out like he did. What a great looking synth. I am sure the synth world all over the world will be mourning his death but celebrating his purposeful life. Your synths will live on Dave….you made such a big contribution.

  16. Truly one of the giants. I’m fortunate enough to have bought a Pro 2, one of his more unique and versatile creations. Now I’ll be a little sad when I power it on, but it’s also a little bit of Dave I can remember. R.I.P.

  17. I never meet him but him seemed like a decent guy. Its strange but my poly evolver will take on slightly different meaning after today which makes me realise the different relationship one has with a synths/instrument. I don’t remember looking at my Apple Mac after Steve Jobs died and feeling the same thing, and that’s no disrespect to Jobs just the peculiarity of the way you relate to a synth I guess. Rest in peace Dave!

  18. The Pro 2 is still, in my opinion, the greatest mono-synth of all time. Dave Smith radiated a rare, mischievous warmth, and I am indebted to his contributions to synthesis and instrument design.

  19. When I read he passed away, my jaw dropped to the ground. I don’t think anyone else could match his skill. May he rest in peace. He’s probably still designing synths… upstairs.

  20. Shook his hand and got a selfie with him not three weeks ago at Superbooth

    Also had a go of all his awesome gear at his booth

    Absolute legend and a total gent – he will be sorely missed

    RIP Dave Smith 🙁

  21. His role in music and midi and its cultural revolution will never be fully measured. Dave Smith was more important than Kraftwerk , He allowed ordinary people without huge budgets access to the world of midi. He did not patent it or force us to licence it. He did a lot for many of us and has massively impacted on our lifes . I have had lots of records out and I have played in various great venues etc Thank you Dave Smith for allowing me access to your thinking and creativety. MIDi is your legacy and many other things. You looked friendly and you where respectful. RIP and thank you .

  22. I’m shocked and sad to hear of Dave’s passing.
    He was a genius, talented with a great personality. I loved to watch him demo his gear, the riff’s he created were excellent.
    My first analog synth was a Tetra, that i still own and I’ve just bought a Prophet Rev2 16 voice.
    Last year I commented on the Sequential YouTube channel, congratulating Dave on his retirement but I was hoping he would’ve had a bit longer than this.
    R.I.P Dave smith you’re a LEGEND.

  23. What a contribution he made to music technology, particularly the vision to propose what became midi. It is such a facilitative, co-operative concept,, transforming electronic music. A life well lived.

  24. He made a huge contribution to electronic music. What a sad day for all of us who have benefited from his creative genius. RP and vale Dave Smith.

  25. I remember back when the Casio FZ-1 16 bit sampler came out. Dave Smith criticized it after testing one with equipment. He said the actual resolution was more like 15 bits. He talked about what he thought were design flaws. He was criticized for attacking a rival company. I didn’t agree. If Dave’s claims turned out to be true, then he was doing a good thing for consumers considering purchasing one. I never heard anyone refute his claims.

    1. 15 bit would mean 90 dB dynamic resolution instead of 96.
      He really didn’t know what he was talking about if he only disliked it because of that.

  26. RIP Dave. Heartfelt condolences to your family Dave. You’ll never be forgotten! Your spirit lives through your keyboards and your family

  27. Dang. I was hoping to meet up with him again sometime in the future so I could apologize for the time that he and I were on a road trip together (demo’ing some tech to Korg) and I mistakenly got hotel rooms for us in a crappy hotel. He never complained about it.

  28. Dave Smith’s name should be right there next to Bob Moog and all the other great synth pioneers. Gone but never forgotten.

  29. When I received the news via text, like many I was overcome with sadness and lament. Dave Smith is giant amongst giants in the industry, however you would never know it. As the acclaim for synth designers rose, and their status elevated, Dave remained the same man he had always been. That is what character is, an unwavering centre regardless of the whirlwind around you. For all that he accomplished, and they were considerable, the greatest testament to his persona is the kindness and gentle soul that he was and remained to all that came in contact with him.

    That is what remains. All the synths and technologies will progress and evolve, yet the kindness and humanity are the true testament of any person, that standard will remain a constant.

    I am delighted that through the hardships, failures, and triumphs, his career truly came full circle. From having to close down his doors because no on saw value in his synth company, to the resurrection, and then selling it on his terms…..well done Sir…well done indeed.

    May your spirit shine more brilliantly with every mention of your good name.

  30. Such a great great man, I’m really sad that I never got to meet him and shake his hand.
    He is at the top of the list of my ultimate heros, I’m so thankful for the inspiration and ambition he has given me.
    RIP Dave, I’ll be getting on that margerita recipe for sure!
    Brad xx

  31. I had the opportunity to visit Sequential (then DSI) at their HQ in San Francisco. They were gracious in showing me around and letting me noodle around on the synths in their demo room. Dave was hard at work debugging a new product. I am so sad to hear of his death, but it was inspiring to see a man doing exactly what he loved to do. Rest in peace, Mr. Smith.

  32. To hear of Dave Smith’s passing. It just took my breath away. Sitting in utter silence and just…..stunned….. looking at the website. I don’t have wall to wall synths or a music studio. I simply have one instrument. That is the Take 5 synthesizer. My first synthesizer. I recently just purchased it. I love it and am honored by the name on it. I feel like Dave Smith made something for me. His life long passion and dedication to his craft found it’s way to the other end of this spectrum. And it allowed me to experience a tiny sliver of what it must feel like to have greatness in your hands. Sound flowing so rich like a river, under your fingers. Thank you Dave Smith and Sequential for making my dream come true. I feel like I found a missing piece of my life. And the ability to create and make music with joy. I’m sure hearing that would make Dave Smith feel very happy. He touched another life.

  33. Dave was such a generous guy on the 2 occasions I met him he always had time to chat RIP DAVE

  34. I am having a Margarita to celebrate his life and all the wonderful things he has accomplished. RIP Dave.

  35. Not many people have changed the course of music history.

    RIP Dave Smith. Thank you. You will be remembered.

  36. Wow what a miserable month for electronic music.

    Thanks so much Dave for the amazing instruments and for changing the world with MIDI.

    In addition to helping to reignite the analog renaissance, DSI/Sequential is what got me personally into analog synths with the Prophet ’08. I really hope they can continue to make great instruments and to honor Dave Smith’s astonishing legacy.

    Also I don’t know if it was actually Dave Smith who signed an email when I sent in a question, but I wrote back at the time to express my gratitude and I hope he got the message!

  37. While we all know that Dave developed amazing technology, let us not forget how much he changed the trajectory of many of our lives. I, for one, would have had a different life. MIDI enabled dozens (now hundreds?) of hardware and software companies, not to mention all the music that was created with this new technology. My sincere sympathies to his family, the Sequential family and the extended community of those who were touched by his warmth and brilliance. Thank you Dave, we will never forget.

  38. Damn, this hurts. RIP Dave! The Evolver was the synth that actually taught me what all the knobs are supposed to do.

  39. How could this be!? He seemed fine not too long ago in videos. The world already feels emptier. One of, if not my favorite, synth legend. This honestly has felt like the worst year in modern times, everything going on is so mentally draining and soul crushing. My condolences to the family and friends.

  40. My deepest sympathies. My thoughs are with the Sequential team and Dave’s family. He will be missed so much.

    Dave had the unparalleled passion to create the ultimate electronic instrument and he succeeded so many many times. Dave and Andy made it possible that my software SampleRobot could suddenly speak the language of the Prophet X, a wonderful collaboration I’m very grateful for. He was warm-hearted and you could feel his enthusiasm everywhere. When having a chat with him at Superbooth it was like talking with an old friend.

    When I look around the studio I see his spirit everywhere: Prophet VS, evolver, POLY evolver, Pro 2, Wavestation and Prophet X. What a wonderful legacy. For a moment I stay silent, remembering his calm voice and letting his instruments sing.

    Rest in peace and thank you, Dave.

  41. So sad to read that Dave is gone. His products have been such a big part of my life since 1981 when I bougth my first Prophet 5 Rev2. Since then I’ve had one or more of his artwork in my rig, Wavestation, Prophet 08, Prophet 12 and then finally a prophet 5 again, that one I will keep as long as I live. Thank you Dave for everythong you did for us.

    1. It isn’t wrong to honor someone’s life and work, and to acknowledge the positive impact that they’ve had.

      It is a mistake to mock people’s sincere expressions of appreciation, or of sadness and loss.

  42. I met him at SB two weeks ago, and I thanked him for the Prophets, for giving us all MIDI, and for what he did for and together with Tom. He just smiled and I got starstruck for the first time in my life.
    Since, I wondered if my ‘speech’ wasn’t a bit over the top, now I’m glad I did praise him. He earned it.

  43. Very heavy heart over this. Im not even a big fan, but have LOTS of respect for this man, and his marvellous Prophet VS. I just cant help but wonder if his departure is related to a certain ‘experimental’ medical intervention. Ive been coming across many scenarios both personal and at large of people who are in good health suddenly, unexpectedly shutting down, with no clear indicators. Controversial topic, I know, but important. I dont know anything ultimately, but have the question nagging in the back of my mind. He will be missed greatly, condolences to all who knew him.

  44. He was (as far as I know) the first designer and engineer to seamlessly bridge the then-nascent realms of analog and digital audio, in the service of music. Forever in awe of his skills, forever grateful for that which he brought into the/my world.

  45. It is sad, but what an amazing legacy. I am convinced that his team and Focusrite will keep doing Dave justice for decades to come.

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