The first modular synthesizer was developed by German engineer Harald Bode in the late 1950s. The 1960s saw the introduction of the Moog synthesizer and the Buchla Modular Electronic Music System, created around the same period. The Moog was composed of separate modules which created and shaped sounds, such as envelopes, noise generators, filters, and sequencers,connected by patch cords.

The Japanese company Roland released the Roland System 100 in 1975, followed by the System 700 in 1976 and the System 100m in 1979.

In the late 1970s, modular synthesizers started to be largely supplanted in pop music by highly integrated keyboard synthesizers, racks of MIDI-connected gear, and samplers. By the 1990s, modular synthesizers had fallen out of favor compared to cheaper, smaller digital and software synthesizers. However, there continued to be a community who chose the physically patched approach, the flexibility and the sound of traditional modular systems.

Since the late 1990s,[when?] there has been a resurgence in the popularity of analog synthesizers aided by physical standardization practices, an increase in available retro gear and interest, decreased production costs and increased electronic reliability and stability, the rediscovered ability of modules to control things other than sound, and a generally heightened education through the development of virtual synthesis systems such as VCV Rack, MAX/MSP, Pd and Reaktor etc.