The ability to record sounds is often connected to the production of electronic music, but not absolutely necessary for it. The earliest known sound recording device was the phonautograph, patented in 1857 by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. It could record sounds visually, but was not meant to play them back.
In 1876, engineer Elisha Gray filed a patent for the electromechanical oscillator. This "Musical Telegraph," evolved out of his experiments with telephone technology and is the earliest extant patent for producing electronic sound. This oscillator was expanded on by Alexander Graham Bell for the early telephone. By 1878, Thomas A. Edison further developed the oscillator for the phonograph, which also used cylinders similar to Scott's device. Although cylinders continued in use for some time, Emile Berliner developed the disc phonograph in 1887. Lee De Forest's 1906 invention, the triode audion tube, later had a profound affect on electronic music. It was the first thermionic valve, or vacuum tube, and led to circuits that could create and amplify audio signals, broadcast radio waves, compute values, and perform many other functions.
Before electronic music, there was a growing desire for composers to use emerging technologies for musical purposes. Several instruments were created that employed electromechanical designs and they paved the way for the later emergence of electronic instruments. An electromechanical instrument called the Telharmonium (sometimes Teleharmonium or Dynamophone) was developed by Thaddeus Cahill in the years 1898–1912. However, simple inconvenience hindered the adoption of the Telharmonium, due to its immense size. One early electronic instrument often mentioned may be the Theremin, invented by Professor Léon Theremin circa 1919–1920. Other early electronic instruments include the Audion Piano invented in 1915 by Lee De Forest who was inventor of triode audion as mentioned above, the Croix Sonore, invented in 1926 by Nikolai Obukhov, and the Ondes Martenot, which was most famously used in the Turangalîla-Symphonie by Olivier Messiaen as well as other works by him. The Ondes Martenot was also used by other, primarily French, composers such as Andre Jolivet.