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Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Petary791, May 4, 2006.

  1. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    Does a Mellotron kind of sound like an orchestra/strings keyboard synth thing? I've been trying to figure out what it is, and I think i've got it.
  2. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Imagine a keyboard that instead of digital sounds produced with every key, that each key turns on a tape player with a prerecorded tone on it.

    They were used on the horn parts of Strawberry Fields, but I struggle to find out exactly what parts the Mellotron is playing in the early King Crimson recordings.
  3. plus it was that flute-sounding intro wasn't it?

    anyways, for an easy way to understand how it works, check out this -> http://mysterycircuits.com/melloman/melloman.html

    i believe you could put anything in the tapes, whether guitar, violin, cello...whatever
  4. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    Wow, for whatever reason, that's kind of mind-boggling to me.

    So is that why they're so expensive? Also, are you not able to hold down notes for a really long time then? Will you run out of tape?
  5. Mike Pinder played one quite extensively on the '60s Moody Blues albums, IIRC.
  6. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    They're expensive because they are rare, old... and were so hard to deal with I'm sure more than a few were publicly burned.

    There are many, many good software based samplers out there that can do the job a hundred times better.

    Mellotron would make a good band name though.

    When I think of Mellotrons I remember one fated day in 1974 when, on the same day, I saw a Mellotron in Pawn Shop for $400, and then later was offered a 1949 fully chopped Indian for the same price. I passed on both (stupid, stupid, stupid!)
  7. Search on the internet for "Mellotron VSTI" - you should find the Gforce one...a VST Mellotron, theres also Modular Moogs, MiniMoogs, Organs and LOADS of other vst keyboards out there if you've got cubase and use midi!
  8. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    As a matter of fact, I believe Rick Wakeman indeed torched one of his out of frustration!
  9. wwittman


    Apr 21, 2004
    Westchester, NY
    the first "sampling" keyboard... each noet literally was a tape head that pulled a loop (about 8 seconds worth) of tape over it with a master pinch roller...

    the opening flute of Strawberry Fields as well as the opening guitar run in Bungalow Bill are Mellotron.

    the Mellotron string sound is all over the Moody Blues early records as well as In The Court Of The Crimson King.
    both those bands mixed real flutes and other woodwinds (in the case of Ian McDonald and Crimson) to confuse what was real and what was Mellotron.
  10. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
  11. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    Nope, it just stops. Mellotron players developed a kind of "spider" playing technique to keep the sound going. ;) Though I suppose a few tapes have broken over the years!

    Later on, a similar instrument called the Birotron was developed (in part with Rick Wakeman), which indeed used tape loops. It never took off though.
  12. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    That's crazy, why on earth isn't the tape in a loop I wonder?
  13. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    The easiest to pick out examples I can think of is Starless by King Crimson. That starts out just mellotron and bass and drums.
  14. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Oregon, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    A tape loop prevents the use of sounds that have a distinct attack (like a piano, guitar, bells, etc.), which I assume would be a problem for people who wanted to use it as a sampler keyboard instead of a weird instrument with its own quirky sound. I've been thinking of doing a Melloman-style diy Mellotron/Chamberlin, and I'm definitely going to use loops (largely to capitalize on the unnatural sound of loops, partly because it's way easier).

    Hey, man, I haven't seen you at the Bass Players Named Taylor meetings lately... everything okay?
  15. Garry Goodman

    Garry Goodman

    Feb 26, 2003
    The mellotron was taken from an earlier instrument called the Chamberlain.I purchased a Chamberlain from Richard Chamberlain , son of the originator around 1977 and saw the original models from....the late 1950's created by his father.Tapes looped always had a minute "skip' in them.The last Chamberlaina used mylar tape and were 8 tracks,a different instrument on each track. By flipping the lever on the top of the keyboard all twent something notes shifted to the next instrument.They were also stereo.
    They really sounded great for the time,an American invention. Mellotron, a Brittish company "borrowed" the idea.The Beatles used one for the flutes on "Stawberry Fields". Flute,Violin,Cello,Trumpet,Trombone , and Female voice "Aahs" were among the stock voices.The first Chamberlains and Mellotrons were hugh,but my 1977 model was pretty much portable.

    On a cold day,it was recommended we use a hair dryer to heat the tape to make it play easier.The 80's brought the "Birotron" a disk player and of course the Samplers started showing up.We paid $3500.00 in 1977 for a Chamberlain. They were worth every penny.
  16. wwittman


    Apr 21, 2004
    Westchester, NY
    here's a longer history:

    the tape loop, as someone said, had an actual breath at the front of the flute or strike at the beginning of the guitar note and so on... so it needed a start and end.
    When it ended it just stopped (or actually sometimes it stopped with a little zip as it hit the end), then it was quite clever really... when you released the key, a spring pulled the loop back down quickly.

    I mispoke earlier by the way, just for the sake of accuracy... they had a master CAPSTAN and when you pressed the key you basically pressed a pressure pad against the tape whichh pressed it against the spinning capstan which dragged the tape over the play head.
    The tapes were 3 track but the playback head was onyl 1 track, so by turning a knob, you mechancially slid the head form one track to another effectively chagning or blending instruments.
  17. Garry Goodman

    Garry Goodman

    Feb 26, 2003
    Yeah,and you could tune the entire "patch" by slowing down or speeding up the tape speed with a pot on top the keyboard.
  18. elros


    Apr 24, 2004
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    If you want something that is even weirder and much less useful, check out the Optigan.

    I love the Mellotron sounds. There's a lot of great Mellotron playing on the early Genesis records.
  19. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Ah, that makes sense. Wow.

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