The Mellotron: A Keyboard from 1965

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The Mellotron: A Keyboard from 1965

Postby Hugh-AR » 28 Jun 2020 20:02

Is this the mother of all modern keyboards?
British T.V. personalities, Eric Robinson and David Nixon, introduce us to an electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard otherwise known as the 'Mellotron.'

The Mellotron: A Keyboard with the Power of an Orchestra (1965) | British Pathé



And this is the Mellotron M400.
Here's a look inside a Mellotron M400 we just restored and an explanation of how it works! The famous (or notorious) Mellotron M400, made in the 1970s, is a unique keyboard instrument in which every key plays back a recording of that note on actual magnetic tape.

Inside a Mellotron M400: How the Mellotron Works

It's all about the music ♫ ♪ ♫ Organ: Yamaha AR80
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Re: The Mellotron: A Keyboard from 1965

Postby Brian007 » 29 Jun 2020 09:15

Hi Hugh,

Used on a few pop tunes but not something you would want to use live I would have thought looking at those tapes, I know the problems I had with the tape echo chamber back in the day, made famous by the Beatles and Strawberry Fields


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Re: The Mellotron: A Keyboard from 1965

Postby Hugh-AR » 29 Jun 2020 10:45

Hi Brian,

I suppose the Mellotron was early days of 'sampling' ie. they recorded a sound from a real instrument onto tape, one 'sample' for every note of the chosen instrument .. and then when you played the notes the tape head ran down the tape and played what was recorded on it. Mechanically, it must have worked pretty fast when you played something at speed. And I noted that if you held a note for longer than the length of the tape it would just cut the note off.

Of course, now we do 'digital' sampling. And I am just wondering here how they do that? If they just took one sample of an instrument and put that across the board, the instrument wouldn't sound right at pitches other than the one where the sample was taken. Real instruments change their intonation as you play them, lower notes sounding different to the higher ones. I know that on my organ a trombone 'growls' as you play it lower down, and that growl isn't there when you play it higher up.

I wish sometimes on older organs like mine they hadn't called the Voices by the names of instruments like Trombone, Clarinet, Saxophone etc. as the listener is then spending all their time concentrating on how good the keyboard instrument sounds compared with the real thing .. rather than just listening to the music and the great sounds we get. In fact, what is a real turn-off for me is when you get keyboards playing eg. a guitar and you can hear the fingers running up and down the frets, or bass notes on an organ and you can hear the feet working the pedals. It may be authentic, but that, to me, is not part of the music one is listening to.

Hugh
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