How the Mellotron works

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by Motterpaul, Feb 16, 2020.

  1. themannamedbones

    themannamedbones Member

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  2. StratoCraig

    StratoCraig Member

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    Another fun detail about the Mellotron is that, as a British invention, it assumed that the power mains would provide stable voltage. Early Mellotrons therefore worked well in Britain, where the voltage was stable, but less so in the US, where it would go up and down inversely with demand. When the Moodies first toured the US with a Mellotron, Pinder would tune it at the concert venue during the day, but find it out of tune during the show because everyone in the city had gone home and turned on their air conditioners. He soon learned to tune it just before the show and pray that the voltage remained stable for a while.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2020
  3. deeohgee

    deeohgee Member

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    Love Mellotron flute

     
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  4. 71strat

    71strat Member

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    Buddy of mine has an original M300 he bought new in 68. He doesn't play out anymore, and gets little use. Probably hasn't used it since 1979. They used to play a lot of King Crimson, Genesis and Yes. Also has an original 68 Plex ihe bought new, and 61 LP with Vibrola he bought new.
     
  5. Zuper

    Zuper Supporting Member

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    The Mellotron was just a knock-off of the Chamberlin, stolen and reproduced in England by Bill Franson.
     
  6. yfeefy

    yfeefy Member

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    How the heck do they get the super resonant sound heard on watcher of the skies intro, that's the best sound in the world.
     
  7. sixty2strat

    sixty2strat Member

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    A similar issue happened to the Floyd at an out door festival. the promoter screwed up the generators so at sound check everything was fine. Then when the lights came on the keys went out of tune as the voltage dropped so they only had a piano.
     
  8. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

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    perhaps a bit of studio flanging
     
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  9. teleman1

    teleman1 Supporting Member

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    And didn't the Mellotron come out at the exact right time? Why didn't they make them with sax or oboes?
     
  10. tiktok

    tiktok Supporting Member

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    1: Too many motors required for all the loops, i.e. one for each note. Cost, complexity, physical noise, cost.

    2: Tape loops would be degrading as long as the machine was turned on, even if no notes were playing.

    3: You'd lose the attack.

    All instruments have "limitations" which actually contribute to the characteristic strengths of that instrument.
     
  11. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

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    I believe they did. You could only have three sounds on a given machine, but there was a wide selection of sounds to choose those three from.

    Here's a list of currently available samples. Not sure how many were available in the 60's but I think it was more than just the three used in the video.

    3 Violins
    16 Violins
    Solo Violin*
    Solo Viola
    Solo 'Cello
    M300 Strings A ('cello,viola,violin 3 way split)
    M300 Strings B (ala Barkley James Harvest)
    String Section ('cello, viola, 3violins mixed)
    String Section II (viola,3violins,solo violin)*
    Mk II Brass
    GC 3 Brass
    2 Brass (split keyboard- 2 trombones, 2 trumpets)
    2 Saxes (split keyboard- 2 tenors, 2 altos)
    Tenor Sax
    Alto Sax
    Trumpet
    Trombone
    French Horn
    Oboe
    English Horn*
    Recorder*
    Clarinet
    Flute
    Bassoon
    Woodwinds (oboe,flute,clarinet and bassoon)
    Woodwinds II (no bassoon)*
    Pipe Organ
    Piano
    Hammond C-3 (w/ percussion and slow spin Leslie)
    Clavichord
    Vibes (w/ vibrato)
    Wine Glasses
    Celeste*
    Male Choir
    Female Choir
    8 Voice Mixed Choir
    Boys Choir
    Female Solo Voice*
    Jack Bruce
    Accordian
    Guitar (nylon)
    Guitar (steel)
    Mandolin
    Sound FX
    Black Sabbath Sound FX
    Tangerine Dream Sound FX
    Roxy Music Sound FX
     
  12. jdogric12

    jdogric12 Supporting Member

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    Mellotrons have tape strips, not loops. They play for about 8 seconds and then just stop, and you have to let go of the key and let the spring pull the tape back, which takes maybe half a second.

    The Watcher intro is brass and strings mixed. Each tape rack has 3 sounds. There is an ABC switch that mechanically slides the whole tape rack over slightly so that the certain sound is positioned over the tape heads. You can blend A/B and B/C this way. Tony ran all his keyboards in the Gabriel era through the organ into a Leslie, always on slow, never fast.
     
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  13. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

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  14. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

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    That must be where I got the flanging idea from. Thanks
     
  15. S. F. Sorrow

    S. F. Sorrow Member

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    Drunk girl with Chamberlin...

     
  16. S. F. Sorrow

    S. F. Sorrow Member

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    Because of the unstableness of tapes some tried optical discs. Rick Wakeman used a Birotron briefly. Also there was the Orchestron. Mattel even made an optical disc gizmo called the Optigan.



     
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  17. SnidelyWhiplash

    SnidelyWhiplash Supporting Member

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    I have heard that the " Spanish " guitar sound right before " Bungalow Bill " was
    the pre-recorded tape of the Mellotron. :cool:
     
  18. StratoCraig

    StratoCraig Member

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    I thought it was a flamenco recording from EMI's library, but I see the usual sources say it was a Mellotron. Interesting. I suspect, though, that the whole run of notes were on one tape and all they did was hold one key down to play it.
     
  19. SnidelyWhiplash

    SnidelyWhiplash Supporting Member

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  20. Tiny Montgomery

    Tiny Montgomery Supporting Member

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    Definitely.
     

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