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Inside a mellotron: a closer look at an enigmatic instrument

Alison Stout of Bell Tone Synth Works has restored a 1976 Mellotron M400 and has given us a closer look at the inner workings of the famous yet ethereal instrument.
Created in England in 1963, the Mellotron is a polyphonic tape replay keyboard. It evolved from a previous instrument, the Chamberlin, and was favoured for its ability to be mass-produced. Popularity declined in the 1980s after the advent of polyphonic synthesisers and samplers, however it had a profound impact at the time and continues to be used today.

The Mellotron was immortalised on many recordings of the 1960s and 70s – adding to them what author Thom Holmes described as an “eerie, unearthly sound.” The instrument was used by The Beatles on several tracks, including Strawberry Fields Forever, as well as by The Zombies, The Moody Blues, King Crimson, and Genesis.

In the video, Stout explains the mechanics of a model that she restored; including the functions of the device, switching between the flute, violin and cello tones. She goes on to explain in some detail the electronic components and the fascinating mechanics and tape based tone generation of the instrument.

Check out the Bell Tone Synth Works blog for more information.


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August 7, 2019