UK Vintage Radio Repair and Restoration Powered By Google Custom Search Vintage Radio Service Data

Go Back   UK Vintage Radio Repair and Restoration Discussion Forum > Specific Vintage Equipment > Other Vintage Household Electrical or Electromechanical Items

Notices

Other Vintage Household Electrical or Electromechanical Items For discussions about other vintage (over 25 years old) electrical and electromechanical household items. See the sticky thread for details.

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old 6th Nov 2019, 9:13 pm   #21
Gulliver
Hexode
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Luton, Bedfordshire, UK.
Posts: 396
Default Re: Mellotron!

Tony Banks of Genesis is said to have bought the mellotron from Robert Fripp which was used on "In The Court Of The Crimson King"...and that it is that very instrument we hear on Watcher Of The Skies. Although he'd rented one for Trespass (1970) it was Steve Hackett who persuaded Banks to purchase one for Nursery Cryme (1971)...Hackett being a Crimson fan.

When Genesis had their first concerts in the USA there was terrible trouble getting their Mellotron to work properly, made worse by the relatively crude equipment they were using to convert 120V to 240V. I think both Collins and Banks have stated that on their first US tour the Mellotron never really worked properly with Banks and the stage technician constantly adjusting it.

There's some hilarious footage of Rick Wakeman playing "the new Mellotron Sound" during recording sessions for Going For The One in 1977. Of course it was Wakeman who played on Bowie's Space Oddity, being considered the only keyboard player who knew how to keep the thing in tune.

I love how it sounds so eerie....despite being recordings of actual instruments and voices it sounds unreal - and I mean that as a compliment. It has character of it's own also imbued by the 7 second tape length and rewind time....no note can last longer than 7 seconds and generally cannot be repeated rapidly. It leads to interesting chord structures (see Watcher) and playing techniques. And sounds glorious in it's own way.
Gulliver is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th Nov 2019, 10:05 pm   #22
G6Tanuki
Dekatron
 
G6Tanuki's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Wiltshire, UK.
Posts: 7,763
Default Re: Mellotron!

I remember hearing a program on prog-rock in the 80s where the Mellotron was discussed - apparently if you played some chords involving a large number of 'notes' at the same time, the total load on the drive-motor became enough that all the notes played slightly slow-and-wobbly!
G6Tanuki is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th Nov 2019, 10:34 pm   #23
mole42uk
Octode
 
mole42uk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Bristol, UK
Posts: 1,773
Default Re: Mellotron!

The first electronic keyboard instrument I was ever asked to repair was a Mellotron. The tapes had become mis-aligned and I spent an age getting it all working again.
__________________
Richard

Index:
recursive loop: see recursive loop
mole42uk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th Nov 2019, 10:52 pm   #24
dglcomp
Hexode
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Portland, Dorset, UK.
Posts: 281
Default Re: Mellotron!

and adding to this there was the Orchestron and other derivatives of the film sound track style optical disc systems Mattel invented with the Optigan. Notably used by Kraftwerk for their string and choir sounds, of which the choir on Uranium was later sampled into the Emulator for Blue Monday. Also interesting is that the foremost Orchestron expert who has a lot of the master tapes reckons that the Orchestron choir is probably nicked from the Mellotron.
The only real advantage it had over the 'tron was that there was no 8? second time limit although plus supposedly the optical playback system was more robust, with sounds on plastic optical disks, the disadvantage, of course, was that sounds that relied on a specific envelope as the sound progressed could not be sampled very well unlike on the 'tron. It was also very Lo-Fi and did not sound as good as the 'tron.

As for the 8 track based system that was the Birotron, I believe rick wakeman put some money into it and it had an envelope generator designed by Bob Moog. I believe wakeman got annoyed with his and set it on fire!

Last edited by dglcomp; 6th Nov 2019 at 11:02 pm.
dglcomp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th Nov 2019, 8:29 am   #25
Radio Wrangler
Dekatron
 
Radio Wrangler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Fife, Scotland, UK.
Posts: 12,596
Default Re: Mellotron!

There was also the 'Chamberlin', the earliest tape-organ from which the Mellotron was derived. There is an interesting tale of the Chamberlin salesman going rogue, running away with one and setting up abroad in opposition.

David
__________________
Can't afford the volcanic island yet, but the plans for my monorail and the goons' uniforms are done
Radio Wrangler is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 7th Nov 2019, 9:05 am   #26
jjl
Heptode
 
jjl's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Ware, Herts. UK.
Posts: 842
Default Re: Mellotron!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hartley118 View Post
I do remember that the first TV show to be dubbed using NECAM D was ‘Blakes 7’- remember that? I particularly admired the patience and stamina of dubbing engineer Malcolm Johnson, who not only had to learn the new system, but cope with various bugs and crashes. NECAM at that time was based on a minicomputer with a pair of 8-inch floppy disc drives storing the real-time data, so the potential for errors was quite exciting!

Martin
I remember Blake's 7 very well; it was one of my favourites when I was 13.

One of Neve's competitors, Solid State Logic were still using Computer Automation Naked Mini computers to automate their VCA based mixing consoles when I left there in '89. There were a couple of aborted attempts to update the "studio computer" to something more modern and capable around my time there.
All software for the Naked Mini based studio computer was written in assembler and the person who maintained it was a very capable but rather irascible engineer who sported the beard and cardigan look. He was of the opinion that high level programming languages would never catch on even though many SSL projects had been using C, C++ and Pascal for several years by that time.

John
jjl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th Nov 2019, 10:20 am   #27
dglcomp
Hexode
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Portland, Dorset, UK.
Posts: 281
Default Re: Mellotron!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio Wrangler View Post
There was also the 'Chamberlin', the earliest tape-organ from which the Mellotron was derived. There is an interesting tale of the Chamberlin salesman going rogue, running away with one and setting up abroad in opposition.

David
Yes, supposedly the bloke came over to Britain to look for someone who could make tape heads for them, being a quite specialized use as they all had to be pretty identical to one another, plus combine that with the amount of heads required you realise why finding a suitable manufacturer was quite difficult.

Here is a Wikipedia except on what supposedly happened,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wikipedia
The concept of the Mellotron originated when Chamberlin's sales agent, Bill Fransen, brought two of Chamberlin's Musicmaster 600 instruments to England in 1962 to search for someone who could manufacture 70 matching tape heads for future Chamberlins. He met Frank, Norman and Les Bradley of tape engineering company Bradmatic Ltd, who said they could improve on the original design.

Fransen failed to explain to the Bradleys that he was not the owner of the concept, and Chamberlin was unhappy with the fact that someone overseas was copying his idea. After some acrimony between the two parties, a deal was struck between them in 1966, whereby they would both continue to manufacture instruments independently.
As an extra bit Rick Wakeman is supposedly one of the very few people who can keep a mellotron in tune whilst playing, having adopted a special playing technique.
dglcomp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th Nov 2019, 12:28 pm   #28
Peter.N.
Dekatron
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Charmouth, Dorset, UK.
Posts: 3,320
Default Re: Mellotron!

I think David Nixon had something to do with designing it - lovely man.

Peter
Peter.N. is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 7th Nov 2019, 2:27 pm   #29
Andrew2
Octode
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Dukinfield, Cheshire, UK.
Posts: 1,498
Default Re: Mellotron!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gulliver View Post
Tony Banks of Genesis is said to have bought the mellotron from Robert Fripp which was used on "In The Court Of The Crimson King"...and that it is that very instrument we hear on Watcher Of The Skies. Although he'd rented one for Trespass (1970) it was Steve Hackett who persuaded Banks to purchase one for Nursery Cryme (1971)...Hackett being a Crimson fan.

When Genesis had their first concerts in the USA there was terrible trouble getting their Mellotron to work properly, made worse by the relatively crude equipment they were using to convert 120V to 240V. I think both Collins and Banks have stated that on their first US tour the Mellotron never really worked properly with Banks and the stage technician constantly adjusting it.

There's some hilarious footage of Rick Wakeman playing "the new Mellotron Sound" during recording sessions for Going For The One in 1977. Of course it was Wakeman who played on Bowie's Space Oddity, being considered the only keyboard player who knew how to keep the thing in tune.

I love how it sounds so eerie....despite being recordings of actual instruments and voices it sounds unreal - and I mean that as a compliment. It has character of it's own also imbued by the 7 second tape length and rewind time....no note can last longer than 7 seconds and generally cannot be repeated rapidly. It leads to interesting chord structures (see Watcher) and playing techniques. And sounds glorious in it's own way.
Funnily enough, this came up in conversation recently with my old mate Pete who comes up from Southend to see me every now and then. Knowing that I'd been re-reading my Mellotron book, he asked why the instrument always sounded so strange and eerie, especially the choral and string sounds.
I didn't know, and the Mellotron book doesn't mention it, but I guessed that perhaps it was a product of the studio recording process at the time, the Mellotron playing via its own amplifier and speakers and being miked-up into the mixing desk. Each step in the chain introducing filtering effects. Dunno, but you are quite right about the weird sound.
__________________
Andy G1HBE.
Andrew2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th Nov 2019, 2:46 pm   #30
Hartley118
Octode
 
Hartley118's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Cambridge, Cambs. UK.
Posts: 1,410
Default Re: Mellotron!

I don’t know about the miking up or otherwise for musical applications of the Mellotron, but ISTR that the BBC sound effects version was directly connected to a desk input.

Martin
__________________
BVWS Member
Hartley118 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th Nov 2019, 1:43 pm   #31
Tractionist
Heptode
 
Join Date: Apr 2016
Location: Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK.
Posts: 585
Default Re: Mellotron!

Hi Chris,

Colin Crawford [the Cheltenham-based piano tuner and member of Sundae Club] has one ..... apparently it's not a good idea to hold the keys down for too long. Also .... one can [apparently] change the various tapes in order to achieve different notes etc.

I suspect that they require regular and very frequent maintenance .....
__________________
Red to red, black to black. Throw the switch and stand well back!
Tractionist is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th Nov 2019, 2:16 pm   #32
Richard_FM
Heptode
 
Richard_FM's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Stockport, Cheshire, UK.
Posts: 893
Default Re: Mellotron!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sideband View Post
I thought one of the best tunes using the Mellotron was Nights In White Satin by the Moody Blues. In fact the Moodys made great use of the Mellotron on all of their albums from 1967 to 1972. I think it's a great sounding instrument.

Haunting in the background to this famous song.....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdykXAT19Go
I read somewhere that one of the Moody Blues worked for the the company that made the Mellotron, which was useful because their's often broke down when using it, as he normally knew how to fix it.
__________________
Beware of the trickster on the roof
Richard_FM is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th Nov 2019, 3:38 pm   #33
Radio Wrangler
Dekatron
 
Radio Wrangler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Fife, Scotland, UK.
Posts: 12,596
Default Re: Mellotron!

Probably the best in yer face mellotron was throughout King Crimson's 'In the Court of the Crimson King'. The most famous was the intro to the Beatles' Strawberry Fields.

The tape sets were intended to be 'easily' swapped so they could be set up with other sounds. This seems to be a new meaning of 'easily'

David
__________________
Can't afford the volcanic island yet, but the plans for my monorail and the goons' uniforms are done
Radio Wrangler is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 8th Nov 2019, 6:42 pm   #34
jjl
Heptode
 
jjl's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Ware, Herts. UK.
Posts: 842
Default Re: Mellotron!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gulliver View Post
I love how it sounds so eerie....despite being recordings of actual instruments and voices it sounds unreal - and I mean that as a compliment. It has character of it's own also imbued by the 7 second tape length and rewind time....no note can last longer than 7 seconds and generally cannot be repeated rapidly. It leads to interesting chord structures (see Watcher) and playing techniques. And sounds glorious in it's own way.
I think that the unique sound is due in part to the mechanism introducing its own speed variations in the reproduced sound i.e. wow and flutter becoming slow and fast vibrato. Also, I believe that all of the playback heads are in series with the output of this chain being fed to a single amplifier. All of those series tape heads would form their own complex combinations of LC filters, the relative phase of notes played together would be unknown and there would be no resemblance of a match to any known tape playback EQ curve.

John
jjl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th Nov 2019, 7:08 pm   #35
Jon_G4MDC
Heptode
 
Jon_G4MDC's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, UK.
Posts: 709
Default Re: Mellotron!

I'm sure the 240V ones worked really well on 60Hz.
Transpose down by 4 semis -ish.

I really can't get used to mains hum in the key of B when it should be in G. It's better I stay at home.

Last edited by Jon_G4MDC; 8th Nov 2019 at 7:17 pm.
Jon_G4MDC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th Nov 2019, 7:29 pm   #36
G6Tanuki
Dekatron
 
G6Tanuki's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Wiltshire, UK.
Posts: 7,763
Default Re: Mellotron!

Though in no way a musician, if I was musically-inclined I would have found the well-documented foibles - in particular the inconsistence, unpredictability and non-reproducibility - of the Mellotron deeply frustrating.

[Wrestling to tie down the vagaries of the instrument rather than focussing on the purity of the performance?]

Perhaps that's why I generally find 'live' performances/recordings to be less-satisfying than their studio-equivalents? And also why everyone switched to digital synthesis/stored-program-content as soon as it became available/affordable?
G6Tanuki is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th Nov 2019, 8:19 pm   #37
stevehertz
Dekatron
 
stevehertz's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Rugeley, Staffordshire, UK.
Posts: 3,928
Default Re: Mellotron!

Fair assessment. From the start, Mellotrons were always known to be a problematic, frustrating stage instrument that needed constant attention and nursing to work even remotely 'properly'. In the studio, a different thing. I love the sounds they make.
__________________
A digital radio is the latest thing, but a vintage wireless is forever..
stevehertz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th Nov 2019, 9:18 pm   #38
acollins22
Tetrode
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, UK.
Posts: 95
Default Re: Mellotron!

I read this thread and remembered a DIY version I'd seen years ago. A quick search yeilded this link...

http://www.mysterycircuits.com/melloman/olmelloman.html

Really clever


Cheers,

Andy.
acollins22 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 9th Nov 2019, 12:17 pm   #39
Andrew2
Octode
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Dukinfield, Cheshire, UK.
Posts: 1,498
Default Re: Mellotron!

Oh wow. I've just spent half an hour chuckling at his ingenuity and general barminess. I always think that while there are people in this world who take the time to do off-the-wall stuff like this, there may be hope for us yet.
__________________
Andy G1HBE.
Andrew2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 9th Nov 2019, 8:41 pm   #40
Jon_G4MDC
Heptode
 
Jon_G4MDC's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, UK.
Posts: 709
Default Re: Mellotron!

That is quite a project - was it sponsored by Sony? How many walkmans?
Lots of fun all the same.

As for the 'Engineers Dream' Mellotron where everything is perfect compared with the actual one, that's just how real world musical instruments behave. I think that music is in the arts not the sciences because of all those so called deficiencies.
Jon_G4MDC is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools



All times are GMT +1. The time now is 2:08 am.


All information and advice on this forum is subject to the WARNING AND DISCLAIMER located at https://www.vintage-radio.net/rules.html.
Failure to heed this warning may result in death or serious injury to yourself and/or others.


Powered by vBulletin®
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright ©2002 - 2019, Paul Stenning.