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Old 9th Nov 2019, 9:28 pm   #41
dglcomp
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Default Re: Mellotron!

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Originally Posted by Jon_G4MDC View Post
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.
Agreed, the Minimoog drives the filter circuit too hard and as such creates distortion that is responsible for part of it's signature sound.
Plus the fact that passive components are heat sensitive causes the instabilities in analogue synths that despite being much maligned and removed in digital synths, are what make analogue synths more "organic" and why remakes of now legendary synths are in so much demand. Behringer can't make their clones quick enough!
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Old 9th Nov 2019, 9:28 pm   #42
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I had one of these instruments on my "patch", and was not saddened to see it dissappear when the city centre pub it was in was burnt down.
The chap who played it was very proficient, but the machine was very unreliable!
Just slightly O.T.,
A similarly unpleasant mechanical tone generator was used in the Optigan organ.
This used an optical disc to store the waveforms of the sounds.
The company I worked for unfortunately became the local agents for this device, and caused me, as the sole service engineer, much "Weeping, and gnashing of teeth" to put it biblically. Dust and smoke deposits on the disc plagued them, even though they had some degree of protection against that.
The reliability was atrocious, and we abandoned them quite quickly, thank goodness. Tony.
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Old 9th Nov 2019, 9:53 pm   #43
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Supposedly Kraftwerk replaced their orchestron on the Computer World tour with a second polymoog, well they must have been gluttons for punishment as the polymoog was in no way reliable and even Mr. ARP questioned the design.

But then again until the advent of synths like the DX7 (which generally still work fine with just a battery replacement) nothing was all that reliable.
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Old 9th Nov 2019, 10:36 pm   #44
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Like the Mellotron was something quite new. the DX7 was another first. It was digital, but it used frequency modulation like normal synthesisers, but it FM's an oscillator which FM'd an oscillator, which... to create pseudo-random noise for those sounds which are noise-based. Quite a revolutionary technique.

Interestingly, the FM'ing of FM'ing of FM'ing arrangement for making random-seeming noise is nowadays employed in current fractional-N frequency synthesisers (the other sort of synthesiser!)

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Old 10th Nov 2019, 12:59 am   #45
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Default Re: Mellotron!

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Originally Posted by dglcomp View Post

Agreed, the Minimoog drives the filter circuit too hard and as such creates distortion that is responsible for part of it's signature sound.
Plus the fact that passive components are heat sensitive causes the instabilities in analogue synths that despite being much maligned and removed in digital synths, are what make analogue synths more "organic" and why remakes of now legendary synths are in so much demand. Behringer can't make their clones quick enough!
It didn't help that some early users used to get quite abusive to their synths, Keith Emmerson being guilty of this.
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 8:58 am   #46
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Yes, knives in the Hammond!, plus when you are touring with something as heavy as a GX-1 "kid gloves" handling only goes so far.
Plus acoustic instruments are just as fickle in a lot of ways, esp. tuning, even more so under hot stage lights, just ask Jeff Lynne/ELO about the "spaceship" the performed under for part of the Out Of The Blue tour. The combination of twice the normal amount of lights for a rock band, and a massive fiberglass spaceship overhead, meant that a backing tape was required not only to keep in time but to cover for when the instruments invariably went wrong.

As an aside I bet roadies must have loved big heavy keyboards like the GX-1, CS 80, Fairlight, DX1, Synclavier Etc. Luckily only the big names used them as they would have the dough to have enough roadies and the support staff to deal with these instruments.
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 9:18 am   #47
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Maybe the fragility of the Mellotron protected it from the abuse other keyboards got. A case of kid gloves or it'll let you down right when you need it on tour.

I got the impression Emerson was trying to keep up with what Pete Townshend did to his guitars. Conspicuous consumption? When I was at an ELP gig, the speakers got it too.

Emerson said that those weren't just ordinarily nasty knives, they were Hitler Youth ones which Lemmy had given him.

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Old 10th Nov 2019, 9:50 am   #48
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Keeping up with the Jones' is why John Lord ended up connecting his B3 to some Marshall guitar amplifiers/speakers as it made him at least as loud as the guitars, although the Minimoog is what finally showed those guitarists whose boss!
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 11:21 am   #49
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Many contributors have pointed out that the unreliable aspect of much individual equipment/circuitry/"Studio lash ups" etc at the time [with the Mellotron being a particular culprit perhaps] and for example the chaining together of two massive studio Tape Decks producing a wobbly 8 Track resource for the Beatles, may well have been [paradoxically] the source of some really evocative and affecting music. The "Soundscape" of Strawberry Fields is indeed a classic example [among many] but I always felt that "We Can Work It Out" [with Mcartney on keyboard] had the same "feel".

I wondered if the Mellotron had been in use for that and consulted the Geff Emerick biography "Here, There and Everywhere" which gives the very best technical, social and personal insight into a world [half a century ago now] that I have ever come across. It's also an EMI version of the Peter Sellers film "I'm All Right Jack! " Using that in conjunction with the Hunter Davies book "The Beatles Lyrics" [p122] I see that, in 1965, it took 12 hours in production to get the sort of swirling Fairground Harmonium sound so reminiscent of a Mellotron "adding more textures and effects than they had ever done in the past". It's described as a precursor to what came later with "A Day In The Life". No Mellotron was involved as far as I can tell but it's not hard to understand why Paul M was so fascinated when he first came across one.

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Old 10th Nov 2019, 3:24 pm   #50
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Default Re: Mellotron!

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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.
Quite. Imagine being able to pick up a violin or guitar and knowing it would be in perfect tune to the nearest 0.01 Hz. No tuning, no careful listening, no 'warming up' required. I can see the appeal dissipating pretty quickly. And what would an orchestra or band sound like with all the instruments in perfect tune? Pretty cold I should think.
I recall the original 'Switched-on Bach' album (Walter/Wendy Carlos 1968) which made use of a monophonic Moog synthesizer. The sound was big and 'fat' as the analogue machine was in need of constant retuning and the small pitch differences thickened up the sound.
In 1992 an updated Bach album was made, this time with a modern digital instrument. Everything in perfect tune and no doubt phase-locked. It was (IMO) awful. It sounded thin, empty and weedy, not at all enjoyable or satisfying.
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Old 11th Nov 2019, 5:30 pm   #51
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This live clip from 1973 is Peter Gabriel in full bat costume singing Watcher of the skies with the incredible Mellotron intro .

My favorite intro of all time .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5NOV0-EH0c
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