In the age of the ever-changing technology, the surprising innovation has never failed to capture our awe. This has happened to almost every industry and it certainly impacts the musical instruments. With the coming of instruments like synthesisers, musicians’ thinking pattern expanded beyond horizon and what you can create is up to how far you are willing to go with it. Some synthesisers give you an unlimited ability to design your sound while some give a you limited ability, yet powerful and edgy features to incorporate to your music or to just play around.
Mellotron and sample-based synthesis
One of the most interesting time for synthesisers were from the 1960’s till 1990s. One of the greatest synthesisers from that time, the one which was the part of the whole highly competitive market, was the legendary Mellotron. Mellotron is a sample-based synthesiser generating its sound via magnetic tape.
While most people has a vague idea that Mellotron was the first to incorporate sample synthesis, this is not true. The first sample-based synthesis was done and manufactured by Harry Chamberlin’s, a California-based instrument manufacturer. Mellotron began using the same method. Although Harry Chamberlin came to exist with this synthesis method, Mellotron got way more exposure and became more demanded than Harry Chamberlin.
A short history of Mellotron
Mellotron defined the whole music scene of 1970s and some 1980s as well. It was more prominent on the scene especially on the 1970s progressive rock scene where bands like Genesis, King Crimson, Moody Blues, Tangerine Dream, Yes used Mellotron.
Mellotron produced its sound via the tape reel. Every time you pushed the key, it generated sound by playing tape reel associated with the note through various tape heads, capstan and other mechanical engineering methods.
The first Mellotron mk1 had different features like stationing rhythm and lead sections. Later, an upgraded version of the Mk1 was released named Mk2. The stationing feature was removed from Mk2 and some minor noteworthy changes were made. The biggest in the game was the M400.
Further development of Mellotron
Until M400, all the previous Mellotrons had been too bulky to carry around for live performance and had been primarily made for home or club use. With the M400, they made it as portable as possible, however, this musical instrument still weighed 220 pound. Mellotron incorporated same tape synthesis but began to fall apart due to the coming of analogue and especially digital synthesisers from the late 1970s. They still remained in business until mid 1980s and shut down.
In the late 1990s, the descendants from the Mellotron group, initiated to keep the company up and began providing services for old Mellotrons. Unfortunately, they soon they realize they are running out of tools and technology to support Mellotron. Hence, they took an extra initiative and started manufacturing the Mellotron for the new era.
Here, they removed the old tape mechanism and installed a sound sampling synthesis from the new generation and implemented this to the new Mellotron onwards, providing total support and service.