The Mellotron is an electronic musical instrument invented around 1960 to
provide the sounds of violins, cellos, flutes, choirs, horns, pretty much
anything, from a keyboard. Given the technology of the day, the
reasonable way to do this was with strips of magnetic tape. So the
Mellotron uses a strip of magnetic tape, a pinch roller, tape head,
pressure pad, and a rewind mechanism for each note on the keyboard.
To our modern day technological sensibilities this cumbersome mechanical
contraption seems kludgy as can be, especially you're watching the tape
rewind operation, but the fact is that no modern technology keyboard can
come close to the quality of presence so characteristic of the
Mellotron sound. Why is this? Because the tape playback
mechanism is the musical instrument. It matters less what is
recorded on the tape.
You can hear the Mellotron on almost every song on the main seven
Moody Blues albums, on
The Beatles' Strawberry Fields, and on many albums by
the Strawbs and
The instrument was, and still is, a centerpiece of the progressive rock
For the answers to almost all Mellotron maintenance questions check out
site for instructional video tapes and service manuals. Very highly
Also see my article
Resurrecting a Mellotron.
This just in; a new article:
Mellotron/Chamberlin Patent Reviews.
Here are some Mellotron web resources:
Dave Kean's Mellotron paradise. Dave purchased the old
Mellotron factory, parts, stock, tapes, trademark, the
works. He offers service, replacement parts, tapes,
a CDROM, expert advice. Also the new Mark VI Mellotron.
The son of the original manufacturer of the Mellotron provides
repair and restoration services in the UK. And some new
Bob Snyder's Mellotron page
How it works, sounds, photos, brochures, ads, links, lots
of good stuff.
Norm Leete's Mellotron page
History, model descriptions, maintenance information.
120 Years of Electronic Music
The Mellotron page at this impressive electronic music
The Mellotron Book
by Frank Samagaio, published by ArtistPro Publishing.
This includes a number of contribution from folks on the
Mellotronists Yahoo group.
by Mark Vail, published by Backbeat Books
A must-have for
synth fans, this book includes a chapter about the
Mellotron. It's a reprint of Mark Vail's "Vintage
Synths" column in the May 1991 issue of
(with, surprise, Patrick Moraz on the cover) but with a couple pages of
Mike Pinder has a Mellotron history section on his web page.
TronSounds dot com
Ken Merbler's web site of Mellotron photos and sounds.
Andy Thompson's compilation of Mellotron recordings.
Terrific Mellotron section, including details on the
And for completeness, here are some Optigan pages. The
Optigan is a similar instrument in concept, but it uses optical
disks instead of tape.
Mellotronists is an email distribution list I maintain for
Mellotron owners, fans, players and fetishists. Find out about
'Trons for sale, new developments, historical trivia, maintenance tips,
and all sorts of random things. It's over here, on Yahoo Groups:
(Any questions or problems, send me an email message. email@example.com)
There are several Mellotron improvement projects I've been working on.
(Actually, I've been working on them for far too long. My
life is kind'a nuts.)
Replacing the Mellotron power supply with a modern switching power
supply. This could potentially lighten a Mellotron by about 50
lbs, provide better motor stability and allow operation from 115 or 220
volt lines automatically. Preliminary experiments look
Replace the CMC-10 servo board with a servo controller of my own
design. The original CMC-10 servo board is a pretty awful design
and barely works, the later SMS servo board is good, but I think I can
do even better. Preliminary experiments look good.
Wiring the tape heads in stereo for a pan across the stereo
A better preamp design with better tone controls and balanced
I'll be writing up articles with photos and schematics when I have
something working that I like.
I play Mellotron with my band
Tesseract, on the song
Heisenberg's Daughter on the
album. Here's a photo from our show at Club Kaos in Fremont,
California, 12 July 1997.
I also play Mellotron on the song Where They Go Back to School But Get
Depressed on the
Loud Family album