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Get the legendary sound of the mellotron for your REASON system.
AudioWarrior's Tron Mello-Rack Refill is a software library of sound samples from the Mellotron, a famous sample-playback keyboard. AudioWarrior's Tron is designed for REASON 3.0 production software.
Famous Mellotron Samples in Popular Music
The Mellotron has been an indispensable songwriting tool used on countless #1 hits, including:
Trent Reznor on "The Downward Spiral"
Rush on "Snakes & Arrows"
The Red Hot Chili Peppers on "Blood Sugar Sex Magik"
The Smashing Pumpkins-various
Marilyn Manson on "Antichrist Superstar"
The Beatles on "Strawberry Fields Forever" (flutes)
Led Zeppelin on "Stairway to Heaven" (flutes)
The Moody Blues on "Nights In White Satin" (violins)
Genesis on "Dance on a Volcano" (choirs) and "Watcher Of the Skies"
Yes on "Heart of the Sunrise & And You And I" (strings)
Radiohead on "Exit Music" (choirs)
King Crimson on "In the Court of the Crimson King" and "Starless" (three violins)
But don't stop there, twist the sounds into trance, dub, metal, or acid mayhem within Reason's arsenal of sick effects for example... ohh… maybe grind the choir up in Scream4Distortion!!!
The Mellotron History
The hardware version of the Mellotron is an electromechanical polyphonic keyboard musical instrument originally developed and built in Birmingham, England in the early 1960s.
The Mellotron follows its direct ancestor--the Chamberlin--which was, in effect, the world's first sample-playback keyboard. The heart of the instrument is a bank of magnetic audio tapes (these tapes were parallel linear, not looped as has sometimes been reported or presumed), each tape with approximately eight seconds of playing time; playback heads underneath each key enables performers to play the pre-recorded sound assigned to that key when pressed.
The earlier Mellotron MKI and MKII models contained two side-by-side keyboards: On the right keyboard were 18 selectable "lead/instrument" sounds (such as strings, flutes, and brass instruments). The left keyboard played pre-recorded musical rhythm tracks (in various styles).
The tape banks for the later, lighter-weight M400 models contain only 3 selectable sounds such as strings, cello, and the famous eight-voice choir. The sound on each individual tape piece was recorded at the pitch of the key to which it was assigned. To make up for the fewer sounds available, the M400 tapes came in a removable frame, which allowed for relatively quick changes to new racks of sounds. Although tape samplers had been explored in research studios (e.g., Hugh LeCaine's 1955 keyboard-controlled "Special Purpose Tape Recorder," which he used when recording his classic "Dripsody"), the first commercially available keyboard-driven tape instruments were built and sold by California-based Harry Chamberlin from 1948 through the 1970s.
Things really took off, however, when Chamberlin's sales agent, Bill Fransen, brought two of Chamberlin's instruments to England in 1962 to search for someone who could manufacture 70 matching tape heads for future Chamberlins. Harry Chamberlin was not at all happy at first with the fact that someone overseas was basically "copying" his idea, and that one of his own people (Bill Fransen) was the reason for this. He eventually found a UK company that were skilled enough to develop the idea further and a deal was struck with Bill and Lesley Bradley of tape recorder company Bradmatic Ltd. This resulted in the formation of a subsidiary company named Mellotronics, which produced the first Mellotrons in Aston, Birmingham, England. Bradmatic later took on the name Streetly Electronics. Many years later, following financial and trademark troubles, the Mellotron name became unavailable and later instruments were sold under the name Novatron. A small number of the instruments were assembled and sold by EMI under license.
Through the late 1970s, the Mellotron had a major impact on rock music, particularly the 35 note (G-F) model M400. The M400 version was released in 1970 and sold over 1800 units, becoming a trademark sound of the era's progressive bands. The novel characteristics of the instrument attracted a number of celebrities, and among the early Mellotron owners were Princess Margaret, Peter Sellers, King Hussein of Jordan and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Mellotrons were normally pre-loaded with string instrument and orchestral sounds, although the tape bank could be removed with relative ease by the owner and loaded with banks containing different sounds including percussion loops, sound effects, or synthesizer-generated sounds, to generate polyphonic electronically generated sounds in the days before polyphonic synthesizers.
The unique sound of the Mellotron is produced by a combination of characteristics: Among these are tape-replay artifacts such as wow and flutter, the result being that each time a note is played it is slightly different from the previous time it was played (a bit like a conventional instrument). The notes also interact with each other so that chords or even just pairs of notes have an extremely powerful sound. Another factor in the strangely haunting quality of the Mellotron's most frequently-heard sounds is that the individual notes were recorded in isolation. For a musician used to playing in an orchestral setting, this was unusual, and meant that he/she had nothing to intonate against. Thus, the temperament of the mellotron is always somewhat questionable when it is used in the context of other instruments. Perhaps for this reason, and perhaps also to allow easy transposition of the instrument's limited range, the pitch control is placed closest to the keyboard on the M400 model. This temperament issue has led to the Mellotron being rather unfairly regarded as difficult to tune. There certainly could be mechanical problems that would also contribute to this. The original varispeed servo design was poor, for instance, but later improved dramatically. The tapes would stick inside their frames and refuse to rewind if the frame became distorted due to careless handling of the machine. Properly maintained, though, the machines behave a lot better than their reputation suggests.
Although they enabled many bands to perform string, brass and choir arrangements which had been previously impossible to recreate live, Mellotrons were not without their disadvantages. Above all, they were very expensive--they sold for £1,000 in the mid-1960s, and the official Mellotron site gives the 1973 list price as US$5200. Like the Hammond organ they were a roadie's nightmare--heavy, bulky and fragile. After years of touring with Mellotrons, Robert Fripp formulated a rule: "Tuning a Mellotron doesn't." The tape banks were also notoriously prone to breakages and jams and those groups who could afford to (like Yes) typically took two Mellotrons on tour with them to cope with the inevitable breakdowns.
The original Mellotrons (MkI/MkII) were not intended to be portable (they often become misaligned when jostled even lightly), but later models such as the M300, M400 and MkV were designed for portability. All models, when installed permanently in a studio, provided a very realistic effect. An example of this can be found on Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album.
Despite these shortcomings, Mellotrons were prized for their unique sound, and they helped pave the way for the later sampler.
British multi-instrumentalist Graham Bond may have been the first "rock" musician to record with a Mellotron, beginning in 1965. A year later The Beatles used it prominently on their ground-breaking single "Strawberry Fields Forever" (recorded November-December 1966). However, it was Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues who brought the Mellotron to the fore of popular music with the 1967 album Days of Future Passed in songs including "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon." Pinder made regular use of the Mellotron on the Moody Blues' studio albums from 1967 through 1971. Their 1972 album Seventh Sojourn employed the Chamberlin.
The Mellotron was also used by:
The Zombies on "Changes"
Manfred Mann on "Semi-Detatched Suburban Mr. Jones"
Lynyrd Skynyrd on "Tuesday's Gone"
The Rolling Stones on "2000 Light Years from Home"
The Bee Gees on "World," "Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You"
Traffic on "House for Everyone," "Hole In My Shoe"
Pink Floyd on "A Saucerful of Secrets," "Julia Dream," "Sysyphus" and "Atom Heart Mother"
Procol Harum on "Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone)"
The Left Banke's "Myrah"
Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)"
David Bowie on "Space Oddity," where it was played by Rick Wakeman
The Kinks album The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society
Once Again by Barclay James Harvest
Diamond Dogs by David Bowie
2112 by Rush
I Robot by The Alan Parsons Project
Fragile and Close To The Edge by Yes
Solo work by Edgar Froese
The Tangerine Dream albums Phaedra, Rubycon, Ricochet, and Encore as well as Froese's Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark on their platinum-selling Architecture & Morality album (1981)
Nine Inch Nails
R.E.M. laid down those mysterious sounding cello parts that are so prevalent in the cut "Losing My Religion," using the Mellotron
The Strokes' "Ask Me Anything"
John Medeski of Medeski Martin and Wood
Get mello with the Tron Refill. Order today.