Mellotron M-400

The Original Analog Sampler

By EBOARDMUSEUM

Mellotron M-400

Mellotron M400, Streetly Electronics, 1970, From the collection of: EBOARDMUSEUM
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The Mellotron is an electromechanical keyed instrument and works using recorded tapes which store the sounds of specific musical instruments, like violins, flutes, and trumpets. It’s (more or less) considered the first analog sampler.

This copy in the EBOARDMUSEUM was built around 1970.

Mellotron M400 - Innenansicht, Streetly Electronics, 1970, From the collection of: EBOARDMUSEUM
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Mellotron M400 - Innenansicht (1970) by Streetly ElectronicsEBOARDMUSEUM

The Tapes Inside the Mellotron M-400

Each key on a Mellotron is assigned to a tape strip with three tracks which can be moved past a tape head and played by pressing the key. If the key is released, the tape strip moves back to its original position by a spring.

Mellotron sounds always whine a little bit in comparison with their originals.

This quiet whining stems from the fact that the tape playback speed cannot be consistently maintained, and has since become an integral and beloved artifact.

Led Zeppelin: Stairway To Heaven

Madison Square Garden, New York City, 1973

Mellotron M-400 - Musikbeispiel (Led Zeppelin - Stairway To Heaven) (1973) by Led ZeppelinEBOARDMUSEUM

Mellotron Flutes

What sounds like flutes in the background of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was typically a Mellotron during live performances by the band.

For experts,

which two of the intros listed below were definitely not played on a Mellotron M-400 originally?

– Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple
– Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles
– Ha! Ha! Said the Clown by Manfred Mann

Answer:

Strawberry Fields Forever and Ha! Ha! Said the Clown. After all, the M-400 was only manufactured from 1970, four years after the immortalized strawberry fields! Ha! :-)

And the other one would have to be explained by Ritchie Blackmore …

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