Mellotron  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Mellotron is an electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard originally developed and built in Birmingham, England, in 1963. It evolved from a similar instrument, the Chamberlin, but could be mass-produced more effectively. The instrument works by pulling a section of magnetic tape across a head. Different portions of the tape can be played to access different sounds.

The original models were designed to be used in the home, and contained a variety of sounds, including automatic accompaniments. Bandleader Eric Robinson and television personality David Nixon were heavily involved in the instrument's original publicity. A number of other celebrities such as Princess Margaret were early adopters.

The Mellotron became more popular after the Beatles used it on several tracks. It was subsequently adopted by the Moody Blues, Genesis and King Crimson, and became a notable instrument in progressive rock. Later models such as the M400, the best selling model, dispensed with the accompaniments and some sound selection controls in order to be used by touring musicians. The instrument became less popular in the 1980s due to the introduction of polyphonic synthesizers and samplers, despite a number of high profile uses from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and XTC.

Production of the Mellotron ceased in 1986, but it regained popularity in the 1990s, and was used by several notable bands. This led to the resurrection of the original manufacturer, Streetly Electronics. In 2007, Streetly produced the M4000, which combined the layout of the M400 with the bank selection of earlier models.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mellotron" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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