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  • Mellotron

    What was the reason they did not (or could not) simply let the tape(s) loop, instead of ....not sure what you would call it..... start, stop, return to start.?
    Thank You

  • #2
    In order for a loop to work, the sound must be "reentrant"--the end of one cycle of the waveform must exactly occur at the start of the next cycle. That is impossible to do with actual recorded sounds, otherwise there will be a discontinuity where the splice occurs. Also, all methods of splicing a tape suffer from degradation over time. These technical challenges made it necessary to have a fixed length tape.

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    • #3
      The tape strip also allowed for initial attacks to be preserved. The length of the sustained sound really isn't that short. Probably, if your trying to imitate a real instrument you would need to lift a finger to imitate breathing or articulations, then the "fault" isn't noticeable . It's true that you can't have eternal strings but the simple technique used to overcome this problem is to rotate your finger lifts and cycle them throughout a chord. Since most people used copious amounts of reverb and slap echo it isn't that noticeable. It also adds a certain "life" to a chord. The most limiting thing beside the low reliability of the entire mechanism is the rather short range of the keyboard which does limit the range of recorded sounds.(i.e. large range woodwinds.) This is especially noticeable when an instruments range doesn't quite fall in the range of the keyboards. "Faults " or quirks in many instruments often lead to to new possibilities.

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      • #4
        10-4..... thank you both. 😉

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        • #5
          The Mellotron was an idea that was limited by the technology of the time--today's sampling technology is essentially the same concept, but with technology that makes it much more practicable, reliable, and with better results.

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          • #6
            If you want to know what a sampled instrument that uses continuous loops sounds like, look up the Optigan. It had a rotating disk with the sampled waveforms on it. This was a low cost chord organ-like home instrument that was fascinating for it's time.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ts3L68Twps

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOncCAzQ8Fc

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            • #7
              Originally posted by guylavoie View Post
              If you want to know what a sampled instrument that uses continuous loops sounds like, look up the Optigan. It had a rotating disk with the sampled waveforms on it. This was a low cost chord organ-like home instrument that was fascinating for it's time.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ts3L68Twps

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOncCAzQ8Fc
              Or search for info on the far more advanced Birotron, another tape replay device that had continuous loops because its tapes were installed in 8-track tape cartridges. Unfortunately the company created to manufacture and sell the instrument, which was bankrolled by Rick Wakeman, collapsed before the instrument was officially released. Only a few working Birotrons are known to have survived.

              Alan
              Co-author, "Classic Keys: Keyboard Sounds That Launched Rock Music."
              See a preview: ClassicKeysBook.com
              Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/ClassicKeysBook/
              Buy it now: www.amazon.com/dp/1574417762

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              • #8
                I can't imagine that the tape strip mechanism over that many keys could be very reliable (although I could very well be wrong - no experience with a Mellotron). When I worked on the land line side of telecom some decades ago, tape loop recorders were used to provide the standard announcements (e.g. "number has been disconnected", etc.). They were heavy duty and fairly reliable, but still needed monitoring and checking, the tape loop itself being the weakest link. These would not work for this application because once the tape started the machine would continue until the loop was back at the beginning. New users would have to wait (with ring back tone) for the loop to return to the beginning if the playback was already in progress.

                I still remember when the first digital units were installed in the lab, probably in the early 80's. The message length was programmable. With a short length, the recording sounded just like someone talking on the phone. Longer message lengths were a bit rough and usually worked better with a male voice. No idea on design. Would seem a lower sampling rate was used for longer messages while the amount of memory was fixed of course; memory being very expensive in those days. They could reduce hold time for users waiting to be connected. If all listening users disconnected, it would reset immediately to the beginning of the recording.

                George

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by SchnarrHorn View Post
                  I can't imagine that the tape strip mechanism over that many keys could be very reliable (although I could very well be wrong - no experience with a Mellotron).

                  George
                  You're totally right! Since I know you own a copy of my book, Classic Keys, check out the Mellotron chapter, which explains, in painful detail just how unreliable those instruments could be. It was a better studio instrument than one for the road.

                  ClassicKeysBook.com

                  Alan
                  Co-author, "Classic Keys: Keyboard Sounds That Launched Rock Music."
                  See a preview: ClassicKeysBook.com
                  Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/ClassicKeysBook/
                  Buy it now: www.amazon.com/dp/1574417762

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                  • SchnarrHorn
                    SchnarrHorn commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Ah, good! I haven't gotten that far into the book yet. Thanks.

                • #10
                  I've not seen background information in this thread, but the Mellotron was a rip-off of the Chamberlain design. From Wikipedia
                  Although tape samplers had been explored in research studios, the first commercially available keyboard-driven tape instruments were built and sold by California-based Harry Chamberlin.[11] The concept of the Mellotron originated when Chamberlin's sales agent, Bill Fransen, brought two of Chamberlin's Musicmaster 600 instruments to England in 1962 to search for someone who could manufacture 70 matching tape heads for future Chamberlins. He met Frank, Norman and Les Bradley of tape engineering company Bradmatic Ltd, who said they could improve on the original design.[12] The Bradleys subsequently met bandleader Eric Robinson, who agreed to help finance the recording of the necessary instruments and sounds. Together with the Bradleys and television celebrity David Nixon, they formed a company, Mellotronics, in order to market the instrument.[13] ...

                  Fransen failed to explain to the Bradleys that he was not the owner of the concept, and Chamberlin was unhappy with the fact that someone overseas was copying his idea. After some acrimony between the two parties, a deal was struck between them in 1966, whereby they would both continue to manufacture instruments independently.
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