One of the most unique electronic instruments ever made and a trademark sound of '70s prog-rock bands such as Genesis, Yes, the Moody Blues, King Crimson, England as well as artists such as Isao Tomita and many, many more - the list of users reads like a who's who of the music industry.
It's enjoyed something of revival in recent years with Paul Weller, Radiohead, Nelly Futada, Oasis, Stereophonics and many others appreciating its totally unique sound... not that it ever went out of fashion - there are many who can't resist the appeal of the Tron.
Arguably the original multi-sampler, each key on the Mellotron had recordings of real instruments on a piece of magnetic tape under each note of the 3-octave keyboard and each key had its own pinch roller and playhead. When a key was pressed, the pinch roller enaged with a master capstan wheel and dragged the key's tape over a playhead.
What emanated were some of the finest sounds to be heard. Real strings, real choir, real flutes and much more but with a bizarre, surreal feel to them. Many different models were made but perhaps the most well known and popular one was the M400 featured here.
Inside the Mellotron was a frame of tapes with a length of tape for each of the the 35 keys. A common misconception about the Mellotron was that it used tape loops. It didn't. Each tape could play for no more than eight seconds inspiring a unique 'crawling spider' playing technique as you played inversions to keep sustained chords going. There are many records of old out there where you hear notes grinding to a halt because the Mellotronist ran out of tape on held chords.
I found the overall character of these samples to be superb. In comparison to my extensive personal collection of Mellotron sounds garnered from numerous sources, this set beat mine hands down for sheer presence and clarity within a mix.
Whilst some of the Mellotron sample material generally available has often been processed in some way, and hence removed from what you'd hear if you simply plug a 'tron straight into a mixing desk, these 'raw' samples, taken directly from the output socket of the real thing, demonstrate how magnificent this instrument can sound.
10 out of 10, and a steal for the price. Newtron Bomb is a real joy to play (unlike the original Mellotron!). This is simply better than the original.
Robert van der Kamp
I'm loving these sounds and agree with the Sound On Sound review. They really have a presence especially the Tron Choir and Mixed Strings. Fabulous. I love the flutes and boys choir as well.
Simon - via amail
Just wanted to let you know how great your samples are. I purchased the Taurus pedals, Mellotron and String machine sample sets and I am completely satified with them.
I was in the process of mixing down and the xxxxxx stuff was not cutting it, just not authentic enough.
JJ Jetflow - KVR
I have all Mellotron sounds like X-Xxxx, etc and we have an original M-400 but this sounds like Rubycon from TD [Tangerine Dream]
and reminds me at the old school days from the 70ties.
David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' is an example of that in the chorus - Rick Wakeman clinging on for dear life to those chords with the 'crawling spider' technique but STILL running out of time and having to start some chords over again! But anyway...
Each strip of tape had three sounds on it (one of the most popular combinations being strings, choir and flute) selectable from a rotary switch on the panel to the left of the small three octave keyboard but other frames could be purchased and swapped over if you wanted. This was a 'simple' matter of lifting the lid off the unit, removing the keyboard assembly, undoing a few screws, lifting out the tape frame and replacing it with the other frame, tightening the screws and replacing the keyboard assembly and top lid!!!
The instrument was also very temperamental and required regular servicing. This included regularly cleaning the tape heads (one for every key) and the pinch rollers (one for every key) if the tapes were to play reliably. More often than not, however, they didn't but the wow and flutter added a surreal and ethereal quality to the sounds (that said, it was real pain if a note or chord suddenly went out of tune live or in the middle of a crucial take in the studio!).
Other regular adjustments required were de-magnetizing the tape heads (one for every key), lining up tape head azimuth and servicing the return springs (one for every key) that pulled the eight second tape lengths back to the start - without the latter, tapes wouldn't return to the beginning and the tapes would playback with horrible clicks. It was also necessary to adjust tensioners (one for every key) so that the tapes make good contact with the heads but you couldn't make these too tight because the tape had to clear the heads when it sprang back to the beginning. It was a nightmare and if you owned a Mellotron, unless you could pay for regular servicing, you had to become pretty skilled at maintaining it yourself!
I owned an M400 back in the mid-70s and can testify to the amount of work required to keep these things playable. It literally had to be serviced almost every time I wanted to use it for recording or if I took it out live, it would have to undergo a thorough check before the gig. In both situations, even after some tender loving care, the bloody thing could let me down at any time and it was certainly a love-hate relationship that I had with it. Rick Wakeman's relationship veered towards the latter, so much so that he famously dragged two of them to the top of hill, poured petrol over them and set fire to them!!!
I didn't go that far but as much as I loved the sound of the Mellotron and as much as I loved my M400, it had to go - it was too much of a liability to keep because studio sessions, band rehearsals and live sound checks were forever being held up while I pulled the thing apart to adjust something or another. So, very reluctantly, I sold it! I have regretted it ever since!
UPDATE TO NEWTRON - NOW NEWTRON III...
We have quite dramatically updated the original Newtron into something altogether different.
To begin with, you can layer two Tron sounds together and each layer can be balanced, tuned, shaped, etc.. We've also introduced the rare 1/2 speed modification some Tronsters had done - this played the tapes at 1/2 speed to add an ominous character. All these can be applied to the individual layers. There also three modifier switches that add subtle wow and flutter, veolocity and random samples atart
These then pass to a mono/stereo echo unit and a convolution reverb with custom impulses including vintage springs, plates and halls.
The panels are also themed in the various cabinets Trons have been made in - cream, wood, tolex, black, brown.
NOTE : It will work with the Kontakt Player but only in 'demo' mode and the session will be time limited.
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