The whole Mellotron came to existence when the Harry Chamberlin’s sales agent, Bill Fransen came to England with two Chamberlin’s instruments and contacted tape engineers from the local community, Frank Norman and Les Bradley from Bradmatic Ltd, who decided to help out Bill to imProve the original design. Later down the road they met Eric Robinson, the conductor and presenter of BBC music, and got financial backup to develop instruments by forming the Mellotronics.
The very first models of Mellotron
The first model was mk1 in 1963, later an updated version of mk1 was released called mk2. This piece of an instrument was as expensive as buying a house. Well, close to. In 60’s you could buy a house for 2000 to 3000 euros, Mellotron costed 1000 euro.
M400 – the next generation of Mellotron
In 1970, model M400 was released. This was a great imProvement over its predecessors. M400 contained 35 notes (G to F) along with removable tape frame. M400’s demand was most noticeably its convenient portability feature. Since, 1960s and onwards, musicians heavily relied on performing live and having a portable instrument was something everybody sought after. Who wants to drag their massive pounds of household musical instruments on a tour?! The portability factor popularised the M400 and began to get widely used by various artists and bands. Mellotron M400 became one of the most go-to synths for Progressive rock genre.
Mellotron on the modern market
Mellotron is still found, but you can hardly get one even meeting great conditions. Either second-hand or just holding-on-condition if you want one of those tape reel based Mellotrons like Mk2, M400 etc. Alternatively, you can get a digital Mellotron like M4000D. Although, M4000D, of course, incorporates digital medium of Producing sound with modern sampling synthesis technology, it still used the original sound of old-school Mellotron. You can have this classic Mellotron for around $3000 or so. If you want to get or test a new one, it is way easier to get one than the old ones. They cost something around $2000 and onwards.
Mellotron and music Production
Bands like Genesis used Mellotron. Tony Bank’s most popular use of Mellotron is noted in such a popular song as “Watcher of the sky”. The song opens up with the heavy use of Mellotron.
Mellotron has a unique sound characteristics than other synthesiser due to its synthesis mechanism. If you listen to the “Watcher of the skies”, you would immediately hear the haunting sound of Mellotron. Still to these days, people describe Mellotron as the most haunting synthesiser of all time or most melancholic synthesiser ever and so on.
The most popular haunting tune you can find is The Beatles “Strawberry Field”.