The Melloman, Mk. II

mello

Way back in the 60s, strange electronic instruments were all the rage. The most famous of these made before the era of the synthesizer was the embodiment of musique concrète, the Mellotron. This instrument had an incredibly complex arrangement of magnetic tape that allowed a performer to play a keyboard and have the sound of any instrument come out of a speaker. This system was prone to failure, and there has been a lot of technological improvements in tape over the last fifty years, leading [Mike Walters] to build a new version of his famous Walkman-based Mellotron, the Melloman.

This build is an upgrade over the previous Melloman made in 2009. Like the original, this build uses 14 portable tape players, each loaded up with a continuous tape for each note. The tapes contain two octaves of the same note, one each on each channel, which are routed to the output whenever a key is pressed.

There are a few improvements over the old Melloman. Instead of transistors, [Mike] is using optocouplers to send the recorded sounds to the output. This build is also a whole lot cleaner, with the wiring looking very professional. As for a sound demo, you can check out the video below.

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Melloman tape-looping keyboard

[Michael] tipped us off about an incredible build from back in 2005. The Melloman is a keyboard that uses a different tape loop for each key. The instrument is generally known as a Mellotron, and consists of a different looping tape for each key. When a key is depressed, the head comes into contact with the key and plays the sound sample.

This particular implementation uses 14 Walkmans to supply the tape loops. The Walkman units are constantly playing but the audio output is not enabled until a key is depressed. The main description of the instrument is on the final project page linked above but there are many construction photos available in the build log.

Update: After the break we’ve embedded a video that will take you on a tour of the components of the Melloman. To clear up the looping issue: a Mellotron uses tape loops, but the Melloman uses tapes that are 30 minutes on each side instead of loops.

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