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Digital Mellotron, what's the point?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> General Gear Goto page 1, 2, 3  Next [all]
Author Digital Mellotron, what's the point?
mousegarden
I've always loved the Mellotron, and I've got a few simulations, the I pad app which is amazing, and couple on my computer. But I've been hankering after a real one lately, and checking out the "real" Digital Mellotron, but I've been thinking, there isn't such a thing as a real digital Mellotron, I've only got those apps because they are what I could afford, and they sound good for what they are. But TBQH, I can't tell the difference between the app and a hardware digital Mellotron, or any other digital Mellotron for that matter. The only reason I can think of for anyone to go beyond the I pad app is to actually get a real tape based unit, if you go digital hardware it's like having an I pad sitting in a nice bit of wooden furniture, it makes no sense.
This isn't like having a digital recreation of an old synth, it's different, recreations of old synths these days are quite good, and the differences sometimes are minimal. But the differences between a tape Mellotron and a digital one are huge, so huge in fact that it makes complete sense to want a tape based unit, digital hasn't got anywhere near reproducing the complex issues and problems that a tape Mellotron has.
Tape based Melootrons are still extremely expensive, and a PITA to maintain, but there really isn't any alternative like we buy soft synths.

hmmm.....
melodydad
Well there is always this Lego one!



(The Mellotron used on this album was actually the G-Force one) thumbs up
Zube
I don't know, the digital Mellotrons are pretty cool, for a variety of reasons. I'm actually pretty tempted to score one this summer at some point, even though a couple of blocks from me is a rental company that has three real Mellotrons road-cased, and always available. But it would be nice to have something where when I'm in the grid I can quantize & edit the performance for clients

First, on some of the digital ones, the keys, feel, & size/format is perfect for people used to the real deal. That is pretty important for those who are really into Mellotron. Nothing gives the digital away more than people playing too far up or down the range, for one example.

Second, if you use Mellotron sounds live, these units are a godsend, because they just sound great and generally are 100% problem free in a live setting.

Third, if you're doing TV or other work where you're in the grid, dealing with MIDI, and you need the signals to be super clean (I know, not exactly the way most use a Mellotron) a real M400 might not be the best choice.

Adding on to that, you can create some pretty incredible things with MIDI data being spit to something like an M4000D that could never be physically done on a real tape Mellotron.

The GForce one is the solution I've used the most over the years, no complaints. A lot of people thought it was a real one, and many times it was the only virtual or digital keyboard on our records. Nowadays I use a sample CD and Structure in Pro Tools. It does the trick 99% of the time.
Ranxerox
Agree with Zube, the point of a digital mellotron is the user interface is a lot closer to the real thing, but much more practical for gigging with. Also it won't give you the reliability and servicing headaches of a real one.

IPad apps sound great, but the user experience of tapping on gorilla glass is nothing like the keyboard action and controls of real hardware (mouse, I would have thought as a piano player this would be obvious to you??)
mmp
I got one for a couple of reasons. It came up used near me. It has polyphonic aftertouch, which I wanted. It is a more giggable setup for me. Quick access to a huge library. Wooden key action.

I put mine through a tape echo, and with the onboard model modeling and adjustable tape wow, I find it very useable.

No doubt that it is a simple sample player in a pretty & expensive package, but I like the pretty package.

I still want a real one.

That’s the entire confession.
Robscorch
...and most of you wanting one have never worked on one. Big pain in the ass all the way around. You will hate it and if you plan on gigging one you better own at least 2 as they break more often than an Italian super car. At least this has been my experiences with these damn dinosaur machines state side. Im sure there are more of them for parts etc over the pond, but seriously if you cant afford to repair it dont bother trying to own it.
ersatzplanet
Of all the instruments from "back in the day" the Mellotron is by far the easiest to make a digital version of. The tapes were samples. Eight second long ones that did not loop. The only difference between playing sessions was the dirty-ness of the heads, the wear of the tapes, the alignments of the heads, and the junk that may have been sucked onto the capstan. Most all of those were things you wanted to avoid and things that would not be present in a modern sampler unless you wanted to put them there (like tape flutter with modulation and head wear with filters). Like all sampling, it all comes down to the samples themselves. If you sample a true Mellotron, you will get a Mellotron sound that has all those imperfections that the machine you sampled had when you sampled it. It will be exactly as accurate as the original was at that point in time. You can map aftertouch to act like drag on the pinch rollers (added wow and flutter), you can blend different Mellotron sounds without the degradation of the sound that happened on the original from mechanical moving the head off the track (but you could easily fake that if you are a purist). And you get all this in a machine that doesn't weigh a ton and is scary to transport.

If you have a little DIY in you and you want a basic Mellotron, one that just plays the samples, you can easily make one for way under $100. Go to around the 5:15 mark on this video about the $50 Wave Trigger board -

numan7
mousegarden wrote:
But the differences between a tape Mellotron and a digital one are huge, so huge in fact that it makes complete sense to want a tape based unit, digital hasn't got anywhere near reproducing the complex issues and problems that a tape Mellotron has.


zombie so do you actually *want* to have complex issues and problems then, mg?


cheers
ersatzplanet
mousegarden wrote:
But TBQH, I can't tell the difference between the app and a hardware digital Mellotron, or any other digital Mellotron for that matter. hmmm.....


This is the thing to focus on. If the digital samples are done well, there IS no difference from the Mellotron that was sampled at the time it was sampled. A week later, the Mellotron will sound different from tape wear and head dirt, the sampler will not. That is the main difference. The original Mellotron will sound different over time and that change will not be a positive one.
thispoison
I went for the M4000D because of it's beauty and the physical aspects of the keyboard and the cabinet, combined with the constraints it imposes by trying to stay reasonably close to an original.

I'm afraid too much choice just stops me from playing if I'm not careful.

I don't use it live though - a Nord Stage 2 EX does it well enough for me and covers other bases too (Rhodes and Vox in particular).

I don't regret the M4000D one bit - it feels like an instrument.
Robscorch
ersatzplanet wrote:
mousegarden wrote:
But TBQH, I can't tell the difference between the app and a hardware digital Mellotron, or any other digital Mellotron for that matter. hmmm.....


This is the thing to focus on. If the digital samples are done well, there IS no difference from the Mellotron that was sampled at the time it was sampled. A week later, the Mellotron will sound different from tape wear and head dirt, the sampler will not. That is the main difference. The original Mellotron will sound different over time and that change will not be a positive one.


Not to mention temperature change... how much voltage is going into it... what color shirt your wearing... the alignment of Jupiter to mars... how oh and the list goes on. Part of the charm I guess, but over time as the good ersatzplanet has suggested is not a good thing to such an instrument.

NOW as far as samples goes use your head and errode it like a Mellotron would and put that puppy through some tape and save your self the maintenance headache of that machine and use it on a worthy one a good old fashioned tape machine. nanners J/K neither is a wise financial investment, but to each their own. I used to sell Lotus and it's funny that talking them out of it was part of the charm of making someone buy it. twisted
doombient.music
Ranxerox wrote:
Agree with Zube, the point of a digital mellotron is the user interface is a lot closer to the real thing, but much more practical for gigging with. Also it won't give you the reliability and servicing headaches of a real one. [...]


Amen to this.

It's no fun hauling an M-400 downstairs to the basement studio at two in the morning after 16 hours of travelling, playing, setting up and tearing down the live rig, just to find out that somebody slammed the mike stand into the white lacquer finish...

I used to think that's fun but I was 20 years younger then.

Stephen
mousegarden
thispoison wrote:
I don't regret the M4000D one bit - it feels like an instrument.


MiniMoog
GovernorSilver
My friend got one a couple of years ago. It's become an integral part of her solo music, for recording and live gigs.

She had various injuries, so carrying a 400 lb. tape-loaded Mellotron is not an option for her.

She doesn't seem to like using softsynths for live shows, and I guess preferred to spend the money on this M4000 thing instead of just about the same money on a Nord keyboard w/ Mellotron sample library. She's not really a pianist or organist.
hsosdrum
GovernorSilver wrote:
My friend got one a couple of years ago. It's become an integral part of her solo music, for recording and live gigs.

She had various injuries, so carrying a 400 lb. tape-loaded Mellotron is not an option for her.


The dual-keyboard MKII may have weighed that much, but the M400 was around 175 lb. Not sure about the current tape-based versions.

I toured in a band with an M400 (and later a Chamberlain) in the early 70s and agree with every cautionary post here. If you tour with a real honest-to-goodness tape-based Mellotron be prepared for lots of frustration and time spent under the hood. There's a reason why Rick Wakeman poured gasoline on his two M400s and set them on fire once he had a digital version. (A decision he's come to regret, considering what they would now be worth.)
GovernorSilver
hsosdrum wrote:
GovernorSilver wrote:
My friend got one a couple of years ago. It's become an integral part of her solo music, for recording and live gigs.

She had various injuries, so carrying a 400 lb. tape-loaded Mellotron is not an option for her.


The dual-keyboard MKII may have weighed that much, but the M400 was around 175 lb. Not sure about the current tape-based versions.



Even 175 lb would have been too much for her. It's all good though.
JohnLRice
Three things that have yet to be explained by scientists beyond a shadow of a doubt:
* Love
* Pyramids and other megalithic structures
* Why does JLR own both the Mellotron M4000D Rack AND the Mellotron Micro? Mr. Green
mousegarden
JohnLRice wrote:
Three things that have yet to be explained by scientists beyond a shadow of a doubt:
* Love
* Pyramids and other megalithic structures
* Why does JLR own both the Mellotron M4000D Rack AND the Mellotron Mini? Mr. Green


What's the rack like? It seems even more removed from the actual "Mellotron Experience" than anything. The "Mellotron Experience" being a hernia and endless repair bills...

hihi
StillNotWorking
JohnLRice wrote:
Three things that have yet to be explained by scientists beyond a shadow of a doubt:
* Love
* Pyramids and other megalithic structures
* Why does JLR own both the Mellotron M4000D Rack AND the Mellotron Mini? Mr. Green


#3 is an easy one — It's #1
Clockgate
To quote Robert Fripp on the mellotrons King Crimson used to lug about on tour in the 1970's.

"Tuning a mellotron doesn't."
nostalghia
Speaking of Fripp and Mellotrons (re his tour rig as of 2014-go to pg 11 of the 12):
The King Crimson man's mind-boggling setup

Korg Taktile and iPad

"It's just a keyboard controller. The sound is from an iPad app called ThumbJam, which reacts to MIDI messages.

"I've got an IK Multimedia iRig MIDI connecting it, so that Robert can call up Mellotron strings, brass, choir and flute on the Taktile pads and play them live on the keyboard.

"The iPad signal goes then to the effects return on the Axe-FX, so you can call it up on the MIDI Raider and use the effects in the Axe-FX and Eventides."
GovernorSilver
I thought Fripp was using the Mellotronics M3000 app - but maybe that was after he used ThumbJam, which is has some good samples by iPad standards.

I wonder if the reason he didn't get a digital Mellotron was lack of room on stage, as he already had the huge rack of effects units.
WaveRider
I would love to have a rack or desktop version. But I wonder if I would really use it a lot... how would it fit in my sound considering it is a direct reference to so many stuff from the past as soon as you hear it.... anyway I would give it a try for sure. The real mellotron is a nice studio instrument for a skilled keyboardist.
jdkJake
JohnLRice wrote:
Three things that have yet to be explained by scientists beyond a shadow of a doubt:
* Love
* Pyramids and other megalithic structures
* Why does JLR own both the Mellotron M4000D Rack AND the Mellotron Mini? Mr. Green


Even the late, great Stephen Hawking would struggle to explain #3.

Perhaps one day the great mystery will be revealed.

Until that time, only JLR himself knows the truth....
mousegarden
GovernorSilver wrote:
I thought Fripp was using the Mellotronics M3000 app - but maybe that was after he used ThumbJam, which is has some good samples by iPad standards.

I wonder if the reason he didn't get a digital Mellotron was lack of room on stage, as he already had the huge rack of effects units.


As I said in my original post, maybe he thinks like me, what's the point? The app is as good as any other digital recreation, so why bother with another unnecessary and expensive box.
ThumbJam is beyond, one of the most expressive apps, my girlfriends favourite, she loves playing the piano sample in crazy ways, it's just brilliant, and only a few pounds.
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