Walkman-based Musical Keyboard
By James Grahame
I know this is all over the web by now, but it's so cool I had to post. The Mellotron was one of the first sample playback keyboards. Each key triggered a sound (flute, strings, clucking chickens) recorded on an 8 second strip of magnetic tape. It was based upon an earlier tape-based instrument called the Chamberlin, introduced in the late 1940s.
Configuring the instrument to play a different sound was an absolute nightmare; you had to replace up to 39 individual tapes. Still, many top musicians gravitated toward the $5200 instrument. It was used by The Beatles, King Crimson, the Stones, the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and dozens of other big names who escape me.
Mike Walters brought the concept of a tape-based instrument into the 21st Century by co-opting the innards of 13 Walkman players. I'll let him explain:
"My version, The Melloman, uses Walkmans and cassette tapes to play original Mellotron samples, or whatever cassette tapes you want to put in. Inside the box, there are 14 continuously running Walkmans mounted side by side. The first Walkman is designated for drums, and the next 13 provide sampled loops for 25 notes."
Simply brilliant. By the way, a new version of the original Mellotron is now available for $5200 -- the same as its list price in 1972.