Before you buy – Mellotron


What is it?

The Mellotron is an english instrument designed in 1963 by Mellotronics Ltd as a mass produced analogue sampler that used magnetic tape.

Here’s how it looks and sounds

Not to be confused with

You may hear about it with other names like “novatron” , “chamberlin”. Pronounced /ˈmeləˌträn/, and called mellotron in spanish, french and portuguese. A person that plays it it’s just called a mellotron player. 

Category

The Keyboard family which means that it has a row of keys, buttons or levers that make the sound when you press them and from the subcategory electrophones meaning it makes sound through electricity.

Materials

Different types of wood or plastic, anything from hard maple, PVC, beech and celluloid for the exterior with the electric components made mostly of steel and of course the magnetic tape.

Variants

The types are determined by their version or model from 1963 – 2007:

  • Mk I: double manual with 35 notes on each one.
  • Mk II: double manual with 18 notes in each one.
  • FX console: Quieter version of the Mk II. 
  • M300: 52 notes single manual.
  • Novatron 400 / M400: 35 notes single manual. The most common one. 
  • EMI M400: M400 but manufactured by the EMI company.
  • Novatron Mark / Mark V: double manual version of the M400s.
  • T550: Portable Flight-cased Novatron 400.
  • Mark V / VI / VII: Revisions of the M400 made after the bankruptcy of the original company.
  • M4000: single manual, 24 notes.

Prices

For the M400 Mellotron, around $ 250 – $ 21,000 USD, the cheapest we found was the M400, MkV, MkVI, MVII versions and the most expensive was a Vintage Mellotron MKII. In the middle we have something like Mellotron MkII Tapes (yes, just the tapes) for $ 1,500 USD.

Weights and sizes

The size of the M400 is 33.86 x 33.86 x 22.05 In (86 x 86 x 56 cm) and has a weight of 121.25 Lbs (55 Kgs).

Accessories

Here’s a list of a lot of them, but for this one a stopper to avoid scratching the floor (depending how big your mellotron is), stickers with the key names for beginners (make sure they can be removed no problem once you’re done) and a cleaning kit for maintenance.

Start playing

We recommend learning to read sheet music to get the basics. We review resources to help you choose how you want to learn. Now that you know how to read them, you need to get some. 
Sheets come in different notations so we recommend checking various versions of the same sheets, searching for “scores” to get all instruments and even the “song name for keyboard to save on translations.

Don’t forget all the details that combined make a big difference like the way you hold it, efficient warmups, positions and techniques.

Remember,the Mellotron is easy to learn, and fast too, let’s say 2-3 months, it’s also similar to the digital piano, electric organ, keyboard and synthesizer, so you can combine those resources to help you learn.

Luis Gerardo

Musician as a hobby for +6 years, documenting every instrument in simple words for this website.

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