The Mellotron Book

Frank Samagaio

Back before samplers made the scene in the 80’s, the Mellotron ruled as a source of “lifelike” playback of prerecorded sounds. The Mellotron Book takes you back to the early days of sampling, and explores the unique qualities of this strange instrument.

The Mellotron is a keyboard that basically has a tape player assigned to each key. When any key is depressed, the tape for that note is played, sort of a lo-fi sampler.

The Mellotron made it possible to add orchestral sounds inexpensively. There were loops for strings, voices, flutes, and other sounds. It was used extensively by acts in the late 60’s and 70’s by groups such as The Beatles, the Moody Blues, Klaus Schulze, and Tangerine Dream. Because Mellotrons were used on so many classic cuts, they are now sought after vintage instruments.

Samagaio’s book explores the history of the Mellotron, offering an in-depth take on this unusual instrument. The book includes many photos of the instrument and old promotional material. It also provides a discography of albums that feature the Mellotron. It even covers the mechanics of the Mellotron, the sound loops available for it, and its use.

This is a very well-done book, and worthwhile read for anyone interested in electronic music history, or the story behind the sounds of all those classic pop, rock and synth albums of the 70’s. Musicians are beginning to get back into the classic Mellotron sounds, and this is the best reference available.

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