How To Turn A Cassette Tape Player Into A Monophonic Mellotron

Zackary Scholl, Ph.D. is a biophysicist, artist and music hacker. His latest project is hacking a cassette player to make a musical instrument – sort of a monophonic Mellotron.

“Recently, I finished converting an old walkman-style cassette player into a MIDI-controlled synthesizer using an Arduino and a little code – dubbed the cassette synthesizer.

The cassette synthesizer works by playing a pre-recorded drone (a single tone) from tape and then modulating the speed of the playback to pitch up the tone to any pitch you want. I got this idea for the cassette synthesizer from Onde Magnétique who got the idea from the Mellotron.”

While the ‘Cassette Synthesizer’ is monophonic, it lets you turn any drone into a instrument. You record a continuous drone onto a cassette tape, and then the ‘Cassette Synthesizer’ lets you play it melodically.

Instructions and code are available at Scholl’s site.

9 thoughts on “How To Turn A Cassette Tape Player Into A Monophonic Mellotron

  1. one of the easiest thigns [but expensive if you dont have the pedal effect] is to use a pitch shifter pedal, like electro harmonix pitch fork. this specific one allows for CV into the expression in, so you can have the tape loop of going into the in of the pedal, have the effect be 100% wet, then with a synth send pitch cv into it and instant wicked insanity. of course there is no gate so no on/off. but tahts what i do, except with a different pedal and its a bit wonky. lol.

  2. How many of these “turn a Walkman into a Mellotron” articles are there now? It’s cool but I’ve seen and heard it already.

    It’s like a few years ago when there was a new Diego Stocco article every day about him turning squirrels into reverb.

  3. This is cool. You can make a “paraphonic” version by recording a cassette with different tone on the left and right channel. Use the pan control on the mixer to vary the sound.

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