The Mellotron is an electro-mechanical, polyphonic keyboard originally developed and built in Birmingham, England in the early 1960s. It superseded the Chamberlin, which was the world's first sample-playback keyboard.
The heart of the instrument is a bank of parallel linear magnetic audio tape strips. Playback heads underneath each key enable the playing of pre-recorded sounds. Each of the tape strips has a playing time of approximately eight seconds, after which the tape comes to a dead stop and rewinds to the start position.
A major advantage of using tape strips, as opposed to tape loops or cassettes (cf. the Birotron) is that the Mellotron can reproduce the attack and decay of the instruments recorded on the tape.
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