Lacing Tapes

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Keyboard Adjustment
Lacing Tapes
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Lacing Tapes

Q:  How does a Mellotron make its sound?
A:  It depends on how hard you kick it down the stairs.

(Joke supplied by John Paul Jones, Keith Emerson, and Rick Wakeman.)

The REAL answer is Mellotrons use recording tape that's 3/8" 3-track.  The tapes are in strips (NOT loops!) and are dragged across the head and then rewound using a spring mechanism.  In the Mark II series machines, there are 70 strips of tape over 40 feet long supplied on drums (plus two additional tapes used to guide the station changing mechanism when you choose sounds).  In the M400 style of machine the tapes are stored in interchangeable frames, but because the tapes have only one set of three sounds (not six sets of three sounds), the tapes are much shorter.  The tapes are stored in the frame in the shape of the letter "W".

Changing a Tape Frame Joe came along with his studio partner Jimmy Moore to learn more about the Mellotron before purchasing one.  Jimmy and Joe have been putting together a studio where juvenile delinquents are shown the ropes of a possible new career in recording.

John is demonstrating to Joe how to change a tape frame, using Ken Merbler's machine as the demo unit.  Seems Ken's 1001 was volunteered for teaching a lot of things, from tape lacing to keyboard adjustment.  Well, it is, after all, a Streetly refurb.

Now, look, guys---don't forget the take up box cover!


Martin showing John McIntyre the art of lacing tapes

Martin is demonstrating to John McIntyre how to lace a tape frame.   First step is aligning a little line on the tape (the start mark) to the tape head, attaching the front of the tape to a bar, snipping the tape off at the punch hole (Streetly-made tapes have this), putting loops into the take up box, then attaching the rear of the tape.

In the picture to the right, John is performing the final step.   Using a secret tool, loops from each tape are sent down into the frame to create the lower part of the "W," and a small plastic gizmo, the turnbuckle, holds the loops.  There you see John putting a turnbuckle onto the tape loops.  Done!

John McIntyre putting the turnbuckle onto the loops in the tapes

You have to do it only 35 times!  :-)

Chris Dale installing tapes

Hey, it's Chris Dale!

Chris Dale *still* installing tapes

It's Chris Dale again!

And he now has the secret tool for creating those tape loops...Can you see it?  I wasn't permitted to take a clear picture, for obvious reasons.

After the tapes are all laced up in this fashion, the turnbuckles are lined up at the bottom of the frame with just a little bit of tension, then any excess tape is trimmed off.  The frame is ready for play.