Before the synthesizer, there was a device called the Mellotron. It sort of looked like one of those electronic organs you see in churches. Inside was a bank of magnetic tapes that each ran for about eight seconds. Pressing a key on the keyboard pushed a playback head against the tape of one of those taple players and you got a pre-recorded sound—usually a note corresponding to that key.
Mellotrons were complicated and expensive mechanical devices and fell out of favour when we got to the synthesizer. But some people still love the Mellotron’s distinctive sound. Old units can be extremely expensive. However, a British company called Streetly Electronics makes 21st century Melltrons. Check ‘em out for yourself at www.mellotronics.co.uk