The original intent for the printer was just to create a mellotron-like instrument
using cassette tape wrapped around the printer's paper roller. I had just planned
to wire a switch to the Line Feed button to keep it rolling. But when I removed
the print head, the printer detected a malfunction on boot up and wouldn't run
anymore. That's when I started hacking the software on the printer's EPROM.
The first iteration of the printer synth included two ways to generate sound:
It could play simple
sequenced patterns by firing the print head, and also had the tape/walkman
The printer mellotron runs off cassette tape. I recorded different
notes from a synthesizer onto cassette tape on all four tracks (by recording
the tones on both sides of the tape.) Afterwards, I pulled the tape out of the
cassette and glued it to the paper roller on the printer, then wrote code
for the printer to turn the paper roller at a constant speed.
To "read" the tape on the roller, I use a modified walkman. I removed the
play head from the walkman and remounted it on the outside, so
pressing the head against the tape on the roller allows you to hear the tones.
Placing the head against different pieces of tape allows you to selectively play different
notes. This setup introduces a lot of
random variance that affects the pitch, tone, and stereo image of the playback, making
the sound very complex and interesting.
This is a sample using both the print head and the tape/walkman
setup.This was recorded live with the printer head playing a sequence I wrote
and me playing the walkman/tape setup. The printer head was recorded with a microphone
and the walkman
was plugged into the mixer directly (in stereo.) I put a light reverb on it,
but if you want to hear a dry version listen
This is a sample of the first sequence I got playing on the printer head. The sample is
recorded from a microphone placed near the print head. The audio clip makes
it seem that the print head is rather quiet, but it's actually pretty loud.