“ Brand: Stylophone „
As popularized by Rolf Harris this pocket sized electronic organ produces a quirky sound. It's essentially a metal keyboard which when touched with a stylus pen creates a synthesized sound.
It takes 4 AA batteries which last for hours and hours of use. It has a pitch control knob on the bottom of the organ which allows you to toggle your pitch from very high to very low. It's a nice feature but A. it's a wee bit difficult to turn B. It's a little bit difficult to turn and play at the same time. Not as easy as tuning a guitar.
The metal key strips get a bit mangy after a while of use but you can clean and continue relativity no problem. If they do get dirty it will almost definitely affect connectivity. The connecting pen with the metal tip completes the circuit and produces the unique sound. Be careful not to yank it out hard- it's only connected by two thin wires.
Two very nice features (although not sure if original or an additional update) are the ability to plug in your MP3 player via mini-jack to the Stylophone and use it as a mini speaker. The volume of the organ is very loud considering it's size. The other feature is you can plug a set of earphone/headphones into the same jack and eliminate having to limit the volume in consideration to others. Remember the Stylophone isn't the pleasantest of instruments to hear for long periods at a time.
A couple of other setting are: The Vibrato button - A Wah-Wah control which turns your notes trembling & wobbling giving it a different effect. It's good to turn on when your emphasising tragedy in your playing. You also have a 3 notched switch at the front which again gives you 3 different sounds. One sounds quite deep and tinny, one quite neutral and the other higher and sharper in pitch.
It's great for travel purposes. When your board in the back of a car or for novelty purposes and in genuinely produces a unique sound.
I've always been a big fan of a good gadget, and if it has that retro feel then twice the fun. So knowing this my wife bought me a Stylophone for Christmas a couple of years ago.
So what's all this fuss about the stylophone I hear you all cry? Well for those of you that don't remember, Brian Jarvis originally invented the stylophone in 1967 and production ran until 1975. They originally became popular partly because Rolf Harris acted as the spokesman for the company distributing them, and it regularly featured on Rolf Harris shows for many years afterwards, and I remember seeing him using one when I was young, and so that would have been well into the eighties. A stylophone also featured on the famous David Bowie song "Space Oddity" further adding to their appeal, as well as several songs from the influential electronic band Kraftwerk. After many years of anonymity, apart from the few hardcore electronic music fans that kept them alive, the son of the original inventor Ben Jarvis hooked up with the toy company Re:creation to relaunch the stylophone for a new generation.
So what exactly is the stylophone? The stylophone available today is very similar indeed to the original models, and is basically a very retro looking little musical instrument, almost as if it were made of Bakelite. Looking like something out of an American 1970's video, the device is simply a little keyboard style thing with metal keys laid out, and is played with a little metal stylus. Each note is represented by a different area and is simply numbered from 1 to 12, with semi-tones marked as halves on the top of the keyboard. Touching the metal stylus against the relevant part of the keyboard plays a specific note and a sound is played. The sound that a stylophone produces is very difficult to actually describe! For those of you that have heard them, you will know exactly what I mean, for everyone else I would say that it is a very electronic sound, akin to something from an old style computer in the 80's. It really is a unique and quite weird sound, which adds to the appeal for me.
The stylophone uses 3 AA batteries, which are not included when you buy this product, but they will last you ages. I've had this for a couple of years now, and only changed the batteries once in that time. You will also need a small crosshead screwdriver, as the battery compartment is screwed shut. The packaging is identical to the original 1960's version of the stylophone, which just adds to the retro feel of the instrument.
So what features does this musical instrument come equipped with? Well firstly it comes with everything that the original did all those years ago - That was simply a tuning control, a volume control and a vibrato option. The tuning control is in the form of an easy to turn knob on the rear of the device, and can be used to tune it in with other instruments being played together, or for the more experienced or clever user, can be used during playing to change the tone of the sounds being produced. The vibrato button is very self-explanatory and simply toggles between a steady note and a note of rapidly changing pitch. The volume control is on the side and is of a standard rotating disk style. However this new and improved model comes with far more options than just these. Next we have the button on the front, which changes the sound all together. There are 3 options and it is difficult to describe the different tones, but it ranges from a very metallic hum at setting 3 to a more "normal" tone at setting 1. Again this can be used for different types of music or for the better user, to change midway through a song to give the impression of a key change. There is also a headphone socket so that you can compose and practise away without annoying everyone around you. A common complaint with the original stylophone from annoyed parents was that the sound drove them mad, and to be fair you will either love or hate the sounds that the stylophone produces.
So onto possibly the best new feature of the stylophone, and that is the ability to connect an MP3 player to it. This is a great little feature, as the speaker of the stylophone is actually quite good, and so without much effort you can play along with your favourite songs. The stylophone will play over the top of the music from the MP3 player, and this is by far the best way of using it in my opinion. In addition, you can get the music for quite a few songs on the Internet, and as the keys are just numbered, you need no prior musical experience or knowledge to get into the stylophone, which is what makes it such a good little instrument in my opinion.
So would I recommend the Stylophone? Well I'm sure you have already guessed my answer to this one already. The stylophone is a great little instrument and a great way to get kids into music without hours of practise. It is also a great little gift for the more geeky adults (such as myself) who love little gadgets or love anything retro. The way that they have kept them looking and feeling exactly like the originals, and at the same time modernising the features it possesses is very clever indeed. It is available online on many websites, and also in high street gadget shops retailing at around the £14.99 mark, which is a bargain for a little gift. It is also stocked in some of the bigger high street shops such as Debenhams and Marks and Spencers in the run up to Christmas, again costing in the same ballpark.
Thanks for reading this, and it will appear on Ciao under my same username.
The fascination around the stylophone synthesiser has always been based on a few things, namely its small size, the fact a stylus is used to control it and the fact that actually, it makes some good sounds. These days it is quite common to see indie and electro bands using these instruments to make retro sounds.
The great thing about a stylophone is the fact that while it is fun for those out there who aren't musically skilled, purely because it is very novelty, for those that are into creating music it opens up a lot of opportunities in a far more simple manner than the classic synthesiser. For touring musicians, it is a great accompaniment to a band as it can be easily taken around and experimentation is something that is even encouraged with this instrument.
Another highlight of the stylophone is the tiny pitch changer that can be really funny if you're using this in a large group. This is the type of thing that would make a great stocking filler for the family to mess about with on Christmas day, but can easily serve its purpose as a legitimate instrument as well.
Hands up everyone who remembers the '70's? If you were a kid back then, you must have come across the Stylophone. Promoted by Rolf Harris, and used on a number of recordings, including David Bowie's 'Space Oddity', it has become one of the icons of it's era. Well, the good news (or maybe bad news? Depends if you remember it fondly I guess!) is that it's back!
The new model remains fairly faithful to the original, in that it has the same control layout and overall shape. Controls are pretty simple - the front panel has power and vibrato switches (more on that in a minute), a one and a half octave keyboard and a stylus, which sits in a slot above the keys. There's a volume control on one side (especially useful if you don't like the sound - it goes down as well as up you know!) and a headphone socket on the other.
Now, the main differences between the modern version and the original is what's been added. Alongside the headphone socket is another socket that allows you to plug your MP3 player in through the Stylophone and play along. This is quite a nice feature if you're trying to learn a song, just don't expect it to sound great - the speaker in the Stylophone isn't exactly Hi-Fi!
The other big difference is the 3-way tone switch on the front edge of the unit. What you may not know about the original Stylophone is that there were three main versions. As well as the most common 'standard' model, there were also 'bass' and 'treble' versions. The 3-way switch means that the new version is all three in the same box - bargain or what?
In case you're one of the rare people who don't know how to play a Stylophone, it's really simple. You just touch the metal tip of the stylus on one of the keys, completing a circuit, and out comes the sound. The keyboard is laid out like a piano, with the 'white' keys (labelled 1 to 12) at the front and the 'black' keys (labelled 1.5 to 11.5) behind.
If you want a slightly different sound, switch on the Vibrato function. This works by slightly detuning the note, making the notes warble.
One last feature is the tuning knob on the back of the unit. My guess is that it's there to allow you to fine-tune your Stylophone to the same pitch as other instruments, but there's so much adjustment there that you can tune the instrument over more than an octave using just this control, allowing even greater tuning range.
The downside of the reissue Stylophone is the build quality. The original units had metal grilles and felt pretty sturdy, whereas the reissue feels like it's been built down to a price. The keyboard also suffers from tarnishing, although a quick wipe with some Brasso solves that problem easily enough.
The legendary stylophone... I bought one a while back as a joke, because I remembered having one ages ago and thought that for the price of £10, even if it was rubbish, I wouldn't have wasted money.
The stylophone itself is rectangular shaped box, with a small plate similar to layout of a piano. It has a range of an octave and a bit. It creates a buzz like noise and you have the option to add reverb to the sound.
With mine, you could also connect an i-pod to it and I managed to hook my stylophone up to an amp too, which was really funny :P There is a tuning nob unerneath the instrument, which is really fun to play about with and this enables you to bend notes etc.
The machine is fairly reliable, however the batteries wear out fairly quickly, so make sure that you turn it off after using it, as it can be easy to forget and run down the batteries. It can be turned to a fairly loud volume, enough for home use and perhaps even concert use, (for the adventurous :P ).
Overall this is a really great toy instrument, which is great for both those with no musical knowledge, and those who like to experiment with different forms of music. The price means that even if you don't like it, you haven't lost much.
The Stylophone, what a novelty instrument. This pocket sized piece of technology is originally from the 70's, Rolf Harris' era. The Stylophone is just as fun now as it was then, and has a totally unique sound, all be it being a very strange, annoyingly brilliant sound.
It baisically does what it says on the tin, coming with it's own stylus, you can play tunes as soon as you take it out of the box, providing you have the batteries for it!
The Stylophone features 3 sounds, which progressively get higher frequency wise. From a dull tone, to a High pitch tone. Also with this beauty you have the option of vibrato, quite a comical, but satisfying sound, it is sure to put a smile on everybodies face.
The Stylophone features it's own tuning dial on the bottom which means you can change the pitch according to your needs. A volume dial on the side means that the dynamics of the instrument can also be changed.
The Handy part is it also comes with a headphone slot so when people are moaning at you to stop playing, you can play away with only you being able to hear the annoyingly wonderful tones of the stylophone.
The Stylophone is retro in it's looks department, but that is just what you want from it.
The only problem I have come across so far is, when the Stylophone becomes slightly dirty the tone can become interupted, however this is easily fixable with a quick wipe of a cloth.
The average price of the stylophone is £14.99 any more than this is probably not worth looking at. Places such as Firebox and HMV have these prices HMV have the Ivory white version whereas Firebox have the original Black version.
Overall a brilliant pocket instrument for everyone to have fun with, just don't expect to be churning out a number one hit with the sounds it produces.
Oh I wish I could review this in sound because then you would be able to enjoy the mellow tones of the Stylophone Original Pocket Synthesiser.
By rights, I should have had one of these as a kid but my mother rarely seemed to get me anything I really wanted for birthday or christmas. I had to be content with watching my mates become virtuosos on theirs and having the odd snatched moment when a friend deigned to lend me one. I'm sure you can picture the look on my little girl's face.
An odd snatched moment is not what you need on a stylophone; you need a lot of time on it alone to master one of the two (or even both) songs in the songbook provided. These are:
The Londonderry air - or 'Danny Boy' - (this is my favourite simply because it is not 'Silent NIght'.
So, I know what you're thinking, two songs in the songbook is a bit tight. Well, I agree with you. It's really not on; the Stylophone is not for musical people - they're all busy scraping away on violins or tooting on woodwind, it's for people who are hopeless at music - like me.
Having said that, I have not yet mastered 'Danny Boy' but that is simply because I do not practise much. I could be practising the Stylophone now - but I'm writing a review about instead. Life is a funny thing.
The actual instrument
I have the white (girly) instrument as opposed the the black one shown. It has a tasteful gold grille over the speaker bit and lovely gold keys. The little white 'pencil-thing' (this is a technical term I hope you understand) has a short lead which enables you to slot the pencil-type thing into its compartment when not in use.
It has the melodious tone of a rather whiny wasp drilling into your eardrum and you can vary this sound by selecting vibrato to be either on or off. So, if you want to do a particularly showy version of 'Silent Night' (perhaps in a church service at Christmas) just pop that vibrato button on. Result.
Oh no, There can't be any I hear you cry. There are three:
1. The batteries ran out even when I wasn't using it for 3 months.
2. When the keyboard is dusty (from not using it for 3 months) it does not play properly and the note breaks off.
3. No one likes to hear you play it.
But I love my little Stylophone Original Pocket Synthesiser I do.
I remember the Stylophone from my youth as being the one thing on swap shop that people seemed to want to swap more than anything else. I came to the conclusion that it everyone wanted to get rid of them then they weren't that good or that much fun.
I was really surprised then when they made a return to the shops a couple of years ago. I was constantly hassled by my husband every christmas and birthday to get him one - because he had never had one as a child and so felt he was deprived obviously!!!
Well this year I eventually caved in and bought him one - I bought this one from hawkins for about £15 but there may be cheaper places on the net. I was quite surprised at how small it was - only about 6-7 inches. It has a real retro feel because of the chunky black plastic and silver speaker but it has been given abit of an update as it now has an MP3 connection - but why you would use this I really don't know because you need to buy a special lead and the speakers are only mono - I think you would be better off buying a dedicated set of speakers if you want to play your Mp3.
There are only 20 notes available but you do have a sliding octave scale of the back so that does give you a reasonable spread of notes. There is also a vibrato switch so you can distort the sound a bit if you want. I find the sound a bit tinny - there are some tunes shown in the instruction manual so you can attempt to play something tuneful!
I must admit it doesn't really capture my imagination but everyone else in the house seems to have fun playing it - but I would say that it tends to be in short bursts.
I'm not sure how long the wire joining the stylus to the main part is going to last because the design has it folded in half and then the stylus clips over it - so we tend to only clip the end of the stylus in to avoid excessive wear on the wire.
For those of us old enough to be kids in the 70's....stylophone helps us relive that childhood! I spent many happy hours playing on my Grandpa's stylophone, and generally deafening anyone near!
It is a small, retro looking machine, easily held in one hand. It is black and silver, the new version looking identical to the 70's version. There are small keys which you press with a stylus pen. The pen is attached to the stylophone, and sits neatly in its own little space. The keys are numbered so no musical experience is needed, you can just follow the numbers if you wish. You can either hit the keys one at a time, or slide the stylus along for some weird sounds!
Once out of the retro looking box, you insert 3 AA batteries (which last for ages), remove the stylus from its space, switch on and you are ready to make music! You can hold the stylophone as it is light, or place it on a work surface. It has surprisingly loud internal speakers! There is a vibrate tone if you really want weird sounds. This newer model had another new sound, like a dirty organ. There is a head phone socket if you want to spoil the fun! On the back is a tune button so you can tune it into whatever song is playing and play along. This newer model also has an MP3 connector, so you can play your MP3 songs via the stylophone then play along with it!
I think the price is excellent, currently Amazon are selling these for only £10.45, so not bad for a fun pressie to wake everybody up after Christmas lunch! Other sites sell these for £14.99.
Rolf Harris made these famous in the 70's in adverts and used them in "two little boys had two little toys". They also made an appearance in Doctor who, and with David Bowie in Space Oddity!
So do surprise your family and pop one of these into their Christmas stocking! You won't be disappointed I assure you!
The other half is a bit nerdy, (well a lot nerdy, but don't tell him I said so), and he loves all things gadgety and retro so when I saw that they had re-released the "Stylophone", I knew I had to get him one for Christmas. (I ended up getting one for a friend too).
After he unwrapped it Christmas day, (he LOVED it by the way), I realised just how cool they are and wanted to share with all you lovely people.
~~~*~~~ What is a Stylophone? ~~~*~~~
I expect a lot of you will know exactly what a Stylophone is remembering them from the "first time round" back in the 1960s/70s. Stylophones were made popular by Rolf Harris and David Bowie who used them for songs such as "Two Little Boys" and "Space Oddity". (It's actually amazing now to think that Rolf Harris could make anything popular).
For those of you who don't know what a Stylophone is I will endeavour to explain without waffling too much, (for those of you who want to know more, check out wikipedia).
A Stylophone is a musical instrument designed by Brian Jarvis in 1967; it has a speaker built in and presumably some kind of amplifier and a metal key-pad that you play using a metal tipped stylus. The sound is pretty hard to describe but my best attempt would be, "kind of haunting, quite shrill and very weird". Sorry if that isn't much help.
The one I am reviewing is the 2007 re-model made by re:creation, (www.originalstylophone.com), I should say that the stylophone should be called the "Dubreq" Stylophone as Dubreq own the rights to it.
~~~*~~~ So tell us about it then ~~~*~~~
The new version has a VERY similar appearance to the original version and was made with the help of the original designer's son. (The picture Dooyoo have added is exactly what it looks like). The plastic it is made out of is really thick and very rigid which gives it a really nice "retro" feel.
In the box, (which is only a tiny bit bigger than the stuff it contains which is nice seeing as how so many companies use masses of un-necessary packaging), you get the Stylophone itself with the stylus attached, (it fits inside a little grove on the Stylophone body), a cable to connect the Stylophone to an MP3 player and a booklet which contains the instructions to play "Silent Night" and "The Londonderry Air" as well as all the stuff you would expect like care instructions etc.
The Stylophone take 3 AA batteries which aren't included, (we put ours in Christmas day and have play with this a lot - even using it as speaker a few times - and they are still going). It is safe to use rechargeable in it though as long as you don't mix rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries.
The original features of the Stylophone were a "vibrato" control which allows you to make the sound more haunting, a hand tuning knob to allow you to tune the Stylophone to fit with other music/instruments and headphone sockets, (so you can practice without driving other people to commit murder).
I find the vibrato particularly cool as it really does allow you to make the weirdest noise known to man kind. (It was the vibrato in combination with the tuning knob that allowed David to create the effects in "Space Oddity" - if you haven't heard it you should, if only once). The tuning knob is obviously useful especially with one of the new features, (MP3 input).
The new features are volume control, 2 new sounds, (achieved with the tuning control), and the previously mentioned MP3 input. It goes without saying that the volume control is very useful and the new sounds are cool enough but the MP3 input is undoubtedly my favourite feature.
It allows you to play along with your favourite songs and even use the Stylophone and a reasonably good speaker and amplifier for your MP3 player. This is particularly useful when someone wants to play you a song they have stored on their phone, (I cannot stand the quality of sound that phone speakers produce). You would have to spend a fair bit of cash to get a better portable speaker.
The Stylophone is quite small measuring about 6"x4"x1½". Despite this the stylus is nice and chunky which makes it easier to use.
I really want to make the point that you don't have to have ANY musical skill to play the stylophone. The keys are numbered and the music written for it simply lists the numbers you have to play in order. After about half and hour of messing about with it I was banging out pop songs a plenty with very little effort. I admit that to manipulate the tuner to make the kind of noises that Bowie and Rolf did would take a bit more practice.
I love how rewarding it is to be able to play an instrument with so little skill. I have little latent musical ability so I find being able to play this amazing! You can find popular songs that have been transcribed for the Stylophone really easily by typing "stylophone music" into a search engine so you don't have to fork out on music books either.
~~~*~~~ I want one; I want one, where can I get it? ~~~*~~~
Firebox.com has them for £14.95 and I have seen them in Debenhams for £14.99 and Littlewoods for £19.99. A quick search on EBay discovered the 2007 versions for a couple of quid boxed and brand new. I also found them on a site called Otherland Toys, (www.otherlandtoys.co.uk), £14.98.
~~~*~~~ So would you recommend it and who to? ~~~*~~~
I would definitely recommend this especially to those who remember them fondly, people into "retro" stuff, musicians and kids, but I think most people would enjoy playing with these as they are so easy to master. Purely based on the fact that they work as a half decent speaker for MP3 players, (all be it mono), makes them worth £15 in my opinion and you get a musical instrument as a bonus. 10/10!