Stylophone Reborn

The Stylophone, a '60s-era electric musical instrument with a metal keyboard activated by stylus, has been reissued, this time with a line-out and two new sounds. Stylophones make sound from an oscillator wired to a resistor—the stylus completes the circuit. They've been used with some frequency in pop music over the years, according to L'Wikipeaudeax.
The Stylophone appears on a few commercial recordings, most notably David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and "Slip Away" and the commercial rave single "Stylophonia" by Two Little Boys in 1991. Kraftwerk used the Stylophone on the track "Pocket Calculator" from their album Computer World. The British duo Erasure also employed it on the single "Don't Say Your Love Is Killing Me" (from the album Cowboy in 1997) as well as on their 2000 album "Loveboat". In a lesser-known instance, the Stylophone is used for the bulk of Orbital's single, "Style". Marilyn Manson made use of it for "You and Me and the Devil Makes 3". They Might Be Giants played the Stylophone in several of their songs, including a number on their 2007 album, The Else. Jon Spencer has used the Stylophone extensively on recordings with his band Blues Explosion, and has famously had problems bringing the device – described as "the world's most annoying musical instrument" – through airport security.
UK gadget retailer Firebox is selling them now for £15, but haven't brought them to their US division yet. Bummer. Product Page [ via Coolest-Gadgets] Update: Firebox says they expect to have this in the US by the end of next month "if not sooner."
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11 Responses to Stylophone Reborn

  1. SleighBoy says:

    I never thought i’d be linking to Stylophonia, but here it is, in all it’s glory:

  2. stylomeastro says:

    Dubreq have now released the radical new Stylophone Beatbox. All new for 2009 with dope sounds from MC Zani and a loop record feature.

    Pics and video can be seen here;

    Cant wait!!

  3. Simon Greenwood says:

    Kraftwerk use a stylophone on ‘Pocket Calculator’. There is a video of the 1981 tour floating about (almost certainly on YouTube but it’s blocked here) where they play the tune on handheld instruments while standing at the front of the stage, with Wolfgang Flur tapping out a rhythm part on one. For all their hi-tech (like Stevie Wonder, they used to buy two of every keyboard on the market), much of Kraftwerk’s output was made on minimal hardware, particularly ‘toys’ like the Stylophone, Optigan and Speak and Spell.

    I bought a new Stylophone at HMV in Manchester a few months ago. They had them at the checkout, like geek candy.

  4. George Curious says:

    The David Bowie “Sound & Vision” box set had the demo version of Space Oddity as the very first track . Recorded in Bowie’s bedroom, you can hear the stylus clacking against the “keyboard” and the plastic case.

  5. darsal says:

    I remember a book version of this I had as a kid (70’s, probably – maybe late ’60’s).

    Each page had some sort of musical notation, linked to a box at the bottom.

    After coating the box with graphite (or, as we kids would say, “coloring it in with a pencil”), touching the stylus to the box at different points would produce various tones. If you could follow along with the notation and keep some sort of rhythm, you could actually make the thing carry something like a tune.

    Google isn’t leading me to anything similar available today, or I’d be ordering some for the kids in my life.

  6. A New Challenger says:

    I saw Bowie playing one for Slip Away on the “A Reality Tour” DVD and wondered what strange device that was making this beautiful sound. I might have to get me one of them. Cheaper than a Tenori-On, or even Electroplankton.

  7. Chris Furniss says:

    Hey neat! I actually saw Bowie play this thing live a couple of years ago and was wondering what it was.

  8. MarlboroTestMonkey7 says:

    Begs for a web based Flash adaptation.

  9. lovemoose says:

    My lovely wife treated me to one of these for Christmas, and it was quite possibly the best present I’ve had for about twenty years. Well, at least until she told me about the baby thing. But even then it’s a close call.

    In return I treated her to renditions of every guitar solo that came on the radio on our 5 hour journey from her family to mine on Boxing Day. She loved it I’m sure. (Tip: Boston’s “More than a Feeling” rocks on a stylophone. Use voice three and turn on the vibrato.)

    My next plan is to record a cover of Still Alive, the Portal song, on it.


    That is all.

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