Stylophone

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Mid-1970s Stylophone being played

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The Stylophone is a miniature analog stylus-operated keyboard. Invented in 1967 by Brian Jarvis, it entered production in 1968. It consists of a metal keyboard played by touching it with a stylus—each note being connected to a voltage-controlled oscillator via a different-value resistor—thus closing a circuit. The only other controls were a power switch and a vibrato control on the front panel beside the keyboard, and a tuning control on the rear. Some three million Stylophones were sold, mostly as children's toys.

The Stylophone was available in three variants: standard, bass, and treble, the standard one being by far the most common. There was also a larger version called the 350S with more notes on the keyboard, various voices, a novel 'wah-wah' effect that was controlled by moving one's hand over a photo-sensor, and two styluses.

In the mid-1970s a new model appeared which featured pseudo-wood on the speaker panel and a volume control. This was shortly before the Stylophone ceased production altogether in 1975.

The entertainer Rolf Harris appeared for several years as the Stylophone's advertising spokesman in the United Kingdom, and appeared on many "play-along" records sold by the manufacturer.

2007 revival[edit]

2007 relaunch Stylophone from Re:creation

In October 2007 toy company Re:creation, in conjunction with Dubreq Ltd (re-formed in 2003 by Ben Jarvis, the son of the original inventor), re-launched the Stylophone, 32 years after the original had ceased to be manufactured. The new model, officially called the S1, is a digital copy that closely resembles the 1960s original but has a volume control and features an audio throughput function, as well as sporting two new sounds.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

BBC film critic Mark Kermode played a Stylophone on the 8 January 2010 instalment of his and Simon Mayo’s film review programme. Kermode described recently learning how to play the instrument.[2]

On the 5 March 2010 edition of his Kermode Uncut vodcast, Kermode played a rendition of Richard Strauss' Sunrise on the Stylophone in homage to Duncan Jones' film Moon.[3]

In the news quiz Have I Got News For You episode hosted by Rolf Harris he used a Stylophone to play two tunes used as clues to a news story.[4]

Stylophonia is a track from Amadeus Mozart and Guy Garrett who together were known as Two Little Boys. This is an electronic music project from the 90s. The Track called Stylophonia only features around 7 seconds of the instrument and does include the Rolf Harris picture in the sleeve cover of the vinyl release with a Stylophone in his hand.[5]

Stylophone S2[edit]

In December 2012, Dubreq released the Series 2 Stylophone, a British made, true full spec analogue synth.[6]

References[edit]