Brett Domino plays Stylophone featuring David Bowie, Kraftwerk and more
The Stylophone is a miniature analog stylus-operated synthesizer invented in 1967 by Brian Jarvis and going into 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-70s a new model appeared which featured a fake wooden effect on the speaker panel, and, more importantly, a volume control. (Previous Stylophones had been infamous for being too loud in quiet situations). This was shortly before the Stylophone ceased production altogether in 1975.
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.
To hear individual performances, click on the desired song/s at the end of this video.