What’s the sound of ten Stylophones buzzing?

Truly awful — deliciously so.

Answering the question on everyone’s mind, “how could we form a band using nothing but Stylophones, and what timbres would result?”, the Los Angeles-based troupe LA Stylophonic here plays original music for the stylus-controlled electronic instrument. Adding that many Stylophones together produces a sound that can best be described as … well, unique, certainly. Composer Paul Fraser does actually give them some musical meat into which the ensemble can sink their teeth, with a minimal music-inflected, rhythmic composition that lets that buzzy, edgy sound fly. I love it.

If you think this group is alone, though, you’re sorely mistaken. Stylophone seems to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts, as tracked by the superb:

Synth legend Vince Clarke bought a new stylophone for his tour. Celeb Mark Ronson jams on one on a national British talk show. Electronics lovers are building their own, using Arduino and kits. There’s a boutique retailer online that caters to those who believe only the original Rolf Harris model has the authentic sound. (An admirable philosophy, if a bit akin to searching out only high-end kazoos.) And a relaunched model is regularly out of stock, thanks to surging popularity. Not bad for an electronic instrument invented before humans traveled out of Earth’s orbit.

What I do enjoy about the hipster (nerdster?) troupe wielding their Stylophones above is that there’s some compositional intent – ultimately, that’s what lets any instrument shine. Thanks, Paul! (Directed by Nick Flessa – a moving portrait, indeed.)

And with all due respect to the late, great Steve Jobs, maybe it isn’t true that “if you see a stylus, they blew it.”


  • The song itself is pretty cool, but man i can't stand bands where half the performance is someone looking stoically.

  • Miquel

    It remainds me to Philip Glass or Steve Reich minimalism. Cool, but nerdy.

  • It's a neat concept, but it doesn't need the hard sell. It's cool in and of itself.
    The "nerdy freakout" looks like a Disney Channel caricature of an actual nerdy freakout, y'know?
    Or maybe that's the whole point and I just got woosh'd?

  • Aldo


  • I just released a track for which the backbone is a Stylophone filtered through a Monotron. It sounded surprisingly good, but I think it's mostly due to Monotron's filter (the kick is actually the filter self-oscillating on the LFO!) than the "awesome" oscillator on the Stylophone. http://soundcloud.com/fzero/no-step-dirt-bomb

  • seancostello

    I love this composition, and the whole droney sound. Hearing this in person would be great, as the little tuning differences between each Stylophone would create some amazing spatial patterns. The spazzy spinning around near the end would also create pseudo-Leslie effects, if done quickly enough. Although getting proper Doppler pitch shifts would probably result in several of the performers throwing up all over their fuzzy little sweaters. Which would make things that much more awesome.

  • Kudos for the 5/4 time sig though…

  • reminds me of dan deacon

  • drrn

    I wish they would've at least pretended they were having fun.

  • When will they be performing at Intelligentsia on Sunset? ; ) 

  • qu.one

    thumbs down. everything is not "cool" because it's different.

    • plug one

      It's a kind of funny overemphasized tastelessness…it doesn't seem to be trying for "cool"/different.

    • Jo Mo

      I guess "cool" is in the ear of the beholder.

      A marching stylophone band would be both "cool" and different, I say.

  • i love you california.

  • Juno

    Fun =/= Hip

  • I have never been a fan of the stylophone but this band doesn't sound as bad as I thought.

  • AleAle

    I commenting on your site for the first. I constantly visit your site and to be frank, I think its awesome. The reason I am leaving this comment is to let you know is that I am ripping of the line of “Truly awful — deliciously so.”  as the tittle of my first EP. Thank you, and keep up the awesome job.

  • F*ck "cool," you insipid children.  How about fun and put together with some thought (as opposed to dour "improv")?  

  • I really enjoyed the thoughtful soundscape they created. It’s wonderful to see people coming together and being creative. 

  • adam

    i tried to listen to the whole thing but it made my ears bleed after a minute or so. maybe this is not made for crappy laptop speakers. anyway, i like the general nerdiness a lot. look at those clothes…

  • antiMACtax

    Portlandia: STYLOPHONE IS OVER! 🙂

  • p0ser

    Seems silly to 10x an "instrument" which isn't really capable of delivering much… thats like thinking, let me try to paint a beautiful sunset using 10 different shades of grey.

  • totally rad

    will somebody please introduce the bandmembers?

  • London Hollows

    man i hated that. at least hipsters in sweaters with stylophones is a change from hipsters in neckbeards with macbooks and that's something new for CDM i guess 🙂