What’s the cutest conceivable musical instrument? It’d be tough to top an anthromorphic musical note, complete with eight-note flag, whose smiling face opens when it “sings.”

Boing Boing Gadgets (by way of Tokyo Mango) gets the story on this latest creation of art group Maywa Denki and lead creative instigator Novmichi Tosa. The Otamatone is only barely practical as an instrument; it sports a nasal tone from its simple electronic oscillator and, at the end of the video, demonstrates an entirely new way to render the US National Anthem slightly out of tune. (Apologies to Jimi Hendrix.) But it also exhibits sheer genius, like shaking it to get vibrato and adjusting formants by squeezing the character’s mouth open and closed. And it easily trumps those horrible plastic Yamaha recorders we were all forced to play in school.

It’s almost a surprise to see Maywa Denki with something selling at retail, as their previous creations have been designed to be completely absurd. Take the Tsukuba Series of instrumental devices, which includes:

  • An instrument built to punch bubble wrap (packing tape)
  • A “voice vibrator” you strap to your throat
  • A Brazilian percussion robot
  • “Guitar-la,” an array of six guitars played by a pedal organ.

You can see those and other creations by clicking through the “Art” section of the project’s site; there are other wonderful (and kawaii) toys, too, called “nonsense toys”:


I previously wrote about the strange aquatic-themed musical designs, evoking the shapes of fish bodies and skeletons:

Bizarre Fish-Themed Gadgets, Musical Instruments

It’s all pure design genius, and a reminder that designs need not be bereft of personality, whimsy, and the absurd.

Thanks to Tom Betts from whom I stole found this story.