Of the many creations by the Japanese siblings Masamichi and Nobumichi Tosa, better known together as Maywa Denki, there is perhaps no invention that better echoes the heart and soul of their wonderfully bizarre menagerie of art installations, designer goods, toys, and musical instruments than the Otamatone—the tadpole-faced, Theremin-voiced synthesizer that has become a viral YouTube sensation across the globe. Whether you’re looking for a fun gift for your musically inclined friend or family member or want to add a unique sound to your next public performance, the Otamatone is sure to have you singing its praises!
What Is the Otamatone?
If you’ve never set your senses upon the visual and auditory wonders of this 21st-century instrument, an introduction is definitely in order. The eighth-note shaped Otamatone, with its adorable tadpole-like smile, produces a synthesized sound by pressing your fingers along the stem with one hand while squeezing the round cheeks of the beady-eyed face with the other. When both hands are synchronized, it produces a digital wah-wah sound like no other.
Choosing the Right Otamatone for You
Standard Otamatone Model
The Standard Otamatone Model is Maywa Denki’s best-selling tuneful toy to date. It has a range of three octaves and features two volume settings—quiet and loud—letting you match the Otamatone’s dulcet tones to your gig’s venue size. If none of the five available colors match your style, the Standard Otamatone model also has a version inspired by the rotund Kumamon mascot, one of Japan’s most iconic yuru-chara prefecture characters.
One and a half times larger than the original Otamatone, the Otamatone DX features a bigger fingerboard, more power options (adapter or batteries), and more ways to jack up the volume. Connect the Otamatone DX’s stereo jack to an amplifier or plug in your headphones to channel the output feed to your ears while still allowing the Otamatone’s mouth to be miked in an acoustic setting—a great solution for hearing yourself shredding a solo over the cheering of your devoted audience. The DX’s sturdy neck strap helps support the mega-size Otamatone while you play, so that you can hit all three octaves with ease.
Featuring all of the Otamatone DX’s features but in a more compact size, the Otamatone Digital’s claim to fame is its easy-to-play keyboard-style fingerboard (aided by a helpful “guidance sticker”), and its ability to play chords, making the Otamatone Digital a great choice for anyone looking to broaden their repertoire by adding a little harmony. Round up a couple friends to form an Otamatone power trio and fully take advantage of the Digital’s alternate synth modes: rock (featuring an electric guitar sound) and percussion (kick, snare, cowbell, and cymbal).
Otamatone Wahha Go Go
In 2009, Maywa Denki created a “laughing” machine that generated a series of jovial guffaws using a hand-powered crank and bellows. The machine never became commercially available, but its legacy lives on through the toothy grin of the Otamatone Wahha Go Go. Embellished with a metallic stem, the charming chompers look especially polished for professional performances; and since the face is removable, you can easily interchange the Wahha Go Go’s grin with the Standard Otamatone face for times when your shiny tail needs a touch of tadpole.
The Otamatone Melody can swing from your purse or bag like a cute keychain, but its tiny proportions aren’t just for show. Programmed with 11 pre-recorded tunes, the Otamatone Melody is ideal for newcomers and young musicians who want to play an instrument without worrying about pushing the right keys. Simply select your song, press a single button on the stem to play each note, and increase the volume by opening the mouth. From childhood favorites like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to special occasion songs like “Auld Lang Syne,” the Otamatone Melody offers something fun for any aspiring musician.
More Fun Products from Maywa Denki
These big-eared, balloon-bodied Chihuahua Whistles let out a squeaky “yip, yip!” (or “wan, wan!” in Japanese) whenever you blow into their tiny tails while pinching their puppy-eyed faces. There are two different pitches available—a shrill “yip” with the white, pink, and blue pups and a deeper “big dog” bark for the tiger and panda characters. For an extra special treat, attach the Chihuahua Whistle face cover to your Standard Otamatone to create a kawaii canine chorus.
Channel your inner drummer with Mr. Knocky—the desktop instrument whose pounding arms are sure to draw smiles from your audience. The innovative toy instrument doesn’t require any batteries and is instead powered through a set of wires that connects two small handles to the device’s main body; simply shake the handles to activate the wires and make Mr. Knocky mimic your actions on his drums. For a freestyle jam session, go mobile with the included neck strap, or swap out Mr. Knocky’s orange armrests for empty tin cans and experiment with your own percussive sounds.
More than just a cute companion for your key ring, the Otamatone Charm features an essential tool for any Otamatone virtuoso—a tiny screwdriver to help you open the instrument’s battery compartment. Proudly presenting the Otamatone logo, these charms radiate pure playfulness in five colors.
Otamatone Smartphone App
If you want to try your hand at playing the Otamatone before buying the real thing, Maywa Denki offers an Otamatone Smartphone App on iTunes. Tilting your device changes the pitch of the digital Otamatone, and pulling down on its bottom lip or squeezing its cheeks re-creates the instrument’s iconic wah-wah sound. You can practice, record, and save your performances into a playlist for your enjoyment, and can even create accompaniment tracks to play real-time duets if you own an actual Otamatone.
Where to Buy Maywa Denki Products
Maywa Denki’s novelty products are Japanese exclusives, but that’s no reason to cry “wah-wah-wahhh!” With FROM JAPAN, you can get all these note-worthy melody makers and more delivered right to your door. But if we haven’t yet convinced you on how amazing these instruments truly are, maybe these Otamatone covers will!