Stylophone Deconstruction

Many moons ago, a hirsute antipodean arrived on the fair shores of Britain bringing with him three traditional musical instruments of the Australian people - the didgeridoo, the wobble-board and the Stylophone.  His name was Rolf Harris, and he prospered here, singing simple folk songs such as "Waltzing Matilda", "Tie my Kangaroo Down, Sport", "Sun Arise" and, more recently "Stairway to Heaven".

He advertised the Stylophone on TV and it was extremely popular at one time, but as is the way of things, interest declined and the Stylophone was lost to the general populace.

As is also the way of things, the Wheel of Life turns and thirty five winters on people began to ask "Where are the Stylophones?".  To assuage this human need, the son of the original Stylophone inventor redesigned it and had it made in large numbers in the Glorious Democratic People's Republic of China

But people are fickle, and many sold their Stylophones on a Well Known Auction Site where I purchased one for a small consideration.  I am now going to strip it of its case and reveal what lies within.

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Step 1: Opening the Case and First View

First thing to note is that the Stylophone does not want to be taken apart.   There are four glued plastic tabs which hold the two halves of the case together and I had to use a lot of force to crack the tabs.  I originally had an idea for a 'Pimp my Stylophone' type project but as it's not possible to split it neatly I'm now doing something different, but I still wanted the keyboard out of this for my prototype. 

Once apart, the photos show the view on the back of the circuit board.  Hover over the yellow boxes to see the component functions.  The quality of the wiring was appaling and two wires broke off just by moving them.

Step 2: The Business Side of the PCB

Once the dozen screws are removed, I could get to the 'business side' of the board.  The original Stylophone was a purely analogue device with a simple oscillator but the modern version has gone digital and uses technology far beyond what was available in 1967.  The black blob contains a custom IC which detects which pad the probe is touching and converts this information into musical tones.

The board above this is the audio amplifier and contains an old friend,  the LM386 chip, which gives a 0.5W output into the speaker.  I've detached this and will be using it in a future project.  A little audio amp always comes in handy.

The last photo is a close-up of some of the tiny SMD (surface mounted device) components.

Step 3: The Aftermath

I bought my first Stylophone with the sole intention of pulling it apart, but found it to be a fun instrument so I've bought another, pristine condition one to play with.  I got this for under £8 ($13) including P&P. 

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    9 Discussions


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I wervilled a flat-bladed screwdriver down each end where the halves overlap, and levered. Don't try this if you want to keep your Stylophone.  It is a one-way process!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I know this is way too old but I just wanted to say that I used a card to take the pieces apart and there's no damage :)


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That would work for a click-fit type case but this one had been stuck together using a solvent glue in several places. There was no way it was going to come apart without damage.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I got a Dubreq stylophone from the charity shop recently, for a couple of pounds.
    My sister had one when we were kids.
    I play guitar too. So I tried it against my guitar tuner. Its low on all notes, over a semi tone, even with the tuning control turned up.
    Is the tuning potentiometer at minimum resistance when its turned up? Or would it be possible to fit a different value potentiometer to get the right note frequencies. Or maybe unsolder a leg of the control and put an extra resister in series

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Depends if it's an original stylophone which was constructed using a discrete oscillator with various resistors for tuning the notes, or the later redesigned one which used a microcontroller to generate the tones.  

    I've dumped the remains of my microcontroller one, but I can't remember an external oscillator driving the micro - It was probably using the internal one, so no dice.

    The earlier ones could probably be tuned by altering R8 or R10 on the circuit HERE, although I think the oscillator will be quite temperature dependent so would need tuning every time you played.