I had never heard of these little instruments before, but apparently the Otamatone is a “genius singing machine” from Japan. Not being a natural musician, I do like pretending I’m the next Beethoven with a bit of app magic, so I tried out the Otamatone ($2.99) in a heartbeat.
It looks a little strange, a round smiling face which (when you realize it – took me a while) turns out to be a quaver note, looking all cute. You have to move its mouth up and down or pinch its cheeks together to make the sounds come out, then tilt your phone around to change the notes. the iPhone’s gyroscope functionality really comes out in this app, so I’m sure it’ll give you plenty of practice getting to grips with that too. The otamatone will squeak out the weirdest sound, but you’ll get used to that as time goes on! It took me a while to get the hang of tilting to get the right notes, but I think if you’re musically inclined it’ll come naturally and you’ll be belting out the show tunes in no time. I think I managed to get out a quick rendition of Happy Birthday, but I’ll save you the wails — it wasn’t a masterpiece.
You can use the settings to adjust the volume, the octave, and the color of your instrument (only black or white available at the moment though), as well as record your tunes by tapping the yellow bar and starting to play once the stick swivels round to face the other way. It might take a few goes to get the hang of how to use it, but it’s pretty fun to learn! I think all it needs to take it to the next level is to bring in some sort of songbook like Magic Piano or Leaf Trombone, so there’s certain places to hold it and way to tune it – that way you can really learn how to play it through levels and different difficulties.
I enjoyed playing it and think it could also be fun for little kids, simply because they’d find the ‘waah waah’ sound amusing. Recording songs allows you to see your progress as you learn to play the instrument, but it would be a longer investment to have a songbook and those stages to work at getting better at playing.
Have a look at the video, which shows the otamatone in action: