The Otamatone was developed in Japan in 1998 by the CUBE toy company and the Maywa Denki design firm. It is a musical instrument and singing toy whose body is shaped like an eighth note (it also somewhat resembles a tadpole, "otamajakushi" being Japanese for "tadpole"), with sound emerging from a "mouth" on the notehead. Often classified as an electronic musical synthesizer, its sound is similar to that of a theremin, but has also been compared to that of the Chinese jinghu.

Playing the Otamatone

It requires two hands to play: while one hand holds and squeezes the "head", the other hand controls the pitch of the tune by placing the finger on a ribbon controller on the stem; a higher position on the stem creates a lower sound.


The ribbon controller is deliberately delinearized to resemble a guitar, so there is a shorter distance between higher notes than between lower ones. Varying the pressure on the head (thereby opening and closing the "mouth" of the Otamatone) creates a wah-wah effect, and shaking the neck (and thereby slightly changing pressure on the head) creates a vibrato effect.


Switches on the back of the head allow users to change octave, turn it off or on, or change the volume.


Stem Switch

Stem Switch - Press to generate sound. Notes go from low (near the tail) to high (near the head).


Head - Squeeze the Otamatone's "cheeks" to open and close the mouth, changing the sound from an "mmm" (closed) to an "ahh" (open). This can be used to create a "wah" effect.


Tail - No real function - it simply makes the Otamatone cuter!


Single Notes

Press the stem to play a note. (We suggest squeezing between two fingers - it will require more force than a touchscreen.)

Portamento (Slide) Technique

Slide fingers up and down the stem for a smoother transition from low to high/high to low notes.

"Wah" Effect

Squeeze the Otamatone's "cheeks" to open and close its mouth, creating a "wah" sound.

Vibrato Technique

Shake the stem while playing a note to produce Vibrato.


While the stem of the Otamatone does not come marked (due to the fact that the notes on each unit vary slightly), markings can be added to make playing and learning songs easier!
Read below for how to find and mark the notes on your Otamatone.

Add Tape

Add tape along the edge of the stem (masking tape works well) so that you can mark each note's position.

Finding Note Positions

Align your Otamatone with the diagram on the included practice sheet and mark the position of each note in the practice song. A tuner or tuner app can be used to mark other notes, allowing you to learn even more songs!

The more you practice, the more you'll get a feel for the positions of the notes on your Otamatone!