Yamaha SHS-10 MIDI Keytar

Standard Grey SHS-10
Dixons Store Red SHS-10
Japan Black Edition SHS-10

I had a grey SHS-10 back in the late 80s and I adored it.  I found a boxed red one at a boot fair in 2002 for a pound and bit the seller’s hand off.  I seem to recall it made over £100 on eBay.

The plastic keytar was released by Yamaha in 1987.  The majority of them were grey, but Dixons exclusively sold the red ones.  There was a black version of it too, and I believe it was produced for the Japanese market.

The SHS-10 had 32 mini keys plus a pitch bend wheel at the end of the grip.  The FM synth had 25 built-in sounds, was six-note poly and had an internal speaker.  The big plus of the SHS-10 was the MIDI Out.  It meant you could plug the device into another MIDI unit and control that.

The drums could be transmitted on separate MIDI channels, which was quite a powerful feature.  An external drum machine, for example, could then play a backing.  MIDI start and stop plus tempo sync could also be transmitted and picked up by an external sequencer.  Other features included: intro, fill-in and ending buttons for the rhythms and auto-chords, vibrato, portamento and sustain buttons, tempo, tuning and transpose buttons, chord sequencer with battery-back-up, but no editing,

Sound ranged from ‘synthesizer’ through to ‘music box’ with offerings such as ‘piano’, ‘steel drum’ and ‘saxophone’ thrown in for good measure.  There were 25 preset rhythms too, from ‘Rhythm & Blues’ to ‘Fusion’, ‘Samba’ and ‘Fanfare’.  A large red 2-digit LED showed preset and program numbers, as well as tempo for rhythms.  The sounds were quite impressive for this FM device.  It was let down by the demo song – a rendition (sic) of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’, which I present here:


The SHS-10 (and its bigger, cheesier, nastier & rarer brother the SHS-200) was a circuit-benders’ dream.  More complex sounds could be produced by hard-wiring an 8-pole DIP switch to the YM2420 chip.



7 thoughts on “Yamaha SHS-10 MIDI Keytar

  1. Thanks for posting. Having a blast with mine! Thanks also for posting the Instruction Manual — mine had gotten separated.

  2. Got mine (the red unit -YES!!) yesterday for €67 and this is by far the most aweful looking totally obsolete plastic gear i’ll ever own…Attached a MIDI cable to play some synth plugins on my computer. The combination of its cheesy looks and state of the art virtual synth totally rocks! I love the eighties!!! Thanks for posting the manual, may do some modding 🙂

  3. Hi Steve, I am making a cake, full size of the Yamaha SHS-10 but I cannot find proper dimensions only the basic ones stated in the manual, would you be able to send me the dimensions, length of actual keyboard from the end of the keyboard to the actual neck, basically all dimensions if possible, artistic licence this will be hot pink (customers choice) but I can send you photos of the cake afterward if you want.

    1. Hello. Many thanks for getting in touch. The dimensions of the SHS-10 unit were: 751mm W x 178mm D x 57mm H. Couldn’t guess the dimensions of the keyboard alone, sadly, as I don’t have the unit anymore. I’ll do some digging around to see what I can find out.

    2. Right, done some rough drawings and I reckon if the whole unit is 751mm in length, the distance from the end of the hand grip to the start of the keyboard is 370mm. Hope this helps. Pictures would be great when it’s done – I’l put ’em on the blog for you. Best wishes.

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