© 2018 Author(s). Optomechanical (OM) structures are well suited to study photon-phonon interactions, and they also turn out to be potential building blocks for phononic circuits and quantum computing. In phononic circuits, in which information is carried and processed by phonons, OM structures could be used as interfaces to photons and electrons thanks to their excellent coupling efficiency. Among the components required for phononic circuits, such structures could be used to create coherent phonon sources and detectors, but more complex functions remain challenging. Here, we propose and demonstrate a way to modulate the coherent phonon emission from OM crystals by a photothermal effect induced by an external laser, effectively creating a phonon switch working at ambient conditions of pressure and temperature and the working speed of which is only limited by the build-up time of the mechanical motion of the OM structure. We additionally demonstrate two other modulation schemes: modulation of harmonics in which the mechanical mode remains active but different harmonics of the optical force are used, and modulation to and from a chaotic regime. Furthermore, due to the local nature of the photothermal effect used here, we expect this method to allow us to selectively modulate the emission of any single cavity on a chip without affecting its surroundings in the absence of mechanical coupling between the structures, which is an important step toward freely controllable networks of OM phonon emitters.