Articles / Inspiration

Care and Feeding of Your New Theremin

Got a theremin for Christmas?  Congratulations!  Being a theremin owner may sound like a lot of fun, but don’t forget, it’s a lot of work too!  But never fear… we’re here to help!  Here are 8 tips for getting to know your new theremin:

  1. Approach the theremin with your hand extended – Like dogs, the best way to approach a theremin is with your left hand extended towards the volume loop.  This way, you’ll avoid a nasty “bark” from the pitch antenna because your left hand will keep the volume down as you approach.  But don’t worry if you forget this step… a theremin’s bark is much worse than its bite!
  2. Play with your theremin every day – Theremins have a lot of energy, and they need to be played with every day.  You don’t want to see what happens when you ignore a theremin too long… it isn’t pretty.
  3. Socialize your theremin from an early age – Theremins aren’t shy, but we’ve found that some people are shy when they first meet a theremin.  Invite your friends over to play, and help them figure out the basics of playing a theremin.  Who knows… maybe they’ll get one too and you can start your own theremin orchestra!
  4. Set up play dates for your theremin – Theremins love to jam with other instruments.  Get it together regularly with guitars, pianos, harps, didgeridoos, kazoos, etc. and make beautiful music together!
  5. Keep your theremin warm – As your theremin heats up, the pitch response may shift slightly.  Don’t store your theremin in a cold place like a garage or unheated storage room to minimize the time it takes to heat up.
  6. Practice makes perfect! – Practice every day.  The theremin is a wonderful instrument and can sound beautiful when played well, but it takes time to develop your technique.  Practice both songs and pitch drills (Clara Rockmore’s drills are a great place to start).  Practice each hand separately, and then together.  Try holding a constant note as long as you can with one hand while you vary the volume with the other.  Then reverse and play different pitches while holding the volume steady.  It’s like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time – you have to teach each hand to move independently.  Need lessons?  Check out Thomas Grillo’s DVD for starters!
  7. Give it some space – Clear a wide space around your theremin to get the best range and response from each antenna.  If you have a velvet rope, go ahead and set that up around it.  Theremins like to feel special.
  8. Theremins are afraid of the dark – Whatever you do, don’t stuff your theremin in a closet.  They hate that.  They prefer to be front and center in living room, music room, bedroom, etc.  Theremins hate the dark.

Feel free to leave more tips in comments. You’re on the first steps of a lifelong journey to master the theremin.  Good luck!