Posted: 8/25/2005 9:38:40 PM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

[i] now don't kill me for saying this, but i don't really see the difference between having a theremin with one antenna and a volume control knob/dial and one with two antennas, as long as the theremin creates a pure sine wave tone, do you really need a volume antenna?[/i]

To be able to play separate notes, you have to have a volume control antenna. You can't reach over to the unit with your other hand to twiddle a knob to separate the notes: the presence of the other hand would alter the note you're trying to play.

It's my opinion that it's better to save your money until you can afford a real and decent theremin, instead of getting some horrible cheapo noisemaker and just calling it a theremin.
Posted: 8/25/2005 11:56:09 PM

Joined: 7/20/2005

with all due respect, i don't know if i want to pay $399 USD for something good quality just to learn that i'm not any good at playing it. i'd rather buy an el cheapo theremin type instrument and learn how to use it before i buy a good quality one. besides, the volume of a note does not effect the actual note, just how far away you can be from the speaker and still hear it. so until any theremin player is trying to play an extreamly complex piece of music, they won't need the volume controll at all.
Posted: 8/26/2005 9:30:10 AM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

I completely get your reasoning for not wanting to spend lots of money on a gamble...

That said, if you really want to find out if you enjoy the theremin experience, then perhaps a cheaper theremin like the B3 you find on eBay would give you a better picture of what two-handed playing is really like. There's a definite art to being able to control both antennas effectively, to use the volume antenna for proper expression/phrasing, etc. I'm not sure a volume knob would be a fair representation of the technique required for the "real" thing.

I tend to think of the $350 price point as a "serious beginner" point. It's the same for guitars... that amount will get you a fairly decent model that you can use for years while you build up your technique and repetoire. $1500 for an Etherwave Pro is definitely in the "professional" range, like a tricked-out American Stratocaster. I'm not sure if theremins really have a super-high end equivalent (The RCA is more of a collector's item IMHO, though the Ethervox might be close).

In guitars, I'm very wary of something the <$150 range, because I know that it may look like a guitar, but it probably doesn't have great intonation, the sustain is short, the pickups aren't very good, the neck may be warped, etc. Obviously, it's a little different with theremins, but the concept is the same... at the lower price point, you're going to be making some sacrifices. As long as you understand that and are ok with it, I think it's completely reasonable to start small & make sure you like it before you move on. But if you decide you do not like it, I think you should try to get some time in front of a ~$350 theremin first before you completely make up your mind - to ensure you've had an adequate introduction to the theremin experience.

Just my ramblin... I'm sure other folks have more thoughts on this.
Posted: 8/26/2005 3:13:48 PM

Joined: 7/20/2005

I would love to spend time in front of an expensive theremin; in fact, I have called all of the music stores in my city looking for some place to try one out. None of them have any theremins, in fact, according to the Moog website, there is only one place in Canada that sells theremins, and that's in Quebec. I really wish I had the guts to buy a good theremin without knowing how to play it or anything, but I’m not a gambler. If I ever get the chance to play a $350 theremin, I’m sure I’d be clambering to buy one for myself. As it is, I just purchased the apogee theremin kit for $30 CAD and I’m hoping that it can at least make enough noise for me to get a feel for the instrument. I appreciate what you were saying about the guitars but, and I realise that I’m a special case on this one, I have two electric guitars, one Gibson epiphone (for about $400) that doesn't stay tuned for more than half a song, and a no name brand fender rip-off (for about $15) that makes the most beautiful music. So I’m (falsely) confident in finding a good quality theremin at a low price. I must apologise now for my posts, sometimes I get into heated discussions and make a lot of people angry at me, or make them think I’m angry at them, but I assure you that I am not trying to make any enemies with this post, I just thrive on conflict. So if anyone is offended or angered by my posts, I’m sorry.
Posted: 8/27/2005 1:52:43 AM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

The major difference between an amateur instrument and a professional instrument, according to all the people I've known who've been professionals and willing and able to afford a professional instrument, is that a professional instrument is actually easier to play... what you pay all that extra money for is ease. (And sound quality, but ease is a big thing.)

The Etherwave standard isn't a pro instrument, it's actually a beginner level instrument. Given that fact, what does that tell you about the difficulty level of an $80 theremin?

What I'm trying to say is, if you buy the cheapo Theremin, you might never actually know if you'd ever be any good at playing a Theremin, because it may well be technically impossible to play a tune on the thing.

I didn't really want to shell out about $500 just to try the Theremin either ($400 for the Etherwave, $60 for a cheapo amp, $10 for a cable, $30 for a stand, not counting shipping). I considered it and decided to take the risk in large part because Etherwaves seemed to retain a lot of their value on ebay, so I figured if I hated it I could get most of my money back. Your mileage may vary, so if you think that's not a good method, well, do what you think is right. But, please at least consider a Kees Enkelaar Theremin. I've read that it's leaps and bounds more playable than the next cheapest alternative. (When I say I think you should get a "real" Theremin, I'm counting the Kees as real, and it's quite a bit cheaper than the Etherwave.) Or (and I don't think this is as good an option, but it's an option) get a Theremax kit and put it together. If you hate it, you can probably sell it for more than you paid for it, because now it'd be assembled.

In my case, I still can't play the thing after a couple years, but I have no regrets: I'm working on ear training again, and I continue to harbor pleasant delusions I'll be the next Clara Rockmore someday. Meanwhile, I took it to a science fiction convention and got it autographed by a bunch of famous science fiction writers, so if it hasn't at least tripled in value I'd be surprised. (Not that I'd ever consider selling it now, it means far too much to me.)
Posted: 8/27/2005 4:09:50 AM

Joined: 7/20/2005

i considered the Kees Enkelaar Theremin, but they are currently not avalible for purchase, so that's kind of out of the quiestion for now. the coolidge corner theater theremin that i built works ok-ish, i kind of got some louder sounds out of it and i can play a scale on it before i have to re-tune it (i really used a lot of "it"s in that sentance), right now, being a university student, i don't have the kind of money it costs to purchase a good theremin, especially since i live in canada and all the theremins i have found are in the states or austrailia. the brokeridge fee for bringing a $500 USD theremin across the boarder would be astronomical. if anyone here knows of a place where i can get a theremin in alberta or at least canada, i might be willing to shell out the big bucks to buy a good one. but until then i'll just have to use bad ones and maybe not play real music on them.
Posted: 8/27/2005 12:27:10 PM

From: new haven ct.

Joined: 7/8/2005

as far as the guitar anology goes, you can play a cheap guitar. it's intonation maybe out of wack, and the the tone coiuld be awfull, but it can be played, and if you know how to play you can make it work for you. But no matter how good of a guitar player you are, if the strings keep changing positions (i.e. the D sting suddenly becoming the B string) or the distance between the frets are changing while your playing or the pick keeps dissappering from your hand mid-strum, as far as absurd as that sounds, THAT'S what it's like trying to play a super cheap toyamen ( I wont even call it a theremin ) If you want to get one because it's all you can afford then fine. If it satisfies the bug, then great get one. But in all honesty you shouldn't get one, get good at making noise (and that's about all you'll be able to do) and then call yourself a theremin player.
Posted: 8/27/2005 2:58:42 PM

Joined: 7/20/2005

i don't see why i couldn't call myself a theremin player, i mean, the box says it's a theremin, and i would be playing with it. you yourself called it a toy, and what do you do with toys fi not play wit them? but i would not ever call myself a musician with one of the cheap ones.
Posted: 8/27/2005 5:50:04 PM
RS Theremin

From: 60 mi. N of San Diego CA

Joined: 2/15/2005

Hello Naveed,

I agree that you would be playing a true theremin.

There is a lot of misinformation about the theremin and it is always interesting to me when a Thereminist does not realize when they are playing a gesture controlled synthesizer and not a true theremin. Ask yourself, why did Lydia Kavina feel the need design her own theremin?

Lev discovered he could control and make music from the heterodyne principle, which is the “true theremin voice”. His early models did have a potentiometer to control the volume.

The quality theremin is not about “costs” rather “design”. People have only a handful of instruments to choose from today so they are left settling for much less than the theremin can be. Unfortunately the best design of theremin today is expensive but it doesn’t have to be.

The only commercially available theremin I could comfortably recommend is that $1400 model for reasons that are to complex to explain here.

I do agree the cheaper theremins will seem like theremin playing and are playable for some, but you will never know what you’re missing, the “ease” of playing with “profound” theremin control.

This famous statement is true but it’s meaning seems to have been lost in time and to many bad designs.

“RCA The theremin is as easy to play as it is to whistle” Circa 1930

Posted: 8/27/2005 11:00:37 PM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

Yes, Lev's early models had a potentiometer to control the volume instead of a volume antenna... but he didn't call those Theremins, he called them Aetherphons. I believe he didn't apply his name to the instrument until he'd added the volume antenna.

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