Another arial fingering question? Go ahead shoot me.

Posted: 2/28/2010 12:15:29 AM
Dave H

From: Sedona AZ

Joined: 7/12/2009

coalport: You could well be right.

But let’s do an experiment. Forget all the hundreds of years of knowledge that was been formed about the correct way to play a violin. (Let alone just hold it.) Somebody hands you a violin, not tuned as that information is also not standardized, and bow and says: “Figure out some way to make music with this thing.” (Let’s also pretend you don’t start hitting the violin with the bow like a drum with only four untuned notes.)

What do you do first. Tune the strings? Should I tune the strings low to high or high to low, or something else? Well after a couple of weeks, if not months, you might settle on some type of tuning. You will make several false starts and have to start from over.

Now you need to work out a fingering method. Maybe you shouldn’t use the pinky as it’s so weak. Do you use a bow, strike the string, pluck the strings? Hit the back of the violin with your fist? What about tremolo? Finger sliding? Wrist motion? Slide fingers sideways bending the string? Maybe we should add frets.

Sounds like the violin becomes much more difficult to play if not impossible to learn at all This all reminds me of trying to learn to play the theremin. . We haven’t had hundreds of years to figure out a system for this extremely hard to play instrument. Maybe a system can’t be worked out. But maybe the theremin has just not become widely appreciated and understood enough to develop a system. Maybe there are just too many things that are not “standard” about the theremin.

Violins come in standard sizes. So do piano keys. If I want to score some music the range of most instruments is absolutely known.

Theremins, the instrument, we have no standards. No standard distance between notes. (Linearity.) No particular number of octaves. (Range.) No standard voicing.
No standard way of playing it. No standard way of teaching it.

I agree with you about the novelty of the theremin. I believe if it weren’t for it’s novelty we wouldn’t accept all the un-standard characteristics about them. Just as we wouldn’t
run down the street and buy a 4/9 violin or a 9 string guitar without frets.

Just a thought
Posted: 2/28/2010 8:07:10 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008


Perhaps all this is why Clara Rockmore said that the most important thing to know for any newcomer to the theremin, is where you want to go. Know where you want to end up before you start.

There is more than one way to play the violin. In India it is played on the arm and bowed quite differently. If you want to play Indian music, this is a much better approach than the under-the-chin method of playing used in the West.

There are many approaches to the theremin and the one that is best for any particular individual will depend on where that person wants to go musically. Clara devised her own technique to play the music she loved, but she did so after many years of the study of music AND she was a musical prodigy.

True, there is no established technique for the theremin and perhaps, given the unique nature of the instrument, there never will be. The advantage of following a method, whatever that method may be, is that it can save you a whole lot of time. Many people do not survive their first couple of disappointments with the theremin and end up moving on to something else.

The theremin has a very high drop-out rate. The urge to explore the novelty quickly diminishes, there is a realization that the instrument is extremely difficult to control with precision, and people get discouraged. Curiously, the ones who hang on the longest are often those people whose musical ear is not good enough for them to know how bad they are. These folks get immense pleasure and satisfaction from playing - far more than those whose innate musical faculties and musicianship tell them they're terrible!
Posted: 2/28/2010 10:58:36 PM
Dave H

From: Sedona AZ

Joined: 7/12/2009


Thanks for all your time and effort on my behalf. You have been both
very helpful and very patient.

Sounds like there is some good news and some bad news for me.

Good news? I know where I want to go: Perform classical music on the theremin for small groups of people. In the style of a typical chamber music performance.

Bad news? As I studied violin I kept being told that I was well ahead of the curve, but I was my own worst enemy. Why? I heard every little flaw in intonation, bow noise, fingering noise, etc. (I was able to even hear the difference when my teacher changed one of her strings during the holidays and I came to a lesson weeks later.) I was told this awareness led to tension in my playing. I was told to ease back on my goals and have fun. (I am still working on this.)

My teacher actually had me play for her with the direction of: “Try to make as many intonation errors as you can, but just keep playing.” “Make it sound REALLY bad!” We both had a good laugh.

It goes without saying this awareness is slowing down my theremin progression. As a new guy on the block I don’t know what to let go at this time and what to fix immediately to prevent long term bad habits.

Again, thanks.

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