Tuning intervals

Posted: 10/4/2010 1:46:45 AM
Paramemetic

From: Portsmouth, OH

Joined: 9/23/2010

As a newcomer to the theremin I am trying many different approaches and trying to find what works for me best and, more importantly, with what I am most effective. Part of this is experimenting with different tuning intervals. When I was first introduced to the theremin by my teacher, I was taught to tune to an interval of an octave from my root to my most extended position (using Eyck's method). I've been doing this for nearly two weeks, but I can't help but wonder if alternate tunings might be better for me. I am currently playing around with tuning to a perfect fifth or possibly a major sixth, and then not extending my fingers all the way out but rather playing more with my knuckles. In another thread coalport says that playing with one's knuckles should allow one to play a major third or fourth, but I seem to be able to get more than that due to having large hands. Is a III or IV what you would recommend, coalport?

What tunings do you all use? What advantages are there of one tuning over another?

Any help in this regard would be much appreciated.
Posted: 10/4/2010 7:45:56 AM
FredM

From: Eastleigh, Hampshire, U.K. ................................... Fred Mundell. ................................... Electronics Engineer. (Primarily Analogue) .. CV Synths 1974-1980 .. Theremin developer 2007 to present .. soon to be Developing / Trading as WaveCrafter.com . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

[i]"not extending my fingers all the way out but rather playing more with my knuckles" - Para..[/i]


LOL - I ma going off now into one of my longwinded technical essays! ;-) Please be warned, and skip this posting if you are an artist who doesnt know what capacitance is! ;-)

I cannot give any advice on playing.. But from a technical perspective, I see little merit in ever fully extending the fingers - this opinion (and it is only an opinion - I could be completely wrong!) comes from crude analysis I have done on capacitive distributions between the players hand (mainly) and the antenna.

As everyone knows, it is the capacitance 'seen' by the antenna which determines pitch.. Greater capacitance = Higher pitch.

There are two main factors that determine capacitance - these are: 1.) Area (The area of adjacency between the two capacitor plates - as in, the 'overlap' area of the antenna and the hand). 2) Distance (the distance between the plates - as in the distance between the hand and the antenna).

I will go straigt to my 'conclusion' first, and follow this with 'theory' next.. I believe it is possible to actually reduce capacitance by straightening the fingers if the decrease in distance of the hand to the antenna is accompanied by a decrease in effective 'overlap' area of the hand to the antenna.. Actual reduction in capacitance is an extreme (and unlikely) case, but what does happen is that the increase in capacitance can be much less than one would expect if you are only thinking about distance and not taking changes of your hands area into account.

I think the above particularly (but not exclusively) applies to players with harge hands and thin fingers - With such a hand extended (flat) pointing at the antenna, the area of the fingers closest to the antenna is small.. but the same hand, bent (using knuckles) represents a larger area and movements of the fingers which change the effective area give (in my opinion) much greater control of the capacitance and therefore pitch.

Everything is actually a whole lot more complex than what I have stated above.. Even plotting capacitive distributions in 2d becomes a mammoth undertaking - One has the 'direct' coupling where the hand and antenna overlap horizontally, and one has all the vertical couplings (which are angular) from the antenna above and below the hand - One has these 'vertical' components extending for the whole length of the arm, each adding to the total capacitance (so changing ones hands distance from the antenna by moving your arm does not only reduce capacitance by merit of the hand <-> antenna distance, it also reduces capacitance through the 'vertical' capacitive components) - and then, of course, there is the body's bulk capacitancewith all its 'direct' and 'angular' couplings to the antenna.

The basic equation for capacitance is C=eA/d where e is the dielectric (assume 1 for air, but this can vary with humidity, temperature etc) A is Area (this is the 'overlapping' Area of the 'plates' - This becomes quite complex when one is looking at hand <-> antenna relationships) and d is distance (again, even this is not a simple matter when one is looking at hand/arm/body relationships with reference to an antenna).

Everything about a players body / position / hand orientation etc will affect the capacitance in complex ways.. For example; A flat horizontal hand, fingers pointed to the antenna, will have little 'common' area between the closest distance and the antenna - however, such a hand will have a lot of coupling between the hand and the antenna above and below the hand (one needs to think 3d to visualize this).. A flat vertical hand, fingers pointed to the antenna, will have more 'common' area between the fingertips and the antenna - however, such a hand will have a less coupling between the hand and the antenna above and below the hand.

I am sure there is more than enough 'meat' in the above topic
Posted: 10/4/2010 12:23:46 PM
Paramemetic

From: Portsmouth, OH

Joined: 9/23/2010

Thanks for that. I'm not a physicist or electrical engineer, but I have a basic understanding of these principles. I think all instrumentalists should know at least the basics of how their instrument functions. You oughtn't play a stringed instrument without understanding how vibration and sound work, for example. I was familiar with capacitance and had wondering how this seems to effect sound. Eyck's method works, at least for Eyck, but I'm interested in exploring multiple methods to see what I use best. Right now I'm still defaulting to extending my fingers to reach the higher notes, but I think that can be retrained _if_ I feel like it's better to do so.
Posted: 10/4/2010 4:42:32 PM
omhoge

From: New York, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

I can't believe Peter hasn't said it yet, but his advice is start looking at the technique of players whose sound and style you like.

I usually tune by finding zero beat, then do what you have been doing: tuning the octave from closed to most open position. Then I check that in all of the octaves and adjust to get them all equally close. The only time I've had to vary from that is if I'm playing an entire piece just in the lowest octave then I tune specifically for that range.

If you have not searched TW yet give it a try, you may have no idea how many bytes have been entered here on this subject!

Happy thereminizing and keep us posted on your progress.
Posted: 10/4/2010 4:53:35 PM
FredM

From: Eastleigh, Hampshire, U.K. ................................... Fred Mundell. ................................... Electronics Engineer. (Primarily Analogue) .. CV Synths 1974-1980 .. Theremin developer 2007 to present .. soon to be Developing / Trading as WaveCrafter.com . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

[i]"_if_ I feel like it's better to do so" - Para [/i]

I agree.. This is the bottom line, I think, with most playing techniques - I doubt that there is any one method of playing which is optimum for everyone... Perhaps there would / could be if we were all identical, but we arent!

I find playing with fingers fully, or nearly fully extended, quite uncomfortable, and that the movement / pitch relationship in the 'extended hand' region does not feel 'linear' or 'natural' - I feel happier with fingers 'angled' at between about 45 and 160 degrees to the antenna.. My lowest capacitance (highest pitch) is with my hand in an almost fist shape, capacitance being increased by moving fingers (individually or together)until they are all at about 90 degrees to the antenna.. I find that control in this zone is easiest for me.. Then extending fingers further forward together adds to the range - I tend to move the fingers together rather than individually when extending beyond 90 degrees..

But I am really just an absolute beginner - I am interested in the science as much as (perhaps more so) actually playing.. I thought I was going to be able to play well, after my first lessons with Lydia went well - But, for whatever reasons, I dont seem to have improved one iota since then.. 8-( .. So, when it comes to playing, take everything I say with a big pinch of salt..

Fred.

Posted: 10/4/2010 8:11:33 PM
coalport

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

omhoge wrote:

"I can't believe Peter hasn't said it yet........"

*****************

O.K.! O.K.! I'LL SAY IT.

The best way to approach the theremin from the standpoint of technique is to imitate, to the very best of your ability, the playing of the thereminist you most admire. Eventually, your own style and musical personality will emerge. Never take any advice on how to play the theremin (or any other instrument) from someone whom you have not heard play, or whose playing you do not enjoy. And that includes ME.

Do not attempt to cherry pick a technique of your own based on what you think works for you. You will end up with a hodgepodge and a whole lot of bad habits that will ultimately get in your way. I know because I did it.

Clara Rockmore said, "First have music in your soul. If you have that, you will find a way to do it!"

The problem is, everybody who likes music thinks they have music in their soul.
Posted: 10/4/2010 9:38:15 PM
Paramemetic

From: Portsmouth, OH

Joined: 9/23/2010

coalport wrote:

The best way to approach the theremin from the standpoint of technique is to imitate, to the very best of your ability, the playing of the thereminist you most admire.

-----------------------

We've covered before that this would be Randy George for me. I will follow your advice, as I've watched a lot of Mr. George's videos and believe I can probably emulate his technique fairly well because we have similar hands. This does lead me to the question, though, relevant to the thread - how does Mr. George tune? Does he play an octave from his closed-ish hand to his extended position, or some other interval? Does anyone know? I can't quite tell from the videos, though I'm going to continue to watch them in hopes that I can.

Edit: I'm thinking it's an octave, yes?
Posted: 10/5/2010 11:54:20 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Paramemetic - Why not just ask Randy George (http://randygeorgemusic.com/) yourself?
Posted: 10/5/2010 9:50:51 PM
Paramemetic

From: Portsmouth, OH

Joined: 9/23/2010

I'd been to his website, it never dawned on me to ask him myself because, well, I don't know. Good idea, I might just do that. Thanks. =]
Posted: 11/14/2010 6:43:20 PM
iridescentgreen

From: Missouri

Joined: 12/17/2008

So, Paramemetic, what did Mr. George say about tuning, just out of curiosity? And furthermore, how has that worked out for you?

I usually tune to octaves as well (to a comfortable distance, but I'm inexperienced enough that it's not an exact science just yet), standing at either the edge of zero beat or just inside of it.

Thanks.

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