Which Hand Is More Important? or Rod vs. Loop

Posted: 5/18/2011 3:12:27 PM
omhoge

From: New York, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

I've spent a lot of time practicing my pitch hand and developing a reliable fingering and spacing technique for lyric playing on the theremin.

Recently, it hit me though.
The real music happens in the volume hand.

All of the expression and "vocal" nuance I've always wanted in my playing, seems to come from the left, the volume, hand.

Now I'm working on pitch and getting it into muscle memory, so I can focus 80 to 90 percent of my attention on the volume hand.

Is anyone else finding this to be a better way to make music on the theremin? Even if you are doing non-melodic work, or using the theremin as a controller, don't you get more out of the oft neglected Loop?

Posted: 5/18/2011 3:42:11 PM
Amethyste

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

That is a good point/obserevation!

Luckily, I posted a video on UTube for people to criticize my playing and CoalPort actually emphasized that I should concentrate on my volume hand more. I am so glad this was pointed out to me cause I concentrated so much on my pitch hand that my volume hand stayed rather stiff and leveled. Even at my early learning stage, I try to play my scales with expression and dynamics. Doing this, make it actually fun to practice scales!

The last part of my practice, I try to play something that pop to my mind and concentrate more on expression rather than accuracy. I think doing the scales and such will train my muscle memory for that purpose and the last part of my session on volume - hoping that my brain can combine both together rather than separately. It's getting there :)

Posted: 5/18/2011 5:14:51 PM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Here's a big YES from the non-melodic faction. :-)

I give at least as much attention to the loop as the rod.

I work the loop harder than any other theremin player that I have seen. (I have seen quite a few.)

Posted: 5/18/2011 6:02:28 PM
coalport

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Precision thereminists must remember that there is far more to effective rod technique than simply hitting the correct note. There is the subtle "shaping" of the tone, the control of rate and depth of vibrato, and the effective use of the portamento. The volume hand controls only one thing - VOLUME. The pitch hand must control a number of things simultaneously.

Over the years, I have learned to be extremely skeptical when it comes to the self-appraisals of thereminists (and that includes my own self-appraisals).

When omhoge says, "All of the expression and vocal nuance I've always wanted in my playing, seems to come from the left, the volume, hand...." I think he may be underestimating the importance of the pitch hand.

Truly effective theremin playing comes from a perfect marriage of both the volume and pitch hands, and that happens in the musical brain. The TWO operate as ONE. Do not be thinking about the sound. BE the sound!

Clara said, "...first, have music in your soul." That was her rather romantic way of saying that you really need to be musically obsessed in order to play the theremin to the standards which she set for herself.

There are people (some of them are on this list) who are constantly thinking of music. Music plays in their imaginations all day, every day, regardless of whatever else they may be doing. The musical part of their brains has a life of its own, and every other part is along for the ride whether it wants to be or not! This is having "music in your soul".

There are musical instruments that can stir the soul without any control of volume whatsoever. Almost every folk tradition in the world has a bagpipe of one sort or another. No volume control. It's all done with tone, phrasing, and ornamentation.
Posted: 5/19/2011 4:46:12 AM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

[i]Precision thereminists must remember that there is far more to effective rod technique than simply hitting the correct note. There is the subtle "shaping" of the tone, the control of rate and depth of vibrato, and the effective use of the portamento. The volume hand controls only one thing - VOLUME. The pitch hand must control a number of things simultaneously.[/i]

OK, you lost me there. Perhaps you would care to elucidate, because from where I'm standing it looks like this:

The pitch hand controls only one thing - PITCH. But... there are various musical techniques that can be applied, e.g. shaping, vibrato, portamento.

The volume hand controls only one thing - VOLUME. But... there are various musical techniques that can be applied, e.g. staccato, tremolo, crescendo.

(Forgive me if I got the terminology wrong - I normally think in terms of electronic music techniques - envelope, oscillator, modulation etc. and then apply these concepts to my hand movements.)
Posted: 5/19/2011 7:58:57 AM
coalport

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

You are right Gordon. The volume hand controls only volume, and the pitch hand controls only pitch. What I am trying to point to is the number and the complexity of tasks within those two parameters that must be executed simultaneously.

The reason why control of the rod has been delegated to the right hand in right-handed people (and the left hand in "lefties") is because playing the rod requires greater dexterity due to the amount of, and relative difficulty of, the multi-tasking involved. As you pointed out, the volume hand must execute a number of techniques related to volume (staccato, tremolo, crescendo) but it generally does not have to do them all at once. In fact, on a theremin, you cannot play a staccato and crescendo at the same time (something that is relatively easy on a keyboard, violin or cello) because the resources needed for the one, are the same as those needed for the other.

The other thing about volume control is that it does not demand the same degree of precision as pitch control. All things considered, it is an easier skill to master.

The pitch hand has to do a number of things at once, and it must do them with a degree of accuracy that is rarely required of the the volume hand. Intonation, vibrato, portamento, etc. must be done exactly and simultaneously (and preferably not with the same muscle groups).

"omhoge" wrote in his original post, "I'm working on pitch and getting it into muscle memory, so I can focus 80 to 90 percent of my attention on the volume hand...", and it is really this decision that I am addressing. We all hear music differently and om's shift in focus may indeed take him to the place he wants to go musically. Whether or not it will be as satisfying to others as it is for "om" remains to be seen......or heard...

Thereminist Kip Rosser has developed volume control (in particular, articulation) to an astonishing degree, and he is to be congratulated. I am not certain, however, if general appreciation of his accomplishment equals the tremendous amount of effort Kip has put into acquiring it. There has been a trade-off and in the process, for some listeners, the baby may have been tossed out with the bath water.

We have only ourselves to please. If a thereminist is satisfied with his or her work and enjoys playing the instrument, then it's MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. As I have said many times, no matter what you do, or how well you do it, some people will like it and others will not. The other day, you and I were discussing a particular performance of a composition by Percy Grainger and you mentioned that it actually made you feel nauseated. Reading over the comments from other listeners I noticed, with some amusement, that a number of people said they could not listen to the piece without tears coming to their eyes.

Some people cry, some people throw up.
Posted: 5/19/2011 9:01:17 AM
Amethyste

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

... It's easier to hand out tissues than cleaning up puke on your shoes ...

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