Clueless Mom Seeks Theremin Help

Posted: 11/16/2006 9:06:39 PM

From: Toledo, Ohio United States of America

Joined: 2/22/2006

Hello Cool Mom,
I have built a PAiA Theremax and have never had a problem with electrical interference. My Theremax worked , after tuning, and eliminating a bad AC adapter,(to which K.Kessinger can attest). I have also built many electronic kits.
I would say to you that the Theremax needs a keyboard amp. Being an employee at a music store that sells Roland products I would ask you to warn your son to NEVER plug the output of ANY THERMIN to the amplifier inputs of a Roland Digital piano.
Roland splits their market offerings in two. The combo marketed products do not have an internal amplifier and on-board speakers, and is aimed at the professional musician that will be running his Roland products thru a mixing board to eventual controlled amplification. The home marketed products have amplified speakers on-board with, usually, the ability for additive amplification of other instruments as a monitoring convenience.
Good Luck!
Posted: 11/17/2006 4:04:02 AM

Joined: 2/21/2005

As I've said in previous posts, the Theremax is the best low-budget instrument out there. If Will can solder things, he can build this kit. My Theremax has worked extremely well, even when the cabinet was a cardboard box! Today my instrument resides in a custom-built cabinet, uses custom-made brass antenna, and stands waist-high on 4 table-legs. I frequently plug it directly into my PC for digital recording, and to experiment with audio mixing software.
Posted: 11/17/2006 1:58:10 PM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

Theremaniac Mum,

Your situation sounds very similar to that which my parents were in about a year ago.

When I was fourteen, I became totally obsessed with the theremin. I wasn't hugely musical - I played the piano to Grade 5ish, and dabbled a bit in composition, but it was really nothing to be amazed by.

I saved up for months in anticipation, and after weeks of pestering my parents agreed to foot 1/2 the cost of an Etherwave standard. The whole thing was a total gamble. I had no idea if I'd be able to play the contraption, or whether it would be a total waste of money.

When it arrived (on my 15th birthday, last year), much to my shock I was actually able to elicit some sort of coherent noise, and after a few months practicing I'd become more than acceptable (at least with regards my personal aspirations when I started out). Somehow, my theremin experience radically improved my piano playing, and in a year, I went from struggling through easy, unimpressive and boring piano studies to actually being able to play music that is not only fun, but impressive and half-decent.

Finding an instrument that is difficult but hugely fun and inspiring right from the outset is almost impossible, but for me the theremin was just that. I wasn't really a musician before I found the theremin, but the immense concentration, dedication and development of musicality that it *demands* really improved everything quite astoundingly.

The ultimate upshot of my parents' decision to buy me a theremin was that I gained a scholarship to do music in my Sixth Form. It might sound like some sort of cheesy 'miracle-cure' internet jargon, but really, taking up the theremin has to be one of the best decisions I've made in my entire life.

*Look into my eyes* Get it. Get it. Get it!
Posted: 11/19/2006 11:06:57 AM

From: Massachusetts

Joined: 11/10/2006

I really appreciate all the thoughtful advice I've gotten through this forum. We're still vacillating about this decision, partly because the range of options is too wide: the Etherwave is a significant financial investment, the Theremax would be a major investment of time and patience, or we can just forget this whole idea and assume Will's interest is a passing fancy.

Though I suspect, especially after reading Charlie D's wonderful post about how much fun and musical inspiration he's gotten from his theremin, that I'd regret not giving Will the chance to find out if the same might have happened to him. Sigh. -- Will's Mom

Posted: 11/19/2006 11:21:48 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Perhaps you could do as Charlie's parents did, and make Will foot a proportion of the bill for an etherwave.

If he is invested in the instrument it is less likely to be a passing fancy. Like they say; easy come, easy go.

(Oh, and it's not unusual for teenagers to develop a costly interest. Our son just can't get enough books. Over the past few years it has cost us way more than an etherwave. We're just thankful its not Nintendo cartridges or designer clothing. :-)
Posted: 11/19/2006 8:32:05 PM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

God knows I had expensive interests as a teen - ham radio. It's gotten a lot cheaper, but at the time it was easy to spend $1000 for a decent radio (which today would cost $175). Having to come up with that kind of money myself (I bought a good used radio for $600) was a good experience - I was proud of it, and it helped teach me not to take expensive things for granted.

Gordon may be right in that it might be a good idea to tell your son that if he wants the Etherwave he should contribute to its cost.

I'd also suggest just talking with him about it. If he's a teen and old enough to be getting a real instrument, he could learn from the experience anyway. I know it sorta spoils the magic of christmas, but perhaps including him in the decision, letting him understand the options and see that you're concerned about shelling out hundreds of dollars when you're not sure how interested he is. Perhaps he'll be able to reassure you and explain why he's interested. Perhaps he'll decide it's not worth the stress to you. Perhaps he'll honestly say he doesn't know what his future interest level will be - in which case I advise you to consider that the Etherwave has decent resale value on ebay, and maybe you could make an agreement with your son that if he doesn't take to it that you can sell it.

You could also check with and see if there are any local dealers selling Etherwaves where maybe you could take your son to try one, to see if he really likes it that much before you consider it further. Of course, the likely outcomes of that are that either he'll hate it and you can save your $$$, or he'll fall in love with it in which case you're likely buying an Etherwave...
Posted: 11/19/2006 8:46:00 PM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

By the way Cool Mom, have you considered looking for a used Etherwave instrument on ebay? You might not save a whole lot, but you might save at least a little... and a hint, the "Big Briar" Etherwave is really a Moog Etherwave. Moog Music was previously known as Big Briar.
Posted: 11/24/2006 4:46:30 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

Teslatheremin wrote:

[i]"I have built a PAiA Theremax and have never had a problem with electrical interference."[/i]

Today, I decided to revist my Theremax -- I had inserted a mod (a resistor between coils 1 and 2) to alter the tone quality. It occurred to me that the mod could be cutting down the power of the oscillators.

When I removed the mod, my output volume increased quite a bit -- meaning an improved signal to noise ratio and a clear tone.

At first I kind of liked the tone color of the mod, however I like the un-modded Theremax sound, too.

I still prefer to place an Ebtech hum-eliminator between the Theremax and my equipment rack, though.

Early on I removed the lead that goes to the mute switch -- that was a source of noise. I am now using the MUTE jack as the output for the pitch preview mod. I have scrutinized the pitch preview mod and can't find any ill effects from it.

Although my primary Theremin is an Etherwave Pro, I still enjoy playing the Theremax. Perhaps I'll use the Theremax on an upcoming track. :)

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