Bigsby Theremin

Posted: 3/16/2011 7:03:19 AM

Joined: 3/16/2011

Does anybody know if it would be possible to use a guitar's whammy bar (or the plate at the bottom of a bigsby) as the antenna for a theremin?
I've been thinking of putting a theremin in my guitar but that is the only way i could think of without drastically (or even slightly) altering my guitars appearance.
Posted: 3/16/2011 12:37:10 PM

From: Tucson, AZ USA

Joined: 2/26/2011

Your idea could only have a technical design as the Eatheremin post. (

Mounting a true theremin to a guitar would be more difficult than hitching a playable tuba to your guitar. There are conflicts of technical compatibility you do not understand. I have discovered these compatibility issues from experimenting in the past two week.
Posted: 3/16/2011 12:43:15 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi snortingpig6, welcome to Theremin World. :-)

I'm not certain that using the whammy bar as the capacitive sensor (called an antenna, but not really an antenna) for a pitch-only theremin would work. The problem is that it needs to be electrically isolated from any other conductive surfaces. The whammy bar has a metal mounting stock and connects to (possibly) steel strings - all of which would be sensitive to the proximity of your hands.

Bear in mind that it is not an antenna, so does not need to be antenna shaped. A metal plate affixed to the wooden body of the instrument would work.

The most successful guitar theremin hybrid I have seen was made by Evil Ernie (the bass guitarist of Not Rocket Science) - he cut a slot in his (cheap) guitar to accommodate a No1derland 002 Theremin ( about where the end of a whammy bar would be.

(I note that no1derland disappeared from the web a couple of years ago, so I guess they are no longer trading.)

While from the sound of it hacking out chunks of your Bigsby would not be acceptable to you it does confirm that this is a reasonable place to put a capacitive sensor - the overall effect was to produce rhythmic changes in pitch in time with the strumming of the guitar.

One variation which we tried was feeding the output of the theremin and the output of the guitar into a ring-mod circuit. I suggest you try it - IMO it was a significant improvement over the woo-woo sound made by the theremin alone - really grungy and heavyyy!
Posted: 3/16/2011 3:22:56 PM
Chainsaw Willie!

From: Just a short walk away from Nike Missile Site S-13/14

Joined: 1/28/2011

I would imagine that there would be a lot of problems fitting a fully functioning theremin to a guitar body and being able to use it for both a theremin and a guitar. As mentioned above. The strings are grounded, and the strings ground every metal bit from the tuning machine heads to the Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, and the guitar player himself. This is common with all electric guitars. It is done by wiring the anchor of the bridge to the shield of the output jack. This reduces a lot of 60 cycle hum that would normally be picked-up by the guitar. So the Bigsby's handle is grounded wich wont work for a theremin antenna. You could somehow isolate the handle itself using some non-conductive bolt and washer, but still the antenna would be in very close proximity to something that is grounded, which would probably change the tuning of the antenna to the point of being un-usable.

Then if you are also using it as a guitar you have the issues of your hand strumming strings near the antenna, which may or may not be a noise you are looking for. Worst though would be that guitars are typically only 2 inches thick and your antenna would be pretty close to your hip or stomach all the time.

I have seen optical theremins mounted on guitar though, and they don't have any of these issues. But they also don't look like a normal part of the guitar either.
Posted: 3/16/2011 5:12:41 PM

Joined: 3/16/2011

Well honestly I wouldn't mind if there was interference as I am looking to use this more for a layer of sound in my playing
Kind of a blues explosion type thing
As long as I could put a true bypass on the theremin I would be quite happy

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