Etherwave control

Posted: 3/2/2007 2:32:07 PM
randy george

From: Los Angeles, California

Joined: 2/5/2006

I second the notion of ear training and muscle memory being the focus for control. It's almost as if hand/fingering technique is there to serve the pitches that you hear. It would be awesome if we could know how our brains worked and switch the order for a few of these many variables that influence our playing.

I set the pitch nob of my Etherwave standard so that the entire range is within arms length. This does make the intervals alot smaller. There are great benifits however. Here's the tradeoff: The closer the intervals, the easier the strech is between small and medium intervals if you choose to use aerial fingering techniques. Out of tune notes can easily and quickly be moved back in tune because they are literally millimeters away. The downside is that such minute movements require better than absolute stillness. I found that the only way to acheive this is to plant my body in a seat. If I stood with this this method of tuning, I would be wobbling so much that the pitch would shift up to 3 semitones. Then not only would I have to worry about hand technique, but also the additional movement of correcting hand position to counter the wobble.

It is crazy to think of how all these factors are so closely related, but then I guess that's why we love the thing.

Is it bad that I'm leaving my Etherwave switched on 24/7 ? I probably should have posted this question long ago. I just don't want to wait 10-15 minutes for the thing to stabilize before I can really dig in to playing the thing.
Posted: 3/2/2007 3:04:25 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Well, now I don't feel so bad about playing mine 8 and 9 hours a day, every day for 9 months. I usually just play a video game, or consult this site while waiting.

From a beginner's standpoint, I'd start with the pitch field a little wider than normal untill you get used to finding notes, and then gradually, every few days, start plaing in a tighter field. I'm playing in a field where the zero beat zone is only 10 or 11 inches from the pitch antenna. It took me several months to get steady enough to master playing in this size field.

Sitting on a stool is the best way to start training, and indeed it's the method I offered to a totally blind thereminist I know because it's hard to know when you're leaning untill it's too late when you're totally blind. She's been having fun with the theremin ever since.
Posted: 3/10/2007 7:15:54 AM

From: UK

Joined: 8/2/2006

Well -some fantastic detailed info here -thanks guys -except now Im overdosed on info and Im beginning to realise that playing the theremin is more complex than I thought -so many different positions of hand, stance, finger movement etc etc.Time is the worst enemy -I probably need to go right back to basics -ie how to stand how to use my hand -the best position for the arm what fingers to use -I don't see myself improving on this instrument without getting the basics right- trouble is I sold the last etherwave I had cos I got so depressed trying to master it -Ive now got another etherwave standard and much the same is happening -ie Im going nowhere fast ! Anybody offer masterclasses in playing it? any useful contacts of people who might be able to demo and help? -I know on an oboe you can get oboe lessons -how about a theremin teacher to coach ? -are there such things in the UK ? Cheers Adi
Posted: 3/10/2007 9:48:21 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Both Miss Hypnotique ( and Lydia Kavina ( offer private tuition and can be contacted via their websites. Hypnotique is based in Nottingham, and Lydia in Abingdon. Lydia is arranging to give a master class in London soonish, but I do not have any details.

They will be present at Hands Off 2007, as will plenty other thereminists, at the end of July near Watford, Herts.

Whereabouts in the UK are you, Adi - there may be someone nearby that plays.
Posted: 3/10/2007 11:10:55 AM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

I've started working my way through Caroline Eyck's book, and I'm finding it very useful. At the very least, she provides photos of the fingers in nine finger positions, which led to a revelation for me.

When I started playing, I found myself settling into a sort of backhand aerial fingering, because it was more comfortable than what I saw (or thought I saw) in videos of Clara Rockmore and Lydia Kavina.

It's only this past week that I realized that the backhanded technique made physical sense only because I was thinking in terms of holding my left hand almost directly forward, and moving my right hand from side-to-side (above or nearly above the theremin itself).

I had a sense that doing so wasn't achieving optimal control. By pursuing the finger positions in Ms. Eyck's photos, it finally dawned on me that it works better to think in terms of a more-or-less equilateral triangle: the antennae define one side, your torso marks the opposite point, and your arms form the other sides.

This makes the right-hand knuckle extensions much more comfortable, and also improves the volume range because I'm not standing as close to the volume antenna.
Posted: 3/10/2007 11:19:42 AM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

P.S. In the category of "proof that less is more" when it comes to thinking about theremin technique while you're playing:

Carolina Eyck's nine finger positions are labeled "0" through "8". "1" through "8" achieve a complete diatonic scale, and "0" gives you one note below. This makes excellent musical sense, as many melodies that otherwise stay within an octave ("do" to "do") will dip down occasionally to the leading-tone ("ti" below the bottom "do").

But there's more going on here, because the same nominal finger positions are used to play ANY such scalar pattern, whether major or minor, and whether or not you're starting on the tonic ("do").

Ergo, you're really learning to find THIRTEEN finger positions without moving your forearm... but of course, most of our brains would collapse if we tried to attend consciously to thirteen finger positions. Psychologically, it's much easier to imagine nine, with higher or lower shadings of positions "2" through "7".
Posted: 3/10/2007 11:25:17 AM

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

I'm not sure how available for tuition Hypnotique is gonna be since I hear she's relocating to Bristol fairly soon to be doing some kind of non-theremin related thing with the Watershed (Brizzol venue).

Self-teaching FTW
Posted: 3/12/2007 1:22:44 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Adi, If you are right handed, watch the videos that feature close ups of left handed thereminists, like Pamelia Kurstin, because you can mirror exactly what they do, and learn a lot faster. If you can find a left handed theremin instructor, all the better, because you can have them stand on the other side of the theremin from you, and let you mirror everything they do. It's not an exact science becase the pitch will be different when the instructor steps back to let you try it on your own, but the method will speed things along.

I had to literally come up with this method on my own while helping to teach some of the guests at the Moog Music theremin work shop with Pamelia Kurstin. I happened to have a left handed pupil, and I'm right handed. She was really going through what you've been going through where you try to watch someone, memorize what they do, translate it into action on your part, and it's confusing.

My solution was to have her stand on the other side of the theremin, facing me, and have her follow me through all the motions. In a few minutes, she was doing what took me a week to learn on my own.

I know all of our attempts to guide you have flooded you with information overload.

You might want to just print this thread out, and use it as a guide of sorts at your own pace.

By all means though, like the others suggest, get Carolina's book, and any other book you can find, and if at all possible, hook up with a theremin instructor, particularly if they use the opposite hand you do for pitch. Try the mirroring method to get you started. If I were there, or you were here, I'd be happy to let you try the method for free.
Posted: 3/12/2007 2:07:46 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005


There are numerous method books and approaches to playing the Theremin. The question you may be asking yourself is, "What approach is best for me?"

You may want to listen to other Thereminists -- each fingering technique has its unique sound. What style of vibrato, intonation, and articulation is closest to your own musical intentions? Once you have figured that out, then find out what technique the player uses and do your best to learn all you can about that technique.

While there is no single "right" way to play the theremin, for each one of us there are methods that best support one's own artistic goals.

Best wishes to you!

[i]-- Kevin[/i]

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