How would it be your perfect theremin like?

Posted: 12/15/2005 8:34:55 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Wherever would be most useful to the player and blend seamlessly into the design.

Perhaps we could take a 45 degree slice off the top of the trunk, above the aerials revealing an elliptical surface facing towards the player for the controls. Touch sensitive areas on a flat surface. No knobs or switches - you wave your hands about to play it and stroke it to change settings. Also stamping on the base could be an option.

Er, what's a patch connection?

I would have wiring entering the theremin in the base on the opposite side to the player. I don't want wires dangling from it.

Oh, and seeing as it's what suggested the shape to me, I'd call it The Cactus.

Posted: 12/15/2005 9:08:41 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Actually, come to think of it - no wires!


It's a network theremin.


Posted: 12/15/2005 10:56:42 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

Hope it will work on an encrypted network connection. Don't want anyone listening in on my practice...

And, will it be safe from viruses? Will I have to reboot it at the worst possible times?

... just giving you a hard time :)

oh, "patch connections" -- forgive the jargon... you figured it out anyway -- the location of the plugs.

Posted: 12/16/2005 2:20:34 AM

From: Portland, OR, USA, Terra, Sol, Milkyway

Joined: 3/1/2005

This is what I would consider to be one of my perfect theremins. This is not a main axe, I still will want something that plugs in to AC, onnects to an amp and mounts on a mike stand at home.

The perfect portable, run around, take it with me theremin would be: around Etherwave size or a little shorter; run on batteries; have a built in speaker and amp; have fold-up antennas; have the pitch antenna swing out on a folding arm, similar to the E-pro's boom, so it would be playable while on my lap; have 2 concave surfaces on the bottom so it will sit on my lap comfortably amd securely.

This would be great for traveling, playing by a campfire, having something handy to practice on in a pinch or just an easy to carry, no muss, no fuss, no set-up, just turn it on and play theremin.
Posted: 12/16/2005 6:04:10 AM

From: Sammamish, Washington

Joined: 2/13/2005

Gordon, I really like the thick stand idea. Then all the cords could come out the bottom of the stand rather than hanging down from something stuck on top of a mic stand. That's one of my few complaints with the Ethervox MIDI theremin. It's a beautiful instrument, but the aesthetic is impacted by the snake cable hanging from under the main cabinet.
Posted: 12/16/2005 5:03:18 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005


I've had a lot of fun figuring out an answer to Oscar's question. I don't really have enough knowledge of the insides of theremins to know what I want there, but I enjoy well designed products and have picked up a few hints and tips along the way. It was interesting to see if I could apply them.

I love the look of the RCA theremins, not in the least part for their anachronism, but primarily because they look like furniture. I'm not keen on many of those that followed, which emulated the pragmatic aspects of the RCA - ie a nice big accessible box to build the electronics into with spindly aerials stuck on the outside almost as an afterthought. This is design for the benefit of the electrician, not the musician.

I wanted to come up with something that was respectful to the RCA design without copying it or looking like an antique, that was stripped down to the bare essentials because that is my taste, and that was iconic. By iconic I mean that it can make a strong, simple logo, and that it keys into other iconic images and be elegant. And I wanted it to be practical and easily manufactured.

How well have I succeeded in my goals?

I have tried to put the player first by de-emphasising the box of electronics and moving the focus to the aerials.

For me the key element of the RCA theremin is that it was furniture - was the prototype actually a writing bureau? I don't know. Well I don't think my design would look out of place in an IKEA catalogue, perhaps as a hat stand or something to hang your jacket on.

I don't think it could be any more minimal.

Is it iconic? not for me to judge - this is in the eye of the beholder, but certainly it is easy enough to draw, and it puts me in mind of those prairie cacti in spaghetti westerns, of the number four, and of a policeman directing traffic. To my eye the parts seem in good proportion to one another.

Finally, the most important one - is it practical. Here I have no idea. From a playing point of view I don't know if a straight volume aerial is the best choice. I should think it could be built to dismantle into five fairly obvious pieces for transporting. It might even be possible to trim the base of the trunk to suit the individual player. Or to make it somehow telescopic, although I am loathe to add complexity where it is not necessary. I suspect when people say they want the height to be adjustable they really mean they want the theremin to be the right height for them.

Some time ago I had a stainless steel pipe made to order, mirror polished and acid etched - stainless is resistant to etching, it requires sustained jets of boiling hydrofluoric acid to roughen the surface and cannot do fine detail, but big san-serif lettering looks excellent and will not rub off or fade - so I know this is feasible, if not cheap. Whereas for prototyping or home-build I fancy that a trip to the plumbers would furnish both the aerials and the trunk, perhaps even with junction points built in to attach the former to the latter. Is there some technical reason this can't actually be made? Again I have no idea, the mysteries of electronics are not something of which I have any practical understanding.

Posted: 1/18/2006 6:33:22 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

A while ago I said I didn't know what I wanted inside my perfect theremin. Now I do. I want Forth.

(Tiny intro - Forth is a computer programming language primarily intended for process control. When you have your car wheels balanced there is Forth inside the machine. When you sign for a delivery on a hand held device - Forth. If your computer has Open Boot (Macs do) that's Forth buried deep inside your PC. It is also one of the languages of choice for Safety Critical systems - ones where, if the computer crashes, people will die. Fly-by-wire for instance. It is a very unusual language, the illegitimate offspring of Lisp and Assembly. I wrote a simple intro to it here ( a long time ago when I could do that stuff.

I do not want it to replace the heterodyning circuitry - the sound of the theremin should be analogue, but I want it to control the circuitry so that, for instance, instead of tuning the theremin manually, I can stand where I want zero beat to be and press the auto-tune button and Forth will twiddle the knobs and listen for me, and beep quietly when it is done.

Also I would like a set of basic effects built in, again not digitising the sound and routing it through the microprocessor but controlled [i]by[/i] the microprocessor and hence programmable.

So what sorts of effects would make a good basic set for a theremin - I have reverb and delay on my list. What would you want?

Posted: 1/18/2006 8:49:54 AM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

Gordon, I like your design.

I love the minimalist approach. My ideal instrument would look similar. Perhaps I would include some curves or incorporate a more organic shape but the basi idea would be the same.

As far as effects, I would include reverb and delay, of course. A nice long delay of several seconds would be essential for me.

I would also indluce distortion and flange/chorus as well. Perhaps a wah that would be controlled by foot movement near the base.

Posted: 1/18/2006 11:28:56 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Hey Gordon...I like your design idea. Not that I want to steal your fire, but (except for the strips) it is virtually identical to a design I've been working on. I thought the column would be a simple yet elegant design.

I started out just trying to come up with alternative cabinets for the Etherwave Pro.

Then, taking into consideration the problems with the stock stand, I though why not just make it a monolithic cabinet and stand.

My latest thought was to make a column style stand that would basically cradle the original, unalter E-Pro so to retain it's portability.

You know what they say....great minds think alike! ;-)
Posted: 1/18/2006 5:42:31 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Jeff S - ... and fools seldom differ. :-)

Of course the other question is, if we are being as respectful as possible to Lev's designs and intentions, this is only half of the instrument - what would the speaker be like. Lev's was a diamond on a stick.

I would like a satellite dish on a taller but otherwise similar pedestal to that of the theremin proper.

Why? Here's a picture of the sort of thing I have in mind...


The dish of course correspond to the speaker. See the bit in front of the dish on three sticks - that's a microphone. It's built in so that it can be calibrated automatically - see my previous posting for how,

I've been messing about with recording myself and tweaking recording levels is a distraction - I want it to happen at the press of a button.


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