Nasty fuzz effect for theremin

Posted: 12/17/2011 11:53:40 PM

From: Champaign, Illinois USA

Joined: 9/29/2011

I've been using a guitar amp with my theremin, and have been not entirely pleased with the "clamped" sound I get from it. However, it has some built-in effects that can get nice and nastily fuzzed out, which works well in some of pieces of the ensemble I play in. Anyway, based on a lot of research and some recommendations here at Theremin World I acquired a new PA/keyboard amp, a Behringer K450FX. I really like the sound from it. It also has preset effects, some of which are awesome (the "1 octave down added voice" is phenomenal in the low range!). However, what it lacks is some really nasty, dirty fuzz effects that would go well with some pieces I'm trying to work up.

So my question for the more avant garde out there is what have you found, either commercially or DYI, that can make a theremin sound really grungy/nasty/dirty? I'm moderately capable with a soldering iron so can make my own if it's not too complex. Any hints or pointers would be appreciated.

Posted: 12/18/2011 1:26:24 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I've come across a couple of fuzzes that I liked - fuzz isn't high priority for me, but I keep my eye out.

I've heard a boss fuzz (not sure if it's the current model) used as part of a chain of about six effects hanging off an ePro, which doesn't say much, but I have a lot of respect for the ear of the guy playing it when it comes to angry, distorted sounds, so it's on my audition list when I get around to it.

I tried a Big Muff and liked that a lot, and also a BBE Free Fuzz - which was excellent, but only after a delay box in my chain. Without the delay it was wasp in a jam jar.

If you want to build your own, fuzz boxes are generally very simple and there's a ton of circuit diagrams online for the finding.

Other than fuzzes, if you trawl through the Beat Frequency playlist on my youtube account to see if there are any sounds you like I can tell you the effects chain I used for any of the pieces.

Also, if you have an iDevice, the Jasuto Pro app is great for processing theremin - it's a very versatile modular synth with a good sound and very low latency, made by the guy who makes Moog's iDevice apps.

These tracks on my soundcloud page use it: Psychonaut, Krell Device, Angel Wings, Concrete Jungle, Endless Caverns.

Posted: 12/29/2011 11:41:28 PM

From: Nashville, TN, USA

Joined: 12/22/2011

Hi, Gordon....I've only had my Etherwave Plus since the end of November (so I'm a total newbie), but I have seen both your post describing Thierry Frenkel's ESPE01 module, and the YouTube video demo by Thomas Grillo, and I have ordered the module from Wilco Botermans via Ebay.  I have lined my friend Allen up to help me do the mod, since he is very good with a soldering iron (he's replaced some components in my mixing board). 

  I bought a Fender tube amp to practice through, and when Allen saw my set up, he suggested that I should also make the modification found elsewhere on this site that involves swapping out the 4.7k resistor located at R33 for a 47k resistor so that I can lower the signal level and turn up the gain levels on the amp in order to take advantage of the tubes' tone...

  Have you made this modification to the output of your Etherwave,  or do you just avoid using effects that would be overdriven by the default output level?  thanks for any info,  jcn in Nashville, TN

Posted: 12/30/2011 10:32:01 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi Mollydad,

I have had my etherwave extensively modified by Thierry Frenkel, including a variable resistor on the output, which serves the same function as the R33 mod but allows me to vary the maximum output to best suit whatever chain of effects I have set up at the time.


Prior to the mod I used a cheap low impedance inline volume pedal (a copy of the Boss FV-500L).

Posted: 1/3/2012 12:31:36 AM

Joined: 2/23/2011

I'm using a Rat and a Danelectro Cool Cat Fuzz (I have version 1.  I don't know the difference between version 1 and 2).  The Rat is grungier, the Dano is fuzzier.

Posted: 1/3/2012 12:09:02 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Most people who like the "fuzz" effect like it because it works well with the guitar. I use it sometimes with my pedal steel and it's a mean sound! When fuzz, or any of the other FX designed for guitars and basses are applied to the theremin they do not sound the way they do with the instruments they were intended for. No one expects them to. 

When people use these devices with their theremins, they are often not hearing them objectively, as they really sound. They are hearing them through the "mental filter" (for lack of a better word) of what they ought to sound like when used with the instruments they were made for.

There is often an expectation that a fuzz or distortion pedal will lend the cool glitz of heavy rock guitar to the theremin. It doesn't. But that doesn't stop some theremin enthusiasts from thinking it does. 

Guitar effects can be useful for thereminists into certain kinds of experimental music, but I think most of these musicians realize that the effects they are using don't make their theremins sound like Jimi Hendrix - and they don't want to sound like Jimi Hendrix. They are looking for new sounds. 

Newcomers to the theremin who would like their etherwave or their B3 to sound like the Grateful Dead should remember that you can put tomato sauce and grated cheese on your chocolate sundae, but there ain't no way it's going to taste like a pizza.

Posted: 1/3/2012 5:14:07 PM

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

Joined: 12/17/2010

hmmm... Tomato sauce and cheese on a chocolate sundae... nomnomnom

Posted: 1/3/2012 6:49:53 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Chicken Mole Pizza is nice. 

I have yet to meet any thereminists who think that a fuzz pedal can make a theremin sound like a guitar, but I do not doubt they exist.

The real problem is that there is no way of knowing in advance what a pedal will sound like. Hearing a demo on a guitar tells you nothing. Running a software simulation only highlights the differences between the real thing and the emulation, which are often many and vast. 

Good job I like surprises! :-)

Posted: 1/4/2012 11:18:50 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Gordon, I didn't mean to imply that there are people out there who think that a fuzz effect will make their theremin sound like a guitar, but I have encountered many *WMRFTN who think the effect will do for their theremin what it does for guitars.  They believe it will give to their theremin that cool "git down & dirty" feel that it gives to rock and R&B bands, and that it will catapult their etherwave out of Claraland and turn it into Metallica. 

(*white male rock fan theremin newbies - pronounced: "wimmerfittens")

Posted: 1/5/2012 1:42:44 AM

From: Champaign, Illinois USA

Joined: 9/29/2011

Gordon C and Dmi, thanks for the info. I'm keeping my eyes and ears open.

Interesting observations, coalport, but perpendicular to the subject. I know what I want to hear, just looking for ideas from others who may have some experience on the matter.

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