Microtonal Fluid Piano

Posted: 3/25/2012 3:30:36 AM

From: Nashville, TN, USA

Joined: 12/22/2011

Unfortunately, there are no "transferrable skills" that can be acquired on some other instrument and then applied to the theremin...

I would respectfully disagree with this statement for the following reason....

Any formal musical training over time helps to develop our brains...Oliver Sachs, the neurologist who wrote "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" states that he can look at a human brain at autopsy and usually tell if the person was a trained musician based on the amount of development of the corpus callosum, which is (by my understanding), a sort of right brain to left brain connector. This is a physiological development that would enhance/affect any other communication skills, including all musical skills.

Clara Rockmore was a prodigious musical genius, who was formally trained from her youngest childhood, and who therefore had a lot of her brain circuits dedicated to music and fine motor control of her hands, so that she could play the violin. I would argue that this brain development made it possible for her to develop her playing skills on the theremin.  She had no one to teach her how to play, but did quite well nonetheless...

I have devoted about about forty years of my life to playing reeds, so I believe there's a portion of my brain which has circuits devoted to the movement of my fingers changing pitch.  I play theremin right handed, so when I fan open my right hand, with my pinky closest to the antenna, the pitch goes UP...This is also what happens when I open my right hand as I come up a scale on any of my reed instruments....I cede your point that there is no DIRECT connection, and that theremin is kind of out on an island of its own, but I would argue that any musician with formal training during their formative years has an advantage over any person with no musical training when attempting to learn the theremin...

I believe you are such a good theremin player partly because of your pre-existing musical neurological development, which is a result of ALL of your musical training,  and partly because of your (who knows how many) hours of dedicated practice on theremin... 


Posted: 3/27/2012 11:01:47 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

mollydad: "I would argue that any musician with formal training during their formative years has an advantage over any person with no musical training when attempting to learn the theremin..."


I agree. I think that is one of the reasons why Clara Rockmore said that the theremin should never be anyone's first instrument.

When it comes to learning the theremin, it is quite possible that someone with formal, classical ballet training would have an advantage over someone with no background in a discipline requiring highly developed physical control. Everything we are and all that we have learned comes into play when learning a new skill.

Clara also said, in regard to newcomers to the theremin, "First, have music in your soul. If you have that, you will find a way to do it."

What do you suppose she meant by "have music in your soul"? It's a very poetic statement but it doesn't really tell us much. 

I have known people who love music, and who are totally obsessed with it, but who have no aptitude whatsoever for making it. It would seem these people have music in their souls but that is no guarantee of success as a creative musician.

The most difficult aspect of theremin playing, once the basic technique of playing the notes accurately and consistently has been more or less mastered, is getting some emotion into your music.

This is really tricky on a theremin because we have so few tools to work with.

Posted: 7/26/2019 12:40:20 AM

Joined: 7/26/2019

Back in the 80s a friend of mine, and I were heavy into keyboards, and talked about a concept keyboard neither of us would ever see built in our lifetimes. It would have keys which were not just velocity sensitive, with aftertouch, but if you moved the keys slightly to the side, you'd get effects, but if you slid the keys forward, or back toward your self, you'd get pitch bending without having to reach for those pitch bend and effect wheels. Each key would affect it's own note. Not the whole keyboard, unless you went for the wheels, and then all notes would be affected.

Hi Theremin heads, I'm new to this site and loving it. I'm also a newbie to the new tech going on around the Theremin.

@ThomasGrillo, sorry to pull a post from so far back but I'm very interested in this. I am a keen slide guitarist and I have had this concept of an acoustic piano being able to utilize slide guitar techniques (the most obvious being glide/portamento)... I'm considering postgrad research around this concept. 

My question is, could there be a way of using something like a theremin 'strip' on a piano key, that one could 'slide' up and down after hitting the key? Can one input audio into a theremin controller or something? using say, mics or some kind of customised pick ups on the piano.

I've looked at the Air Piano (which is cool but not quite what I'm thinking) and the Fluid Piano (which is also amazing but only can slide one tone). 

There seems to be a lot of amazing new musical interface research going on but this concept of having the option of sliding a piano note (without being a synth) is elusive although I am sure there are ideas out there! 

Any suggestions would be most welcome. Thanks.

Posted: 7/26/2019 2:15:43 AM

From: 60 Miles North of San Diego, CA

Joined: 10/1/2014

You want more than just triggering midi notes or sounds, in reality digital theremins could play themselves without a Thereminist.

is it you want to do vibrato on each note or chord?

Maybe something like a Haken Continuum

Posted: 7/26/2019 2:38:22 AM

Joined: 7/26/2019

Wow. That is awesome! I'd love to play with one of those. 

Yes, something like that could work, but I'm interested in the sound of an acoustic piano note sliding, and how that could be achieved as opposed to a more MIDI driven system (although it might well be where i end up). 

My initial thoughts have revolved around an Ebow as the sustainer for the string and maybe a robotic mechanism with on/off up/down actuators moving a slide piece, but I think it is a bit tech heavy for me! Too many moving parts.

Now i'm considering other avenues. 

Thanks oldtemecula!

Posted: 7/26/2019 2:46:22 AM

From: 60 Miles North of San Diego, CA

Joined: 10/1/2014

i am not a musician or engineer so it allows me to think outside the box... like you are trying too. I am not the smartest person at TW...... no wait maybe I am.

I am not clear yet, you want an acoustic piano note, a natural acoustic sound to be able to have a vibrato effect on each note independant of the other keys which complicates things?

I think digital piano is the better approach to add this effect.


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