Range of Clara Rockmore’s theremin?

Posted: 7/8/2012 3:39:53 AM
Dave H

From: Sedona AZ

Joined: 7/12/2009

I keep reading in various post that Clara Rockmore’s theremin had a range of 3 1/2 octaves.

Yet during her interview on the Moog DVD she mentions that Theremin modified her “RCA”

theremin to increase it’s range from 3 octaves to 5 octaves.

(As well as make the volume control respond more quickly.)


Out of curiosity is her theremin a 5 octave instrument? 


Thanks, Dave

Posted: 7/8/2012 10:32:00 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Hi Dave,

Clara's instrument had (and presumably still has) a range of about 4 and a half octaves. Theremin expert and sometime friend of Clara's, Reid Welch, made a recording of the entire range of the instrument back in 1997 in Clara's New York apartment. He plays a 'C' scale over the entire 4 and a half octave range but you can hear that not all of it was usable and Clara exclaims at one point, "You took it way beyond the range that I had."

Reid begins on C2 and takes the instrument up to A6 where control breaks down.



Posted: 7/8/2012 5:12:19 PM
Dave H

From: Sedona AZ

Joined: 7/12/2009

Hello Peter,


Thank you for the detailed information. 


The audio clip is enjoyable on many levels.

It shows the range of her theremin quite nicely. It also shows the voice quality of her instrument independent of Clara's influence. It has the fun aspect of Clara talking in the background. (It seems to be one of the few times I’ve her her talking without being in a performance situation.) This clip also show two friends sharing a good time over a mutual love of this special Theremin.




Posted: 7/8/2012 5:33:18 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

And what's even better, Reid Welch (bless his wayward soul) taped it all so that unknown, and as yet unborn, friends of the theremin can enjoy this moment for generations to come!

As I have pointed out before, other musical instruments have a constant flow of new, young virtuosos rising as the old guard fades and is forgotten, but Clara's extraordinary accomplishment stands alone and none of us has been able to approach her level of excellence.

I'm not saying we should all play the theremin the way Clara did, but we should strive to play it with her dedication to the art.

" Playing the theremin takes blood, sweat and tears! It's not easy. It takes practice, attention to detail, and years and years and years of the study of music...I also had the luck to be born the sister of the great Nadia Reisenberg." C.R.


Posted: 7/8/2012 10:48:59 PM
RS Theremin

From: 60 mi. N of San Diego CA

Joined: 2/15/2005

From an analysis stand point I find that Clara Rockmore sound byte extremely valuable. Though I don't probe the depths of your website did you always have it available? I have never been part of the brightest minds found at LEVNET but get the impression you have been sharing more of your personal reservoir of knowledge in recent years. For that I sincerely thank you coalport!  You ornery son of a b..... (-'


Posted: 7/8/2012 11:49:30 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

The sound byte of Clara's custom theremin was part of the "GIFT TAPE" interviews that Reid Welch conducted with Clara in 1997. At the time, Clara was in the final year of her life, a bit forgetful, and occasionally she tended to repeat herself, but for thereminists the interviews are great fun to hear. 

I have never featured the GT interviews as part of my website but Reid Welch posted the entire thing (including the theremin demo) last February as an audio-only YT video:



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