Playing basslines and >8 octave ranges

Posted: 11/16/2013 4:07:15 AM

Joined: 11/16/2013


What would be the best way to play basslines with a theremin? I would like to produce a really deep bass which is used in dubstep, jungle and drum and bass genres. Here's something like the one that I would like to produce:

I guess I should add the ESPE01 mod and then use some effects, but I don't know what they would be.. Any ideas?

I would also like to know whether there is a mod for Etherwave plus which could extend the spectrum to for example 12 octaves? I guess it could still be playable when you extend the field enough.

Oh, one more question! This is mainly for Thierry =) I would like to have additional controls on the theremin casing which could be used to tune the instrument rapidly on the fly without opening the case. If I have understood correctly, this would allow me to choose the frequency range and thus allow precision when needed. Could you do this if I would send you my theremin anyway to add the ESPE01?

Posted: 11/16/2013 5:26:11 AM
RS Theremin

From: 60 mi. N of San Diego CA

Joined: 2/15/2005

Interesting goal, a theremin can do 12 octaves easily but does this have any practical musical purpose for a human to experience a range from subsonic to ultrasonic? How old are you?

As I think of it, the low end I would divide the theremin audio signal by two or four then flip a switch to return to the normal audio tone. Divided down would be a square wave which would not sound too bad driving a big speaker, especially sub-sonic. There are methods to soften this square wave but I can't give any examples currently of what that would sound like. My website is in limbo.

You could also fade from the divided down sound over to the regular tone, the lower sound would be the same musical note but an octave or two lower than the normal theremin tone. Each sound could be on opposite stereo channels of the same amplifier. This effect needs to be between the pitch audio and before volume control for a continuous signal to divide.

There are many approaches in theremin design, this is project for an engineer. (-'


Edit: My website just came back online, refresh if it does not show up. What I talk about above I call real time octave shifting Mp3  Electronic wise the method is a few simple steps, but it can become complicated for the less technically creative. It does need some refinement in approach. My time towards this was years ago and now I am working with TW member SewerPipe on the finest theremin design ever conceived which is also a bunch of simple steps. The sound mp3 we like so far. All natural, nothing digital here.

Posted: 11/16/2013 12:57:42 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi Probiote, and welcome to Theremin World.

Yes, get the bass mod. It won't give you twelve octaves, but it will go down to about 5 Hz and if you ship your etherwave to Thierry for fitting he can tune it to extend the upper end as high as it will go, which will be enough. 

To get that gorgeous gnarly sound in the first video you want a ring modulator. My choice would be a Snarling Dogs Mold Spore - if you can find one second hand. It's a combo ring-mod and wah and will let you adjust the carrier signal for the ring-mod with your foot while you play for extra freakiness. (Note the mold spore has a noise gate, so requires the effects loop mod I mention below.)

Alternatively, as Christopher suggests, an octaver will take the range of your theremin down, and also gnarl up the sound by taking it closer to a square wave.

For the sound on the second one tossing a simple distortion (or fuzz) pedal into the chain will do the trick, but you might experience a lot of hiss when the theremin is muted with the volume loop. Or if you're really unlucky you'll have a distortion pedal with a noise gate - great for guitars and horrid for theremins. Either can be circumvented with an effects loop mod for your theremin so that you can apply the distortion before the volume is attenuated by the expression circuit of your instrument. Again, ask Thierry.

It it is tricky to get a sufficiently short attack to make a well punctuated bass line - it can be done by hand (see Pamelia's Kurstin's TED talk on YouTube for an example) but if you're planning on keeping it going throughout a long piece with a tight beat, consider a Gig-FX Chopper which will modulate the amplitude of your playing with either a square wave for a plucked sound or a sine wave for that dub step "wub-wub-wub" sound. Or a combination of the two. As it is, like the Mold Spore, a treadle, it will give you the option of varying the effect with your foot whilst playing. If you get the more expensive version, the pro-chop, you will be able to sync it over MIDI to keep it really tight with the rest of the band.

if you're modulating with a square wave I'd toss in a reverb to emulate the "release" portion of an ADSR envelope shaper. A slap-back delay will turn every "dub" into a "dub dub", which might be cool, and some slow flanger or phaser would add variety to the sound. 

Posted: 11/16/2013 3:20:03 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

I think the real question here ought to be: Is the theremin the right instrument for the kind of bass playing that probiote is interested in? 


Neither of the YT vids above involve theremins. Bass player Nathan Navarro's videos both feature bass guitars triggered with Source Audio's wireless "Hot Hand". Any attempt to emulate this effect using a theremin is liable to be disappointing and probably fairly expensive too, considering the mods to the instrument and the number of peripherals it would involve.


Source Audio's HOT HAND, on the other hot hand, sells for about 150 bucks. 

Posted: 11/16/2013 5:37:20 PM

Joined: 11/16/2013

RS Theremin: Thank you for answering! =) 12 octaves doesn't serve a practical purpose, but I read that another T model than Etherwave could play 12 octaves and I was trying to compare the models as well as trying to understand what Ts are actually and theoretically capable of. Sorry, I'm a complete novice in both theory of sound, music and electrical circuits and this kind of info is hard to grasp alone, so internet searches wouldn't be enough.. I'm 32yo.
Anyway, human ear can hear 8 octaves so 10 o sounds optimal =) If both ends of the 8 o frequency band would have an extra octave, playing it would be very interesting and it could be used to test hearing or e.g. making cymatic patterns.

I didn't know what "dividing T low end audio signal in half" meant before this day and yeah, this really sounds like a project for an engineer, who does the job for me ;) Thank you for the real time octave shift link!

GordonC: Thank you! Whoa, you guys are true experts =) I'll look up some info about these FX gears. I hope I can some day afford them.

Coalport: Ok, thank you. I understand that hot hands sound different than Ts. I was just giving the examples of this kind of bass wobble sound that I would like to have. I'm sure T is the right instrument =)

Posted: 11/16/2013 6:52:58 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I get the expense aspect. My pedal collection has taken years to accumulate. Put a delay pedal at the top of your shopping list - you'll get more use out of it than anything else.

Coalport, as for suitability, I'm not that into dub step myself, but I am assured by those who know that the sort of setup I described is "well sick" and "better than a dub siren". I believe this to be high praise.

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