Left handed?

Posted: 6/11/2017 9:14:31 PM
RadicalDad

Joined: 6/11/2017

I've seen many posts about playing the Theremin left handed.  I am a lefty, but I play all my string instruments normally ("right handed").  Still, the standard playing pose for the Theremin (right hand pitch control) seems backwards to me.

When I started playing cello in grade school, my parents asked the teacher if I should find a left-handed cello.  She responded that as a lefty, I would have more strength and dexterity in my fingering hand, so I should play the cello in the regular configuration as that would be an advantage.  I've been happy with that "advantage" ever since.  Currently I play upright bass and guitar.  I am also a vocalist and conduct choirs.  I conduct rhythm with my right hand (as most conductors do).  In everything I do, I control rhythm and/or volume with my right hand.  Pitch is on my left hand.

Thus my question isn't for lefties, but for others who play stringed instruments.  Do you find it confusing to do pitch control with your right hand?  Or do you get used to this?

As I am just starting out, now would be the time to decide if I should play the Theremin backwards or left handed or whatever you want to call it.  I've got a Theremini, so turning it around is less than ideal.

Thoughts?  Thanks.

Posted: 6/12/2017 2:42:04 AM
dewster

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

"Thus my question isn't for lefties, but for others who play stringed instruments.  Do you find it confusing to do pitch control with your right hand?  Or do you get used to this?"  - RadicalDad

Good question!  I'm a righty that plays guitar so the Theremin actually seems kinda backwards to me.  I suppose there's more going on with guitar on the right hand, and perhaps more going on with the Theremin on the right hand.  My wife and I have had tendon issues, me due to mousing and her due to playing piano, so we've both learned to mouse / trackball with our left hands.  Surprisingly it only takes a couple of months to become equally proficient with the other hand, so I'm not sure handedness is that big of an issue in the first place.  The brain is amazingly adaptive, even more so that I've ever thought, even in middle / older age.

I've known lefties that are rather ambidextrous, so I'm wondering if handedness itself isn't all that hard and fast?  For some?  Or is it that lefties forced to develop their less dominant side just because the world they live in is somewhat a tyranny of the majority?

[EDIT] Sorry, so as to not hijack the thread I'll just leave this here: http://www.rightleftrightwrong.com/brain.html

Posted: 6/12/2017 5:22:31 PM
RadicalDad

Joined: 6/11/2017

I don't want to hijack my own thread, but the degree of handedness is genetically proscribed.  Environment can make a small difference, but the major contributor is still genetics.  I'm all lefty, and the degree of my lefty-ness is easy to trace from genetics on both maternal and paternal sides.

Any other string players out there who found the traditional Theremin playing position odd and turned theirs around?  Or did you all get used to it?

Posted: 6/12/2017 9:40:12 PM
mikebuffington

From: AZ

Joined: 11/25/2005

I am a lefty (only bat and use scissors right handed) and I play left-handed guitar. I find that even just holding a right handed guitar feels awkward. I play theremin as a righty (which makes sense to me, controlling pitch with my right hand and articulation with my left). I play theremin cello left handed (I have the only left-handed, Lev Teremen-designed theremin cello replica in the world, beautifully crafted by Floyd Engels), meaning I control the volume lever with my left hand and control the pitch ribbon with my right.

Posted: 6/14/2017 4:40:14 PM
rupertchappelle

Joined: 5/8/2017

A lot of people, when addressing the theremin for the first time, wave their hands in synch with each other and mirroring each hands movements.  Then you have to explain to them that one hand does the volume and one hand does the pitch. Both hands operated the device by PROXIMITY.

Being left handed or right handed should not affect your hands ability to position itself in space. The only issue with the theremin is if you use "aerial fingering" with would favor the left hand for the left handed.

Can you pick out notes in space with your right hand as easily as you can with your left hand???

Drops some pennies on the floor and see if both hands are capable of picking them up.

If your right hand can pick up pennies like your left hand can, you can play pitch with your right hand just as well as you can play pitch with your left hand.

The right and left hand are equals for keyboards, flutes, wind instruments, drums and percussion.

Just drop the aerial fingering - the antenna does not care.

When I got the model 302, I played it in all possible reasonable permutations, it just takes time to adapt to whatever motions you require to do the job.

The standard method of play, is about appearance, not making it easy to play the instrument.

 

Posted: 6/14/2017 7:03:36 PM
RadicalDad

Joined: 6/11/2017

A lot of people, when addressing the theremin for the first time, wave their hands in synch with each other and mirroring each hands movements.

That's pretty funny, but understandable.  I had to learn to stop doing that when I first started conducting.

The only issue with the theremin is if you use "aerial fingering" with would favor the left hand for the left handed. ... Just drop the aerial fingering - the antenna does not care. When I got the model 302, I played it in all possible reasonable permutations, it just takes time to adapt to whatever motions you require to do the job. The standard method of play, is about appearance, not making it easy to play the instrument.

Very interesting about aerial fingering.  I've been looking at various technique videos over the past few days, trying to figure out what would work for me.  For jumps of a major third or less, I'm reasonably accurate already just moving my whole hand - which is essentially moving some combination of both arm and wrist.  For anything greater, any form of aerial fingering seems to be more accurate right off the bat.  I can reliably play a 5th in tune with aerial fingering, and even the thirds are better.  What technique do you use to make accurate melodic jumps?

Can you pick out notes in space with your right hand as easily as you can with your left hand?

I kinda wish I'd chosen a different title for this thread.  Though I clearly have more strength and dexterity in my left hand, my question isn't about handedness.  Yes, many instruments demand equal types of strength and dexterity in both hands, but as a string player, what I do with my left hand is very different than what I do with my right hand.  And I'm finding aerial fingering a bit odd with my right hand.  Seems my left should be doing that - just like my string instruments.  As your lead sentence humorously indicated, I do find myself "fingering" with my volume hand.  Wondering if I will be able to shake that habit.

 

Posted: 6/14/2017 7:28:48 PM
rupertchappelle

Joined: 5/8/2017

RadicalDad

Aerial fingering exists because Clara Rockmore played violin. An injury interfered with playing that instrument,

I flex at the elbow - bass note with my hand on my sternum and just angle the arm towards the antenna plate and aim for the corner if I am playing reasonably and aim for the center of the antenna plate if I want the top octaves. I also can flex the wrist or open the fingers if the mood suits. The less I think about my hand the better and faster I play.


I call the technique "Angling" - it is natural way to play the instrument.

I didn't invent the technique - here is Kovalsky playing and you will note he is seated and his elbow is on the table - that is for precision play:

https://youtu.be/mFBI39KdFL0

I have no problem playing intervals - after a while your muscles and mind know where to pitch the pitch. When one is off, one simply corrects it quickly or stands one's ground.

I recently let hundreds play my theremin at the Astronomy Day on the Mall a couple of weeks ago - one of the kids had a left hand that didn't quite manage to produce fingers - that was no handicap for the theremin. And she held a note as steady as anyone else who tried.

I don't think anyone plays theremin faster or more confidently than I do, because I keep it simple.

Posted: 6/14/2017 10:05:29 PM
RadicalDad

Joined: 6/11/2017

Thanks for the video link.  Do you have links to any other videos showing the technique?  It seems that Peter Pringle uses some combination of arm plus finger motion.  Seems to be whole arm for larger jumps, fingers for smaller ones.  And it also seems that his finger positions aren't fixed, but I wonder if that is really true or I'm just missing the pattern.  (I also notice he leans in on the high notes to expand the pitch field.  I'm guessing his Theremin is non-linear at the high end.)

Posted: 6/14/2017 11:10:04 PM
rupertchappelle

Joined: 5/8/2017

everything changes, so you always have to adapt to the conditions - your brain does that when you walk on unlevel ground.

I have hundreds of videos, but the music is not for most:

Fresh
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=national+electrophonic

And it looks as though someone has stolen my oxymoron!!!

Not so Fresh
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=well+tempered+theremin


The technique is simple.

Verbal instruction on the technique with opening the model 302 theremin and assembling it.

https://youtu.be/ZtWvNXJA26Q

 

The technique works on pole antenna theremins also - the first ten years I played the etherwave.



Thinking interferes with the motor control.

Posted: 6/16/2017 5:36:36 PM
elmo7sharp9

Joined: 10/11/2012

I am Right-Handed but play Theremin and Trombone Left-Handed.

The reason is quite simple - I have over 40 years of guitar experience.

I leverage that experience - and Muscle Memory - by controlling pitch with my Left Hand and, on Theremin, articulating notes with my Right Hand.

In the beginning, I wasted several weeks trying to play Theremin Right-Handed. As soon as I switched to Left-Handed operation, a lifetime's worth of Real-Time Successive Approximation to Pitch (Gained from Slide Guitar) kicked in and I could concentrate on Making Music rather than fighting for control.

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