Indian Raga On Theremin

Posted: 3/24/2019 9:22:51 PM

Joined: 8/18/2018

Hi All,
Here is my son who is learning Theremin. He played Indian Raga on Theremin. Check it out. Please give your feedback to improve further. It is small clip. 

Posted: 3/24/2019 10:50:55 PM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

He isn’t using the left hand for shaping musical phrases or adding musical expression which makes that every note sounds the same and that is annoying.

Posted: 3/25/2019 12:01:57 AM

Joined: 8/18/2018

Thanks for feedback. He is fixing it.

Posted: 3/29/2019 1:15:33 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Hi Rajan,

The subject of Indian raga on the theremin has come up often over the years. Many people have tried to play raga on the theremin but none have done it successfully. Here is a short article I wrote on the subject about 15 years ago. I should perhaps preface it by pointing out that I lived in India for a time in the 1960’s and studied with the late Pundit Ravi Shankar. In the mid 1970’s, when I lived in Southern California, at Raviji’s suggestion I studied singing with his sister-in-law, Lakshmi Shankar.

I watched Neil’s video and he looks like he’s having a lot of fun - WHICH IS GREAT - and I see from his website ( that he has experience with the sitar.

Here is what I wrote on the subject about 15 years ago.


As a serious student of classical Northern Indian music (surbahar and rudra vina) for more than 40 years, and as a student of the theremin for the last 10 years, I would like to explain exactly why I believe it is not possible to play Indian raga on the theremin.

First of all, there is the matter of vibrato.

Precision theremin cannot be played without vibrato because it is vibrato that gives the thereminist the leeway to constantly adjust or “trim” the pitch of the instrument.

Classical Indian music (Bollywood notwithstanding) does not use vibrato at all because it is a quarter tone system in which the octave (or ‘saptaka’) has twenty-two “srutis” or microtones.  If you play vibrato in Indian music, you are going to encroach on the notes above and below because there is only a space of 50 cents between them.

Indian music has evolved over millennia along with the instruments that are used to play it, so the instruments and the music are perfectly suited to one another. When western instruments are introduced, such as the guitar or the violin (which was probably introduced by the Portuguese over 300 years ago) the playing techniques must be adapted to the Indian musical idiom. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt has successfully adapted the guitar to Indian raga but in order to do that he had to modify it, creating an entirely new instrument called the “mohan vina”.

Some instruments, like the harmonium (which was introduced by the English in the 18th century) have never really fitted Indian music but have remained popular in India in spite of that. Just as a historical footnote, the harmonium was banned from use on All India Radio following independence in 1947.

Indian music requires a far greater degree of precision pitch control than it is possible to acquire on the theremin. People often think that because the theremin can play “meend” (a slide from one note to another) that it ought to be able to play Indian raga but this is a result of a lack of familiarity with the theremin and its limitations. There are many Indian musical ornaments and embellishments, such as fast “tans” (rapid successions of defined notes) that it is not possible to play at all on a theremin.

We thereminists have enough problems trying to stay in tune in a 12 tone system, without having to worry about a system in which there are 22 tones.

Posted: 3/30/2019 12:00:17 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

I recorded this little number for surbahar and theremin about 20 years ago. It’s called POPPY BLOSSOMS. I thought you might get a kick out of it. There was no attempt to make the theremin sound “Indian”.

Posted: 3/30/2019 11:08:15 PM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

Wow coalport, really nice!  Thanks for sharing that!

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