Let's Do a Survey of Your Playing Techniques!

Posted: 1/5/2020 9:22:47 AM
pitts8rh

From: Minnesota USA

Joined: 11/27/2015

"The theremin is a cruel barometer of your physical condition. If your stance is shaky, or your muscles are stiff, an involuntary low-level random vibrato will sabotage everything you attempt." - elmo7sharp9

Thanks for your insights. This little truth quoted above gave me a chuckle.  I've always had this cartoon image of roadside DUI checks being given with a theremin instead of a breathalyzer.  "Now stand up straight and hold a middle C for 30 seconds..."

Hearing about musical backgrounds and alternative theremin techniques is interesting. This just continues to show that there is really no single "proper" way to play the theremin.

Posted: 1/5/2020 3:06:47 PM
dewster

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

"I tried finger-position playing for a while. It seemed dependent on knowing the exact notes I was going to execute ahead of time - great for if you're sight-reading or playing an intricate set piece from memory, less useful for improvisation."  - elmo7sharp9

This is my feeling exactly, expressed more succinctly than I could have.

"I come from an Electronics background and was initially interested in solving the many irregularities of a "classical" analogue theremin. I soon discovered that is an endless and hard-won field of endeavour."

I think it's possible to improve the analog Theremin, mainly by decoupling the pitch axis from the sound generation.  The low hanging fruit on heterodyning Theremins is long gone.

"When I turned the thing around 180 degrees, the muscle memory and brain specialisation from playing the guitar kicked in and things became effortless."

Being a long-term guitar plinker, this was at the front of my brain from the git-go, and wondered if I was making a mistake learning the Theremin the traditional handed way.  Guitar is weird because it feels backwards when you start (weaker hand doing all the muscle and control work) but when you get into fingerpicking it all comes clear.  I think right hand pitch control for the Theremin makes the most sense (for non southpaws) as the left hand doesn't have nearly as much to do.  But there are a lot of guitarists (and some violinists!) out there, and it's a little sad to not have all that training immediately applicable to Theremin.

Posted: 1/6/2020 4:48:59 PM
rupertchappelle

From: earth

Joined: 5/8/2017

I have an old Big Briar Etherwave and the Harrison Instruments Model 302 Theremin.  I have played the Maestro, RCA and Etherwave Pro - I prefer the Model 302.

Posted: 2/27/2020 8:49:13 PM
misterpid

Joined: 10/31/2006

First and foremost, I'm more of a "controlled sound effects" player than a melodic player.  At times I'm playing my effects setup as much as (or even more than) I'm playing my Theremin.

1)  Do you sit or stand while playing?

Standing.  Any time I try playing seated, I end up standing pretty quickly.


2)  Your pitch and volume techniques:  Do you use a fingering technique similar to anyone else?  Do you move your body toward the pitch antenna or just use arm and finger movements?

My pitch technique is all wrist and arm movements (no fingering).
I hold an on/off switch in my left hand and my overall volume control is mostly just how close my left hand is to the volume loop.


3)  How do you like your pitch linearity:  non-linear like a stringed instrument or linear like a keyboard?  Do you like wide octave intervals that require some arm movement, or octave intervals within the reach of finger and wrist movements?

I'm not really sure how to answer this one.  It's not something I really think about.


4)  What insights do you think you have developed in your playing?  I'm talking about perhaps subtle or even subconscious things that are deeper than the simple mechanical fundamentals. 

I prefer plating along with other musicians over playing solo.  To me, the most important thing is to be able to hear all the other instruments I'm playing with so that I can mix what I'm doing into the overall sound of the piece.  Most of the bands I've played with don't have a keyboard player, so I try to "fill the space" that keyboards would occupy.

 
5)  What recurring difficulties do you have, such as pitch wandering, overshoot/undershoot, coordinating volume and pitch, etc.

The issues I have along these lines have more to do with getting the echo pattern I want than with Theremin specific issues.


6)  Approximately how long have you been playing the theremin?

23 years.


7)  Do you play other instruments?  Have you had musical training?  Again, don't be humble.

I played trumpet and baritone horn all through middle school and high school.  I can play guitar (a little) but never really considered myself a guitar player.


8)  What kind of music do you play? What motivates you?

Just about any kind of music can motivate me.  I'll play along with anyone that wants to play with me.
My band is an instrumental/improv band.  I played in a punk band for 2 years (yes, a punk band with a Theremin player).  I play with some friends' bands every now and then - rock, surf, jam band, garage rock...

9)  Anything else that you have to say about playing the theremin.  

Playing Theremin has changed my overall approach to playing music in general and has definitely affected how I listen to music.

The Theremin has allowed me to go to places that I would never have imagined getting to without it.

Posted: 3/15/2020 8:35:25 PM
RLN Theremin

Joined: 3/15/2020

1)  Do you sit or stand while playing?

Always stand (except my first day with a Theremini that I had use to discovered the instrument but send it back for an etherwave instead, and since always playing stand) I find the movement more easy.

2)  Your pitch and volume techniques:  Do you use a fingering technique similar to anyone else?  Do you move your body toward the pitch antenna or just use arm and finger movements?

Hum actually any specific technique at all I guess, it come spontaneously (a mix of hand and elbow movements and a little finger too, and nearly not the body)

3)  How do you like your pitch linearity:  non-linear like a stringed instrument or linear like a keyboard?  Do you like wide octave intervals that require some arm movement, or octave intervals within the reach of finger and wrist movements?

I want all the octaves front of me, so the notes are close together. And for the moment I don't have yet the Thierry Frenkel's module (but I live in France -which explains my poor english- so it wouldn't be too much complicate to send my theremin to him, I've contact him 5 months ago when I began the instrument, but for now I can't stand not playing at it more than one or two day ) I don't imagine how it could be to play at it with a linear pitch..

4)  What insights do you think you have developed in your playing?  I'm talking about perhaps subtle or even subconscious things that are deeper than the simple mechanical fundamentals. 

For the moment I can not really answer it is maybe too soon but I can just say I don't play the same way an opera song with a human voice and a classical cello piece, I think I play better when I don't thinking to much at what I am doing exactly..

5)  What recurring difficulties do you have, such as pitch wandering, overshoot/undershoot, coordinating volume and pitch, etc.

When the rythm is too speed, the other day I've tried the prélude suite for cello of Bach, number 1... Haha, it was really to speed but a funny exercice, but I will try later... 
And after one or two hours I have to stop because my feet hurt a little.

6)  Approximately how long have you been playing the theremin?

Since 4/5 months. Really happy to have discover it I can not imagine stoping. I have seen that some people play it since 2 decades! They must really be good and have a wonderful control of the instrument. (Actually currently my only fear is to have no more power if they shut down the nuclear power plants  )

7)  Do you play other instruments?  Have you had musical training?  Again, don't be humble.

Yes I'm interested by all uncommon instruments, especially if you don't need to learn the music theory...This is what always held me back at learning at school. I tried cello because I loved it deep sound, I bought it and learn the F key (is it english?), but the poor instrument must feel abandoned when it see me play on theremin, anyway it unites the room.. But my other passion with instrument is old singing bowls (that I'm collect), and gongs. I prefer an instruments with pure sound, not restricted by a keyboard.

8)  What kind of music do you play? What motivates you?


I always really enjoying myself playing opera song I find it nice on theremin, and classical music that I have always love, (and of course Christmas songs to begin on the first time, because they are more easy to do with their slow rythm and gives good result...I find). Ho yes; and some film music.
 
9)  Anything else that you have to say about playing the theremin.

A so wonderful instrument, I really don't understand how it could not be known more (but in the meantime if everybody were playing it I guess I would have maybe been less attracted... but for me it is just the perfect instrument because it creates a powerful bond by allowing the thought to appear and take shape thanks to the hands without the brake of a physical contact or a music theory, which allows to be more spontaneous, involved and/or free in the interpretation or creation. I just loving it... 

Ps: Anyway I give here a link of my training youtube channel because I am new here (I've just subscribe) and it is not yet possible for me to complet my profil, 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC682l0omlFt4w8RjfUWPyjg/playlists

Posted: 3/25/2020 4:44:23 PM
Ne14rl6

From: Gaithersburg

Joined: 11/17/2019

:1)  Do you sit or stand while playing? Stand
2)  Your pitch and volume techniques:  Do you use a fingering technique similar to anyone else?  Do you move your body toward the pitch antenna or just use arm and finger movements? Basically use arm movement, with a little finger movement for "fine tuning"
3)  How do you like your pitch linearity:  non-linear like a stringed instrument or linear like a keyboard?   Never thought about it, but think non-linear
Do you like wide octave intervals that require some arm movement, or octave intervals within the reach of finger and wrist movements? I like arm movement, so wide octave
4)  What insights do you think you have developed in your playing?  I'm talking about perhaps subtle or even subconscious things that are deeper than the simple mechanical fundamentals.  I have become hyper aware of being in tune or off a couple cents sharp/flat.
  5)  What recurring difficulties do you have, such as pitch wandering, overshoot/undershoot, coordinating volume and pitch, etc.  For sure over shooting pitch, but as a musician, I tend to "move" not a lot but I move when I play my wind instruments, but it's the kiss of death if you move.  Also since I'm not tech savvy (very impressed with you guys building your own theremins)  I have  the basic equipment to play it (mixing board and a amplifyer)I have no f*ing idea how to use any of it, except turn the stuff on. I'm impressed with all the knowledge of everyone on this site and hope to pick up more info
.6)  Approximately how long have you been playing the theremin? 5 months?
7)  Do you play other instruments? A ton. Have you had musical training?  A lot.  B.S. in music education. Primary instrument flute/picc/oboe.  I play with a recorder society (CONTRA- bass recorder, tenor, soprano, sopranino) I play in a orchestra (flute,piccolo), and several concert  bands (military style bands) . Also play a lot of "shows" pit orchestra.  Play alto and/or bass flute in flute choirs when needed. Use to play the dulcimer/guitar regularly (currently no time to play/practice) -had to learn a certain level of piano as a music major, but no need to play nowadays. Strong alto singer in a church choir and bell choir as needed.   (played bass clarinet in a clarinet choir til it was disbanded).  
8)  What kind of music do you play? All genres.  I actually been on a blue grass kick.  So playing theremin with blue grass.I turn on the songs on phone and play along.  Also fun with the 70's disco.
9)  Anything else that you have to say about playing the theremin.  I had never heard of a theremin until one of my concert bands played a piece "Godzilla Eats Las Vegas" which needed a theremin or "theremin type" sound.  Looking into it, thought what a unusual instrument.  Reminded me many years ago I worked as security guard and would use a hand held metal detector to scan people.  Out of boredom I would play tunes with it i.e. holding it against a metal desk and squeal out melodies. that  was fun.  I'm hooked.

Posted: 3/27/2020 11:01:19 AM
scifigene

From: London, England

Joined: 10/10/2019

Thank you for this post - fascinating and I'm learning a lot from all of you.

1)  Do you sit or stand while playing? Stand.

2)  Your pitch and volume techniques:  Do you use a fingering technique similar to anyone else?  Do you move your body toward the pitch antenna or just use arm and finger movements? I'm learning from Carolina Eyck's book and so at least approximately using her fingering approach, keeping body still and using arm and finger.

3)  How do you like your pitch linearity:  non-linear like a stringed instrument or linear like a keyboard?  Do you like wide octave intervals that require some arm movement, or octave intervals within the reach of finger and wrist movements? I play an Open Theremin v3 which is not very linear, I think I've just got used to it. I tune the pitch field so that opening my hand is an octave from middle C.

4)  What insights do you think you have developed in your playing?  I'm talking about perhaps subtle or even subconscious things that are deeper than the simple mechanical fundamentals. Although I'm not a singer, I think of the theremin as being more like a voice than another instrument.

5)  What recurring difficulties do you have, such as pitch wandering, overshoot/undershoot, coordinating volume and pitch, etc. Possibly because of the non-linear pitch, I find it much harder to control lower notes. Pitch wandering is improving slowly.

6)  Approximately how long have you been playing the theremin? I started in May 2019, but stopped for a few months due to a shoulder injury, re-started a couple of months ago. I'm still a beginner and am grateful for a very tolerant family...

7)  Do you play other instruments?  Have you had musical training?  Again, don't be humble. Piano and oboe from childhood, but have only kept going with piano.

8)  What kind of music do you play? What motivates you? Trying lots of different things. I've found certain show tunes seem to suit theremin very well. Would like to play more classical as well. Still working through the pieces included in the book.
 
9)  Anything else that you have to say about playing the theremin. I started for the wrong reasons - basically for sound effects, but hadn't expected it to be so enjoyable to play. I quickly came around to the idea of learning to play it as a musical instrument.

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