Aerial Fingering Technique

Posted: 10/22/2005 12:58:48 AM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

Well, no need to hush up!

I agree with you that to use one method or another is not an either/or proposition. Any tool that brings one closer to a musical result is valid.

For instance, a steady-state (no vibrato note) played via any technique is going to sound pretty much the same. However, the articulation of the note will vary with the technique. The space between two notes will be filled differently with varying techniques of the pitch and volume hands. Thus, every player will have his/her own unique articulation depending on their position and motions.

For example, Peter Pringle has a great way of hitting high notes in his music -- with a subtle gliss that sounds like a natural singing voice. I still can't quite get that sound. I think most will agree that there is more to Pringle's playing then merely hitting the notes. He has a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) inflection that is quite moving at times.

(Forgive me for elaborating as if I know what I'm doing... I have been playing Theremin now for little over a month so I know just enough to be dangerous ...)

By the way, has anyone analyzed the "Pringle gliss" (perhaps I am coining a term here...)? Would like to learn to do it. Not that I plan to emulate Peter Pringle -- however, just want to be able to hear things and imitate them. Well... if I don't hear from anyone on this, I will most likely be slowing down Pringle's music (digitally) and getting a handle on how he does it.

Posted: 10/22/2005 1:29:27 AM

From: Louisville, KY

Joined: 8/28/2005

I just ordered the Pringle DVD a few days ago, so it's not here yet. I'm very looking forward to it-- for one thing, I heard he plays back-handed, which has always seemed more natural to me than that tight, constricted karate chop most people use.

The theremin's possibilities aren't limitless, but they're kind of hard to quantify. Clara Rockmore was a violinist, so she makes it sound like a violin. Watching Pamelia Kurstin play a walking bass line, I was struck not only by her musicianship, but by the fact that she was doing exactly the thing I'd always assumed the theremin couldn't do-- playing both fast and rhythmically. And she accomplished this with a specific hand gesture, but probably figured it out by just regarding it as a bass. The theremin's just kind of an abstract instrument that sounds the way you play it.
Posted: 10/22/2005 2:33:10 PM

From: Los Angeles

Joined: 3/8/2005

Schielenkrahe -

Didn't mean to offend you regarding your teaching methods - I think at the end of the day whatever works for you is what you should do.

I am a professional musician, and probably a bit more "old school" in my approach, relying more on learning fundamentals than waiting for cosmic forces. ;-)

I am a firm believer in "long tones". I would daresay that practicing long tones on the theremin is the single best excercise one can do, and really helped me hone in on control and technique.

As for the "Pringle Gliss" - it is almost more of an articulation of the volume hand. As he is glissing with the pitch hand, he drops the volume hand quickly and then raises it again as he approaches the note. He does it with an open palm (volume hand) and an almost sideways motion. I have learned to do it, but I do it more by dropping and raising the volume hand. Once you get it, it is not very difficult.

Posted: 10/22/2005 5:38:57 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005


Thanks for the tip... I'll give it a try.

btw -- I was looking for some info about you and couldn't find anything in your profile or in the "Roll Call" thread...

Would enjoy learning a little about you... how bout putting some info into the "roll call" thread?
Posted: 10/23/2005 2:29:38 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Kevin - If you are getting the Peter Pringle DVD you will see how he does the wonderful "gliss" on the high notes. After watching both Peter and Clara, it seems they are sometimes able to produce the most exquisite expressiveness seemingly without moving at all.

BTW....I mentioned to Charle Lester from the Levnet that you are also a pipe organist and he express interest in talking "shop" with you. If you don't know, Charle is a pipe organist and renowned thereminist in Los Angeles.
Posted: 10/23/2005 9:42:10 AM

From: SG

Joined: 8/20/2005

A note about the volume arm doing the opposite of "most other instruments" is that when I showed it to someone who is well versed with the orchestra, he was quick to see the similarity of the volume hand with what an orchestra conductor would do,ie, gesture accents on the "up motion" of his hand. Not unlike the volume hand a thereminist does!
Posted: 10/23/2005 8:40:03 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

Just "checking in" again...

I have found the volume hand to be quite natural, because I have conducted choirs and well... the left hand is the "volume and shading" hand.

When we speak of "Aerial Fingering" we think of the pitch hand however, in watching Pamelia's DVD, she uses a related technique with her volume hand -- that is, she tends to keep her palm within a narrow range of motion and uses a finger for subtle shading. Pamelia plays with an economy of motion that is amazing... even in her walking bass her hands seem to move effortlessly.

Peter Pringle (on his DVD) speaks of a slight reduction in volume when going from one note to the next which gives the "illusion" that there is minimal sliding from one note to the next.

His remarkable gliss (the Pringle Gliss !!) is often approached from a third below the target note. That is... if he is aiming for a 'G' he will gliss up from 'E'. I have played around with it - do it wrong and it sounds maudlin or just plain imprecise! I am still working on it just in case I want a little schmaltz :)

One thing I really admire about Peter Pringle's artistry is that he plays expressively AND tastefully.

btw -- people have mentioned seeing Clara Rockmore's playing -- alas, I have only heard it. Where would I find video of Clara playing?
Posted: 10/23/2005 8:47:02 PM

From: Colorado

Joined: 4/3/2005

To see Clara Rockmore play (briefly) you can watch "Theremin: An Electornic Oddysey"
Posted: 10/23/2005 9:12:01 PM

From: Winston-Salem, NC

Joined: 6/30/2005

Moog sells a DVD with both Clara and Lydia performing on it for $50. It's the same one that they include with the Etherwave Standard.

The Clara Rockmore section is quite good. It's from a recording Bob had made in the early 70s and shows Clara performing several pieces in her New York apartment accompanied by her sister, Nadia.
Posted: 10/24/2005 10:50:32 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

The Pringle Gliss may be due in part to his back-handed technique that allows for a some flexibility in the wrist. Also, his gliss is not a smooth slide -- it is as if he is slightly articulating as he slides up to the target note. This could be the result of his maintaining a vibrato while moving from one note to the next. The relatively wide vibrato produces a kind of "throaty" effect -- not totally unlike a theatre pipe organ tremulant.

I am experimenting with the side-handed technique -- the main advantage to me is that if I play first-position side handed I don't have to crunch my fingers up as much and turning them vertically gets them out of the way.

Interesting thing is... that when I reach with knuckles instead of fingertips it works pretty good from this position -- though I have to twist my hand a bit to get the other positions (that is, I can't manage a third or fourth position stretch while playing back-handed (actually, I think Peter Pringle is allowing his hand to move to the horizontal position for the larger reaches.

Again, thanks to all for your contributions to this thread.

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