Sitting Vs Standing

Posted: 9/22/2009 12:17:28 PM

Joined: 8/31/2009

I noticed that Randy George sits when playing whereas most others stand.

I just started learning theremin and wondered if sitting has any pros/cons over standing.

I imagine 3 points of contact creates greater body stability and helps eliminate swaying. Although it would rule out using Peter Pringle's method of bending his knee to move the whole body closer to the pitch antenna

I'm trying to figure out which road to go down and I'd appreciate any thoughts on this.

Posted: 9/22/2009 7:58:36 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

If you want to sit while playing, by all means SIT. It does add stability to your body particularly if you tend to involuntarily sway a little. It also takes the pressure off legs and ankles if you happen to be among the ranks of the more "corpulent" theremin players. If you are overweight, standing still for long periods of time can actually be painful.

The problem with sitting is that certain theremins (like the Series 91, the RCA and the Ethervox) are too bulky and cannot be lowered (like the E'wave and E'Pro) to adjust to the reduced height of a seated player. If you are used to playing while seated you might find it awkward if you were suddenly forced to play an instrument that is of a fixed standard height.

One other advantage of playing while seated is that it frees the feet for pedal (or looper) control if you are into the kind of music that requires this kind of freedom.

I did do a chapter on my "HOW TO" DVD on playing while seated.

Just from the stagecraft point of view, I think a theremin player who is standing has more presence, and may make more of an impression, than one who is sitting.

Posted: 9/22/2009 9:01:12 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I play both standing and sitting (not on account of corpulence, despite what Mrs C might say, but as I have ME and sometimes need to sit.) I prefer to stand when I can - it puts me in a different frame of mind to when I am sitting, a more appropriate one, in my estimation, for the sort of music I play.

(Although I am just rediscovering the joy of drones, so I might just sit for some ambient theremin.)

One suggestion, depending on your leg length - I found that a high bar stool keeps my upper body at pretty much the the same height as when I stand, so no need to adjust the height of the theremin when changing from one to the other. Also it looks better on stage than a little drum stool. (Particularly if you have a beard and prefer not to be mistaken for a garden gnome astride a toadstool.)

Randy explained to me that he sits because he prefers to have a smaller pitch field (I guess so that he can reach more notes with finger movements alone, and with minimal stretching) and consequently he requires the extra stability of sitting.
Posted: 9/23/2009 7:11:03 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

For non-precision theremin players (i.e. musicians into FX, experimental, New Music etc.) I think there is an advantage to sitting. With time and practice it is amazing what you can do with your feet if they are free to move about. It is possible to control all sorts of things (with the exception of course of ME - sorry to hear about that!)

Personally, as a precision player, I feel more in control if I play while standing. This also offers me the possibility of involving my entire body with the process of articulation.

Thereminists should beware of the small playing arc! Players who are too "greedy" (as Clara Rockmore used to say) and want to squeeze a large range into a relatively small playing field are almost certainly going to have problems with pitch because there is no margin for error.

I am again reminded of Clara's axiom that with the theremin LESS IS MORE.

Newcomers to the theremin should follow the lead of the player they admire most. There are now thousands and thousands of theremin videos on public access sites like YT, MySpace etc. and a real smorgasbord of techniques and approaches.
Posted: 9/23/2009 8:07:44 AM

From: UK

Joined: 4/15/2008

There's probably not a great deal I can add to this, but as I play both standing and seated, I'll offer my thoughts.

Initially, I did my first nine months of learning entirely seated. Oddly enough, the main reason was the same health problem as Gordon, (which is also why I chose a theremin when I wanted to learn a new instrument - because I knew I wouldn't be able to manage something like a violin or flute that I'd have to hold; the non-contact of the theremin suits me/ME ideally).

Anyway, I found that playing while seated helped me with stability. Wedging my back firmly against the back of the chair, and anchoring my right elbow against my right hip seemed to give me a pretty stable right arm (I followed a playing arc dictated by the pivot of my right elbow, if that makes any sense).

The down side of this was that I discovered that knees can interfere with the fields. I soon realised that with my left knee where it would comfortably be while sitting, it almost muted the volume loop! I would therefore sit with my left foot tucked under the chair to lower my left knee ... however, it took me longer to realise that my right knee appeared to have some affect on the pitch field too. It was nothing major, (and nothing I wouldn't be able to adapt to now that I'm a little more experienced) but I eventually noticed a difference in my note-reliability depending on whether my right knee was "up" or tucked under like my left knee. It seemed that the insertion of my right knee into the field subtley altered the field shape, so that despite careful tuning and playing the same arc, results changed a little depending on knee placement. As I say, it wouldn't throw me now ... but I know it did then; personally, I felt I needed everything consistent while learning, although I'm more adaptable now I think. I'll add that seated with both feet tucked under the chair could be less comfortable than standing.

I suspect I may well have stuck with playing seated, but for the arrival of the E-pro and, shortly after, the Wavefront theremins. Initially, I found I swayed all over the place and really hated playing while standing. I bought an adjustable stool (not unlike Randy George) and used this a lot at first. However, with practice I eventually found that I prefer to play standing. (Actually, there's no choice with the Wavefront. Unlike the Epro which you can sit at with one leg either side of the stand - the Wavefront cannot really be played seated).

Perhaps, in this respect, you could do whatever feels most comfortable and appears to get the best results at this stage in your learning. Whereas most unsuitable habits picked up while learning the theremin can become ingrained and not simply remedied, I suspect this is something you can easily adapt at a later stage without it setting you back. However, if I had to pick and recommend one route, I'd say stick to standing if health permits!
Posted: 9/23/2009 10:45:03 AM

Joined: 8/31/2009

Thanks for the replies. I think I'll keep practicing standing up for now. I aim to become a precision player rather than experimental and I don't see myself going in for pedals etc so sitting would only really provide the added stability benefit for me. I suspect that over time the swaying will be less of a problem with practice. The clinching argument however is that I have my beady eye on a wavefront classic.


Posted: 9/23/2009 10:51:45 AM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

I decided to play standing. As an organist I have spent my entire musical life seated AND, in general, out of view of the listeners.

I decided that I'd enjoy my "fifteen minutes" standing.

Also, I play through a wide range and need to move back from the theremin to hit the low notes. I think, too, that standing is a bit more dramatic than sitting.

Posted: 9/23/2009 12:59:22 PM

Joined: 8/31/2009

The Pringle body shift adds a little extra drama. There's an illusion of needing the extra body weight to 'oomph' up to the higher notes.
Posted: 9/23/2009 2:25:07 PM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

I've tried both and finished playing standing (ok, actually I can't play at all, but that's another problem).

Why do I prefer standing? Since I don't play in public the dramatic factor is not important for me. But when I learned playing Violin and Viola more than thirty years ago my (Hungarian) teacher told me to breathe when playing as if I would sing the melody. And so do I still today automatically, also when playing theremin. And a correct musical breathing requires that one stands. This to prevent pinching of the phrenic.

I admit that this breathing story may sound a bit strange but give it a try. There will be most probably be a gain in musical expression.
Posted: 9/23/2009 7:41:14 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

About this business of adding drama - putting emotion into your theremin playing is tricky. You may be feeling the emotion, but communicating it is another ball game. Most theremin performances are hailed as magnificently successful if the player manages to get through the piece without going significantly off key (understandable since that is a major feat in itself).

Your greatest enemy in communicating emotion through your music (provided the emotion is in you to begin with) is your own technical shortcoming. You may feel the emotion intensely but, like the following soprano, if your technique is lacking you haven't got a hope!

Mozart (

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