Just a question or two about Zero-Beat

Posted: 7/21/2009 12:34:24 AM

From: Fort Worth, TX

Joined: 7/10/2009

Got my Theremin today! 'Tis a fine instrument that has wooed my friends and confused my parents. I love it :)

However, I just wanted to make sure that everything is ok with it, as the pitch-field seems a little strange.

I noticed the manual and other people saying that if you turn the pitch knob completely clockwise it should make the field very small, and thus make the theremin silent. For me, the theremin is just as loud and high-pitched at both ends of the knob, with zero-beat located in the middle. Is this odd, or did I just misread the directions?

I just wanted to ask before I opened up the cabinet to make adjustments...the idea of that makes me nervous.

Thanks in advance.
Posted: 7/21/2009 1:13:42 AM

From: Los Angeles

Joined: 3/8/2005

Congrats on your new theremin. Did you get an Etherwave?

You should make sure that there is at least 3 feet of clear space all around the theremin, and that it isn't sitting on a metal desk or object - such things will interfere with the field, and might make it difficult for you to achieve zero-beat.

Posted: 7/21/2009 3:48:00 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

[i]I noticed the manual and other people saying that if you turn the pitch knob completely clockwise it should make the field very small, and thus make the theremin silent.[/i]

That's an odd thing for people to say. :-)

Stand about a foot or so back from your theremin, so that your volume hand can float comfortably over the volume loop, and your pitch hand can reach the pitch rod without undue stretching.

Now turn the pitch knob fully clockwise. You should hear a mid-range tone. As you slowly turn the pitch knob anti-clockwise the tone should lower in pitch until it becomes silent. It will then begin to rise again as you turn it further.

What has happened is the zero-beat zone (the silent zone) started very close to the pitch rod and as you swept the knob, so it moved outwards from the pitch rod, through your body.

If you stop turning the knob just as the tone reappears and starts to rise, and let go of the pitch knob and bring your hand to your chest ("zero position") the tone should go silent again.

You have just done the most basic tuning of the pitch field. With this you will have access to the full range of pitches from your theremin.

To increase the distance between notes you can turn the pitch knob further clockwise so that in zero position you can play the lowest note that you will require for a particular piece of music.

The most advanced form of tuning is to then adjust it further so that making a particular hand movement in the mid-range of notes will produce a particular change in pitch.

Having just been at a workshop with Lydia Kavina I will describe her tuning, which is such that by moving from a closed fist (knuckles pointing towards the top of pitch rod) to fully extended fingers (pointing towards the centre of the pitch rod) causes a rise in pitch of one octave.

As a non-melodic or "experimental" thereminist I use the simplest tuning as, for what I do, access to the full range of pitches is more important to me than precise intonation.

(One clever thing about the etherwave is that, once you have tuned it as above you should be able to walk away from it and have it remain silent.)
Posted: 7/21/2009 12:46:11 PM

From: Fort Worth, TX

Joined: 7/10/2009

@Etherspiel: Yes, I have an Etherwave, sorry for not mentioning that.

I had it in my bedroom, and my bed has a really big wooden frame, so I decided to move it downstairs to an empty room - I think the tuning is better now :) But as GordonC pointed out, I entirely misunderstood what the directions and everyone else was saying.

@GordonC: Thank you for the excellent explanation, now it all makes sense! I was thinking the pitch knob did something entirely different, lol. I guess I should have read the manual more closely. I'll need to experiment with the tuning techniques you mentioned now :)

That puts my mind at rest - thank you very much, guys!

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