A VSTI working well with theremin?

Posted: 3/25/2009 8:57:18 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

benbenben6 wrote:

Either I need a synth that can handle very large pitch bends (3,4 octave) gracefully, or I need a synth that does portamento very smoothly.


Well ben, you are faced with the same problem that owners of the Moog Ethervox MIDI theremin are faced with.

In the mid 90's, Bob Moog and German software designer, Rudi Linhard, created a MIDI theremin (the "Ethervox") which can operate as either a traditional theremin, or as a MIDI controller.

The MIDI function of the instrument has four different modes of operation, each with a different set of capabilities and parameters: PITCH MOVE, CHROMATIC, CONTROLLERS and PITCH SMART.

I have probably had more experience with the Ethervox than anyone in the world (I own serial # 007 which I purchased in 1997). Only about 50 of these instruments were made and they are amazing.

Without you AND an Ethervox to demonstrate for you it would be impossible to describe everything the instrument will do but there is a basic problem with which Ethervox owners have been confronted ever since it was introduced.

MIDI receivers are designed for keyboard triggers of one sort or another and like to be fed note on/note off commands.

The Ethervox in its PITCH MOVE MODE sends only volume and pitchbend information. This is fine, except that receivers are not designed to bend pitch over the nine and a half octave range of the Ethervox MIDI theremin.

What happens when you try to "play" a module using the Ethervox as a MIDI trigger is that you get an inconsistent linearity, and you get artifacts as the receiver changes notes in a futile effort to accommodate the pitchbend commands it is getting.

I asked Bob Moog about this when he introduced the Ethervox at the Portland Theremin Festival back in 1997 and he explained that the only way around the problem of audible "steps" between pitchbend registers coming from modules, would be to construct a module with built-in faders on every note that automatically engage as the thereminist goes up and down the scale. Each note would seamlessly fade out as the next one fades in.

At the time, no such module existed and, as far as I know, still doesn't.

The artifact problem may not be a big deal for experimentalists and musicians who want to create "free music". For a precision thereminist like myself, however, it renders the MIDI "PITCH MOVE MODE" useless. As a result, I find I use the MIDI "CHROMATIC MODE" almost exclusively - that's a whole 'notha ball o' wax - with CHROMATIC MODE, gesturally controlled note on/note off commands are possible.

You can record a theremin performance on the Ethervox to a MIDI sequencer using the MIDI OUT port, but you can only play that performance back on the Ethervox itself using the MIDI IN. It cannot be played back on a module or MIDI keyboard because all that is recorded on the sequencer is volume and pitchbend info.

The advantage of this capability is that you can "tweak" the performance and correct off-pitch notes, remove notes, transpose the piece, etc. etc., everything you can normally do with a sequencer. Out of curiosity, I have experimented with this capability but I do not use it.

The Ethervox, for the skilled player, has the unique ability, when it is played simultaneously as a traditional theremin AND as a MIDI theremin in CHROMATIC MODE, to accompany itself in a single performance.

Please let us know if you locate a MIDI receiver that can accommodate your portamento needs.

Posted: 3/25/2009 6:07:43 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

You could roll your own VST plug-in with Max/MSP (Which can handle the full 14 bits of MIDI pitch bend data - that's a 2/3 cent resolution over 9 1/2 octaves. For finer than that you would need to interpolate. Allegedly some human beings can hear a half cent step. Over four octaves it should not be possible to hear stepping at all.)

I would consider using Max to extract pitch data from the audio directly and not bother with MIDI as an intermediate form. I understand [i]fiddle[/i] is the patch to use for high-res pitch extraction.
Posted: 3/25/2009 8:07:04 PM

From: Toledo, Ohio United States of America

Joined: 2/22/2006

Where do I get this VST Plug-In?
Web Address?
What programs will it work with?
Where is the initial Theremin World notification of this fantastic new technology?
AHHHHH! Oh, I must change pants.

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