learning to play

Posted: 3/2/2005 11:21:36 AM
TomFarrell

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

Interestingly, Clara Rockmore was trained as a violinist before taking up the Theremin, and even with the inventor of the instrument at her back and call and perfectly willing to make a custom instrument for her with the antennas on the opposite sides (he did it for others, and was obviously even more willing to make customizations for her) she chose to keep the pitch antenna on the right.

If you need a left handed Theremin, phone Moog Music and ask them about it, I think you can custom order one.

Or, buy an Etherwave kit (unassembled) and drill some new holes in the case so you can install the antennas on the opposite sides for your convenience.
Posted: 3/2/2005 12:08:35 PM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

This is a sweeping sort of a question, but how hard do you think the theremin is to play acceptably?

I really want to be able to play the theremin, but I am terrified of failing horribly and wasting all that money. I play the piano and sing to a high level. How did get through the first few months?
Posted: 3/2/2005 12:23:19 PM
Jason

From: Sammamish, Washington

Joined: 2/13/2005

This one might be worthy of its own thread... or website :)

The theremin is hard to play - period. The original "if you can hum it, you can play it on a theremin" line was pure marketing... not much reality in that statement.

The beauty of something like the guitar or piano is that it's easy to pick up, but difficult to master. With the theremin, it's difficult to pick up, and even harder to master.

All of that said, I hope you still decide to try the theremin. Contrary to Homer Simpson's advice ("if something is hard to do, it's probably not worth doing"), I think the difficulty in mastering the theremin just adds to the appeal of tackling it.

You might look on the theremin meetups boards to see if you can find a local thereminist in your area to try an instrument before you purchase one.

I can think of only about 10 people I'd classify as excellent thereminists today (I'm definitely NOT in that list myself). So if you end up mastering it, there's a high likelihood you could end up famous - within theremin circles ;)

As for getting through the first few months, I'd recommend a healthy regemine of practice and inspiration:

1) Watch the theremin documentary and rewind the scenes of Clara playing until you wear it out
2) Listen to at least one track from "The Art of the Theremin" every day
3) Buy the Clara Rockmore video from Moog Music
4) Read Albert Glinsky's book on the history of the instrument. The back-story of the theremin is just fascinating.
5) Stop by here and ask for help, suggestions, tips, etc. And share what you learn with us too - we're all still learning!

I hope all this helps. Please keep in touch and let us know what you decide and how your learning is coming along. And welcome to the theremin!!
Posted: 3/2/2005 1:25:16 PM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

Thank you very much. I feel reassured- the whole reason that I think that the theremin is so fantastic is not only because of its wonderful timbre, method of play and song-like tones, but also because it is quite clearly astoundingly difficult.

Posted: 3/2/2005 1:44:39 PM
Jason

From: Sammamish, Washington

Joined: 2/13/2005

Super! If you can think of any resources for learning the theremin that would be helpful and you don't see them on Thereminworld, please feel free to post to the suggestion box or send me private e-mail: jason[at]thereminworld.com
Posted: 3/2/2005 2:28:49 PM
DiggyDog

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

How does the Sexton method compare to the Pringle method?

So far, I have been using the "wavy hand" method as well but it is time to at leat try out some other methods.

I got my Etherwave second-hand so there was no video to watch. I am going to order the Prnigle video and the one from Moog and try them both out.

Is there a Sexton video?
Posted: 3/2/2005 3:23:14 PM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

It's odd how the oft-quoted three master thereminists- Clara Rockmore, Lydia Kavina and Carolina Eyck are all women. Hoffman and Leon himself seem to be only rarely mentioned as virtuosos, which they of course were. Sigh.

It's such a pity that Leon himself made so few recordings. . .I would love to be able to watch the whole film that the clip on the following website is taken from:

http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/select/1297/theremin.html
Posted: 3/2/2005 11:15:17 PM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

I've never heard Carolina Eyck refered to as a master. And, from what I've heard of her playing, I'd say she's accomplished but not yet a master. I'd have to say that Pamelia Kurstin is much closer to master status.
And who said only women are "masters"? For my money, I'd say Peter Pringle has two out of three of them beat. But I suppose it also comes down to ones taste in music.
Posted: 3/3/2005 12:03:39 AM
TomFarrell

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

Peter Pringle has publically insisted that Lydia Kavina is better at the Theremin than him, although I think he would say that his technique is more ergonomic. There is apparently some consensus among those who have heard her perform live that her recordings don't quite do her justice. If I remember correctly, Peter has also said that Clara Rockmore played things he can't. I do think he's a master of the instrument though, as is, perhaps, Robbie Virus.

I would say Lev was not a master of his own instrument though. His technique was terrible, and his playing was merely passable. Even Sam Hoffman had lousy technique and apparently was fairly unreliable in relation to being on key: a major reason the studios dropped him like a ton of bricks when the Tannerin was invented is that Hoffman often took multiple takes to just be on key, and with a whole band of live musicians having to repeat the piece every time he screwed up, it got expensive fast. (They didn't have multi-track recorders back then.)

I think it's difficult, though, to say if there's any real correlation between gender and Theremin ability. There are, oh, four people total I'm aware of who have ever lived who I'd say have completely mastered the instrument. It's just too small a sample to make any kind of judgment on. It would be like, 20 years ago, saying that 100% of the living people who had mastered the Theremin were women... of course, 100% of them were Clara Rockmore, so it would be hard for the percentage to be otherwise.
Posted: 3/3/2005 2:01:26 PM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

Carolina's recording of Spellbound is without a doubt the most incredible theremin recording that I have ever heard in my entire life. On the other hand some of her other pieces, particularly her rendition of "The Swan" is not nearly as good as that of Rockmore. I didn't say that all the masters were women- only that the most quoted ones are- and that I was interested in hearing some of Leon's recordings, if they exist.

I've started selling mother's day cookies to get more money for my theremin- It's going to be tough, but worth it- I'm sure.

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