Theremin Timbre

Posted: 5/7/2012 4:32:27 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

We all know about the theremin "singing lady" sound but what about the "singing man"? Why can theremins sound like sopranos but not like tenors?

Here is an experiment using the ELECTRO-HARMONIX "Talking Machine" with the Moog Etherwave Pro theremin. I used the E'Pro timbre setting #5 (Basic Theremin) and sent it to the Talking Machine which was preset to an open "AH" sound.

I was expecting to be disappointed by the TM but I have found that if used with discretion and not pushed beyond what it is capable of doing, it is an excellent device. 

The following is mostly for enthusiasts of the Saxon lyre (.....sorry, wrong special interest group..) but since there is a theremin in it, and I am using something new, I thought I would mention it here for those who might be interested.

Les Izmor

Posted: 5/7/2012 6:10:47 PM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

A theremin could be built to sound like a tenor, this is technically possible, even without talking machines or any other sound processors. But you had to pay a price for that: The same theremin would sound very thin and nasal in the soprano register and above. I'm not sure if such a theremin would be interesting for many people.

Some people will perhaps still remember that there have been times (very long time ago) where different variants of the same instrument existed, for example soprano-, alt-, tenor- and bass-saxophones, -recorders, -flutes, -trombones, etc. Or on the string side violin, alto, cello and double bass.

It seems that today everything must be integrated in a single cheap and portable device...

Posted: 5/7/2012 9:23:51 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008


What do you think of the sound of the E'Pro with the TALKING MACHINE? Don't worry about my fragile ego - it is made of pure titanium!

I have been in showbiz long enough to know that whatever you do, some people will love it, some people will hate it, and the vast majority will be completely indifferent.

I do, however, value the opinions of people I respect.

Posted: 5/8/2012 1:30:35 AM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

Wow coalport, incredibly nice video! 

You keep giving me ideas for Theremins, like drone strings, and now male voice formants.  Thanks!

Posted: 5/8/2012 3:19:22 AM

Joined: 3/30/2012

Very enjoyable performance and sound.

Posted: 5/8/2012 9:49:19 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Yup, that's a good timbre. I had wondered what composition would be suited to a formant filtered theremin, but of course an improvisation avoids that puzzle rather neatly. 

I wonder how it sounds outside of the tenor register. One of the side effects of having Thierry's bass extension on my etherwave is that it has become somewhat harder to find a single waveform and brightness setting that I find satisfactory over the full range of the instrument.

(FWIW, I find my "favourite" setting of both knobs at 11 o'clock rather lacking in oomph in the lowest notes, and a setting that works well there (both at 3 o'clock) is too harsh for my taste outside of the low notes.)


Thierry wrote: "It seems that today everything must be integrated in a single cheap and portable device..."

Yes, please. :-)



Posted: 5/8/2012 11:12:05 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Any synthesized or sampled tone that is intended to emulate a voice or acoustic instrument must be played within the parameters of whatever it is supposed to sound like. You can't have a FLUTE sound that sounds like a flute if you play it in the bass register, or a double bass sound that sounds like a double bass if you play HIGH C.

With the ELECTRO-HARMONIX Talking Machine, I can make it sound more or less like a tenor if I don't go outside a range of about two octaves. This is very limiting for someone who needs the full theremin range but no tenor has the range of a theremin. 

The Moog Ethervox has a 10 octave range. Even the cathedral organ doesn't have that. Of course much of what is available on the Ethervox is useless for the kind of music I am interested in creating. It is capable of producing sounds that are so high that they are on the edge of human audio perception but my dogs love it!

Posted: 5/11/2012 5:39:09 PM

From: Weert, Limburg, the Netherlands

Joined: 4/10/2012

Great video as usually coalport! It TRULY sounds somewhere like a male voice, nevertheless I think it's a pity there's still some under tone (subtone, whatever) behind it which makes it a bit digital, but at the other hand, it has something special too (thinking about Tuvan throat singing) ;-)

Posted: 5/15/2012 10:38:44 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

@coalport: you really need to re-explore your harmonizing pedal in line with the Electro Harmonix Talking Machine. I wonder how that would sound. Great vid by the way. :)

Posted: 5/15/2012 11:17:35 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Thanks Thomas. Here's another one.


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