Hi! (first post yaddayadda) I have two questions which I feel might have been asked a million times, but I couldn't find anything online or with the forum search.
The first is, does everyone need a teacher? I usually learn things better with books/videos on my own, but is theremin something where it is really important have a teacher?
Second, I've mostly decided to go with Carolina Eyck's 8 position technique (possibly due to my piano experience), and I've sort of become afraid of repetitive stress injury. I can't seem to curl my index finger and thumb properly (especially in the more extended positions) without putting pressure on my index finger with my thumb or stressing said index finger. After a few minutes, it begins to ache. Is there a trick to this, does it simply need to be more relaxed, or is this something I should be asking a teacher?
going to hazard a reply although I'm sure there are more experienced folk here who could give you a more comprehensive answer.
Ok, in no particular order:
if it hurts, relax on doing the movements that make it hurt and if it still hurts after a couple of weeks, stop doing it and try different hand/finger positions to get the same effect.
Carolina's hands are her's, not yours.
With regard to a teacher-yes, i believe it to be very helpful, at least for me it is.
I am not a thereminist, so dont regard my words as "valid" -
But as I see it, there is no technical reason or justification to do anything uncomfortable with your hands - its not a piano - you dont have octaves you must span with the hand in order to play a piece.. And there are a multitude of different ways to move from one note to another - you can combine finger positions and angles and distances and hand placement and slight body shifting and whatever you want to change the capacitance "seen" by the antenna - things you could not dream of doing on a piano.
So I would look at playing styles, choose whatever suits you - but unlike the strict formal techniques required if one is aiming to be a concert pianist, I dont think theremin techniques are anywhere near as rigid - and I dont think that deviation from exactly replicating any technique will limit ones ability to progress on the instrument.
Thank you all for the tips. It turns out I was doing those extended positions wrong, and trying to use the tip of my middle finger as the pitch regulator rather than the combinations of knuckles and tips of other fingers that I needed to be using.
@FredM This is true. I have looked at 4 different styles (Pringle, Kurstin, Kavina, and Eyck) and I find it easiest to wrap my head around Eyck's scale based position model (it is merely speculation on my part that this tendency comes from piano experience). I think her tips do a really good job focusing on developing positions that work for you own hands, but if it's just not working for me I might be willing to switch to something more like Kurstin's style where the positions look relaxed and simple. Is this mostly just me bragging about doing my homework before taking up you good people's time? Yes. ;)
While Clara Rockmore, the grande dame of the theremin was too well educated and swallowed the following words, I dare to utter them: "It's blood, sweat and tears".
Clara and Carolina had both a classical and professional education as violinists, which makes that their theremin playing techniques are both highly sophisticated and efficient (if correctly applied). In a certain way, Carolina's technique can be seen as a further development of Clara's approach. And Carolina's surpassing virtuosity is the proof that her system "works".
But similar to the violin, playing the theremin can not be learned well from books and videos. You need an experienced teacher who has well adopted the playing technique in a consistent way and knows also how to transmit it. Since theremin teachers can most times not be found round the corner, I strongly recommend to prepare your luggage and to attend theremin academies / gatherings / festivals as often as possible because it's there where you can meet teachers, have lessons and get homework for the three to six months to come before the next event takes place and you can go on with your studies.
Here is a (non exhaustive) list of such events:
Theremin Spring Academy, every year in April in Leipzig/Germany: Carolina and me teaching.
Theremin Summer Academy, every year in July in Colmar/France: Carolina, Wilco, Thorwald and me teaching.
Theremin Autumn Academy (formerly Without Touch festival) every two years in Lippstadt/Germany: Lydia, Carolina, Wilco and me teaching.
The Node Festival, every year in January in Lausanne/Switzerland: Lydia, Carolina, Thorwald and me teaching (varies from year to year, at least two of these are present)
Lydia organizes Theremin weekends together with the Oxford University every two or three months.
Check the concert schedules on the websites of the people cited above, contact them for lessons when you find that they will be performing next to you.
Hello again acidicglitter,
This is all a "MOO" (My Opinion Only)
Some things may be worth keeping in mind -
The theremin is NEW - its been with us for <100 years, and has been mastered by a tiny number of people... There simply hasn't been enough playing of this instrument for a "best" standardized technique to evolve IMO.. Its not even certain that there is a "best" technique or that one will ever evolve -
The present techniques are mainly developed by musicians skilled on acoustic instruments - IMO, they have carried these techniques over from these instruments and adapted them.. And this is fine and great - FOR THEM!
But IF there REALLY is a "best way" to play a theremin, I think the discovery of this "way" or the development of such a "technique" is likely to come from someone who utterly understands capacitive interactions and instinctively uses the many dimensional aspects available, rather than from someone who carries the baggage from some (comparatively limited)* acoustic instrument and adapts this.
Having said the above, it is true that violin / cello players are generally far quicker getting "into" the theremin than other musicians - But I think this is down to the fretless / keyless / infinite untempered nature of these instruments..
But in reality, IMO, the theremin has very little in common with a violin - there isnt an "invisible string" - IMO a better analogy is that there are an infinite number of "invisible strings" radiating in all directions from the antenna, and the "stretching" of each of these strings is determined by every ground point they link to (every conductive object in the theremins vicinity) and the sum of all these "strings" determines the pitch... the further from the antenna the object/s the "strings" connect to, the lower the frequency they contribute.
So yeah - perhaps start by treating it like some sort of ethereal violin - But keep in mind that for every way one can obviously influence pitch, there are a multitude of equally usable other ways to influence it -
IMO, if what you are doing causes any real physical discomfort or pain, DONT do it! - There will be a painless route to achieve the same result just as efficiently! - I personally know one pro thereminist who has caused themselves damage, and IMO it was needless.. Sweat, effort, dedication, good pitch recognition - yes, musical education and experience playing other instruments is always helpful, as is having a personal tutor, but not IMO essential... Blood and/or tears (from physical pain or discomfort) IMO says you aint going the right direction!
* I need to clarify this - I am talking about "dimensionally limited" only! - In every other way I think it is the theremin which is more limited!