Pitch preview

Posted: 6/4/2006 11:59:26 AM

Joined: 3/20/2005

I am interested in who uses pitch preview when playing? Peter Pringle swears by it, and uses an earbud to do it on the fly in real time. I used to use a chromatic tuner, but have left it behind. I find Pringle's mehtod to be very distracting? Anyone who is using pitch preview, I'd love to hear how you actually do it in a concrete way.
Posted: 6/5/2006 12:56:36 AM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

Hi, Erik.

A few months ago, we got into a discussion about the pitch preview...


I am a pitch preview user and use it both in recording and live playing. The preview is useful for finding the starting notes of passages.
Posted: 6/5/2006 5:24:40 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

[i](this is a follow up to my previous post that was written late last night. Here is some detailed info based on my use of the pitch preview for both live playing and recording.)[/i]

[b]The starting pitch[/b]

We want to find the desired pitch prior to bringing up the volume. Three methods for finding the opening pitch are:

1) use of a visual pitch indicator,
2) use of the Theremin's speaker, or
3) use of an audio pitch preview.

[b]visual pitch indicator[/b]

The [i]visual pitch indicator[/i] usually takes the form of a tuner (a Korg tuner, perhaps) that is driven from a Theremin's pitch preview signal. This method allows one to put one's hand in the approximate correct position for an opening note. This is the slowest method for finding pitch because of the combined time for the visual pitch indicator to display the pitch and the player's reaction time to the visual display. It is ok when a relatively large amount of time is available to find the pitch. Also, the Thereminist must correct the pitch somewhat as it is being played -- the tuner will get you close to the pitch however the final correction will be done by ear similar to fishing from the Theremin's speaker. The visual pitch indicator will get you close to your starting pitch but doesn't save you from having to make a quick correction to pitch as you bring the volume up.

[b]the theremin's speaker[/b]

To [i]use the Theremin's speaker[/i] is the original method and is the only method available on a Theremin without a pitch preview output. Traditionally, the Thereminist will place the bottom of the Theremin's speaker at ear level close behind the Thereminist (3 to 6 feet). This arrangement allows the Thereminist to hear the softest tones without the listeners hearing them. To have the Theremin on its own channel with no effects or accompianment mixed in is ideal. The effects and accompianment are sent to other speakers. This configuration allows you to preview the pitch through the Theremin's speaker. Note that it requires you to play softly to produce a preview signal.

[b]audio pitch preview[/b]

When [i]sending a pitch preview signal to an earbud[/i], you accomplish your pitch fishing with your private earbud rather than the public speaker. There is no delay with an audio pitch preview (compared to the visual display). The pitch preview signal is always audible to the Thereminist (no need to play softly to find the pitch). The combination of advantageous speaker placement and an audio pitch preview is the ideal setup and, indeed, is the setup that Peter Pringle advocates. The pitch preview and the advantageous speaker placement contributes to Peter's authoritative performances.

[b]we all fish by different methods[/b]

Regardless of the method, we all preview the pitch one way or another. We all do some fishing. The question is whether one wishes to fish in a public speaker or a private earbud.

[b]the earbud's tone and volume is important[/b]

The pitch preview signal and the earbud are very important. The tone in your earbud MUST be foundational (i.e., bassy or mellow). The earbud must have excellent bass response. It is important that your earbud amp does not clip or distort the signal (again, adding overtones). The reason for this is that the overtones get closer together as they ascend the overtone series. If you have a bright, clipped sound with little fundamental you will hear a blaze of harmonics in your earbud that will sound (buzz) in tune regardless of your pitch. People have reported that the pitch preview pitch is "a little off" from the pitch that comes out of the speaker. A clean signal with minimal overtones will minimize this "slightly off tune" effect.

Set the volume of your earbud such that you can just barely hear it above your accompianment. You only need enough volume that you can find your notes. With a louder accompianment
Posted: 6/16/2006 1:12:06 AM

Joined: 3/20/2005

Well, here is my take-away:
1) I need to have my EW pro modified
2) Pitch Preview (PP) helps a lot with playing
3) PP is not an option with many Theremins, and the first Thereminists relied on their ear and intuition anyway.
If I can spare my Theremin to get modified, I might even do it. Who at Moog should I speak to?
Posted: 6/16/2006 8:51:16 AM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005


Please go to my website:


and email me via the "email" link. I will be happy to get more info to you.

-- Kevin

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