Does anyone else use this technique?

Posted: 8/20/2007 11:43:39 PM

From: Quebec, Canada

Joined: 6/18/2007

Hey all. I've been messing around with my Kees theremin for about a month now with varying degrees of seriousness and I've developed a personal style of playing, or so I think. None of the videos I've seen are similar to my style and I'd like to know if it's a completely novel thing.
Right now my playing's more or less come to a stop because there's something wrong with my theremin; I'm patiently waiting for Kees to reply and instantly solve all of my problems like he can so well.

The gist of my playing is this: While most people's bodies run parallel to the theremin, that is, it's right in front of them, I put it a bit to the left and at about a 45 degree angle so that the volume loop is right beside me. I make the volume loop fairly sensitive so there's a lot of play available in a small area, and I make the pitch zone almost my full arm's length wide. I put the zero beat very close to my chest, and because the pitch rod is almost straight in front of me, I can visualize the "zone" very well.
Also, and this may just be because I have quite a good ear (but, alas, not perfect absolute pitch), I find that I don't need the aerial fingerings to play precisely. I find if I play with my knuckles forward I can make a very nice range of vibrato by pumping my fingers in and out. This way I can hold my hand steady and still give the sound a bit of character.
As well, because the volume loop is very close to my hips, I can remove my volume hand completely and keep a steady note. This way, I've been messing around with Telemann's Fantasias (especially #8, 'cause I know it super-well on the flute) and I'm able to do the partitia part by holding one hand steady and thrusting the other in and out to the higher notes. The result is really pretty in my opinion. It's a quick up-and-down slur that's outlining two separate melodies. Once I get it a bit better (admitted, it's kinda rough right now) I'll record it and put it up for all to appreciate.
Does anyone else do anything like this or am I just crazy?
Posted: 8/21/2007 12:17:07 AM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

[i]Also, and this may just be because I have quite a good ear (but, alas, not perfect absolute pitch), I find that I don't need the aerial fingerings to play precisely.[/i]

Of course, the technique that you choose is up to you.

The use of aerial fingering will in no way cover up a poor sense of pitch.

One can play in tune by moving one's arm or one's knuckles. Knuckle extensions (aerial fingering) allows one to move efficiently from one note to the next without noticeable skating (glissing).

I am not familiar with the two-hands-for-pitch technique that you have described.
Posted: 8/21/2007 7:20:33 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Your stance, close to the volume loop, is possible because the "Kees" theremin has a somewhat limited range on that antenna. You may find it is not practical with other theremins, which shouldn't be too much of a problem for you.

I'm sure almost everyone has tried to "two-fisted" technique at least once, But I don't know of anyone who's made a name for themselves using it.

I believe Vic (Victoria Lundy of the Inactivists) uses the "finger vibrato" technique.
Posted: 8/21/2007 9:36:11 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

If I understand right, the only other thereminists I'm aware of who uses a technique like yours are Victor Estrada, and Peter pringle. Here's a link to a youtube video of Victor performing a while back.

Notice how he stands with the antenna directly in front of him. Peter Pringle does this too. As for the rest of your technique, I'd have to see a video of your technique in action to make a better comparison.

Posted: 8/25/2007 3:45:55 AM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

Aerial fingering isn't necessarily about helping you pitch 'precisely,' it's about being able to use muscle memory to play intervals that would otherwise be hard or impossible to play accurately.

I was converted to using a proper, bona fide fingering method, having up until then relied simply on sort of opening and closing my hand randomly, moving my whole arm or fist whenever I felt like it; a combination of arm-moving and knuckle extending, that (whilst it looked quite complicated) actually gave me little additional control. The difference taking on a proper, empirical technique has made to my playing cannot be understated.

I was totally wrong about fingering methods being something that attempted to quantify the unquantifiable. They quantify intervals in space that *are* fixed (mind you, they'll only be fixed if you tune to an interval - tuning to zero beat is too random), and thus allow one to play intervals exactly and almost without consideration. In order for them to work however, it is my firm opinion that one *cannot* move one's arm at the same time as making an extension, unless attempting reaching a note outside the fingering range.

Ironically however, most fingering techniques seem to be aimed at helping the player to reach the intervals of the second, third and fourth, meaning that to play an octave (or indeed, in some cases, something as fundamental as a fifth!), one has to abandon his fingering method and simply slide upwards, rendering the technique useless.

Whilst Clara Rockmore's poorly-spaced and unlinear theremin makes such technique understandable, it seems silly not to take advantage of better spacing, and use fingering techniques with a greater range on an instrument like the Etherwave Standard and Pro.
Posted: 8/25/2007 7:53:47 AM

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

[i]tuning to zero beat is too random[/i]

Agreed. Although I'm not sold that aerial fingering is quite so perfect for everyone; my own preference being something in between fingering (Christ I need to grow up) and the open-closing method you say you started off with... my index finger and thumb keep my hand steady and my three remaining fingers find the different intervals. It works for me, especially since I need my fingers clasped if they're going to stay still - tremors are a pain (although they seem to encourage vibrato).

On a side note, I've never enjoyed listening to Clara Rockmore, I guess that makes me a heathen of some kind. I've seen about five seconds of her playing some staccato-ish stuff that really blew my mind but other than that I find her 'signature sound' to be a bit of an irritating buzz. T'was hardly sympathetic to the complex styles she employed and this was further shown up by the accompaniments which always sounded much nicer. GO SINE WAVE!
Posted: 8/25/2007 8:35:37 AM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

I actually still use an open-closed technique, but if I lock my arm completely before I open or close, then that opening or closing plays a fixed interval. If you tune the open and closed positions to be an octave, and you have yourself two reference points. Provided you tuned properly, you can play octaves as fast as you can open and close your palm.
Posted: 9/26/2007 6:19:07 PM
Benjamin Scott

From: Ottery St. Mary, Devon, England

Joined: 9/26/2007

I also use a cross between open and closed technique, i can reach position 25 very easily by using closed technique untill i reach position
14 then i open the hand and lock my fingers together to reach position 25.
Posted: 9/26/2007 6:25:17 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Welcome to ThereminWorld. You must have had that theremin's field tuned fairly tightly to get that range.
Posted: 9/26/2007 7:49:11 PM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

Okay, I give up: What are positions "14" and "25"?

You must be logged in to post a reply. Please log in or register for a new account.