honest question. pleased no biased answers

Posted: 1/14/2006 3:16:18 PM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

Garrgh. A word of advice. Don't settle for 'any old' theremin. A Kees or Etherwave will set you in good stead.

I'm not inclined to recommend the E'Pro however. Mine has just contracted some sort of terminal illness that is slowly causing all the voice settings to be consumed by horrible static/noise that overpowers the musical output. Besides that, the on/off switch crackles loudly, there's an annoying ghost tone that reccurs, and the volume control is 'lumpy'. I have contacted Moog Music, and hope they can aid me.

Posted: 1/15/2006 8:31:52 AM

From: Morrisville, PA

Joined: 10/19/2005

Though it's a response to the last post rather than the original question, it sounds as if the quality control has slipped on the E'Pros trundling off the assembly line. There are a lot of unhappy customers out there, as evidenced by comments similar to the above in other forums. I was with a gentleman yesterday, engineer and electronics guy, who's been playing electronic music for a long time. He has been seeing these posts about the E'Pros woes, and he told me that in the old days, he would actually drive to Ashville and knock on the door. Bob Moog himself would fix your synth while you waited. There's been a considerable amount of text elsewhere devoted to reminding people that Moog Music has just undergone the loss of its namesake as well as transitioning into another physical plant. And while I agree that some degree of slack should be cut, it's also clear that the overall attention to the integrity of the units they send out the door is being compromised.

Either way, if someone is just starting out on a theremin, it's far more economical and prudent to purchase a standard Etherwave or other model theremin with a modest price tag. If you were taking up the violin, you'd never rush right out a purchase a Stradivarius. You'd buy something serviceable and work with it to determine whether you've got the facility, the drive and committment to warrant getting the Big Bucks instrument.

Anyway, I'm glad to see other posts attesting to the need for a unique type of body awareness when approaching the theremin. Gaining such awareness versus doing technical exercises such as working with a score, practicing intervals, fingering techniques, etc., is hardly an "either/or" proposition. ALL are important and invaluable.

Fianally, yesterday, while with the aforementioned gentleman and working on a project together, we were visited by a friend of his who's never seen a theremin up close nor ever tried one. He asked if he might have a short lesson. When teaching, I work in "digestible" units of ten to fifteen minutes, have students to take a break, then introduce another unit (or continue with the same one, depending upon the results). Once again, I can attest to the fact that this instrument is far from impossible to play. I introduced one short unit, then I used precisely the steps outlined earlier. Within twenty minutes the friend was playin a passable Mary Had a Little Lamb and Happy Birthday. Nothing that would be for public consumption, but he was hitting the pitches, articulating the notes in a very basic way, AND even embellishing the melody a bit on his own, just because he wanted to try to. He was ecstatic -- decided he's going to learn how to play.
Posted: 1/15/2006 9:52:04 AM

From: Richmond Hill, Georgia

Joined: 9/18/2005

I am just a little disappointed that there are no other "top line" instruments available once one has progressed beyond the standard Etherwave.
The Etherwave Pro, with all its attendant issues and weird appearance, seems to be the only alternative that is readily available.

I like my Etherwave, and its a good instrument. My ONLY complaint is it chirps when you touch the volume loop.

Good luck and don't forget to practice.

Posted: 1/19/2006 9:32:16 AM

From: Sammamish, Washington

Joined: 2/13/2005

Clara Rockmore's did the same thing. In videos, you might notice some tape wrapped around it so she could touch the antenna without making contact with the metal :)
Posted: 1/19/2006 11:40:31 AM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

I put a little strip of aluminum foil on the top of the cabinet near the volume loop. All I have to do is touch and the instrument goes completely silent with no chirps, pops or static.

Back to the original question, There is some difficulty involved with this instrument but it is not insurmountable by any means.

Compared to fretless bass it is a bit harder becase you are not touching anything but your fingers and hand will learn where to go eventually.

The key is to get a good instrument and secluded practice space.

The rest will fall into place.
Posted: 1/19/2006 11:41:37 AM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

If you can't alone to learn how to play it, just get some headphones.

Your family will thank you until you get past the initial bumps in the learning curve.
Posted: 1/20/2006 11:09:55 PM

From: Somewhere in space.

Joined: 12/5/2005

I think the Theremin isn't harder overall than most other instruments, but it's simply harder in different ways. When you start off playing from silence, you have no idea what note you're going to start on (unless you have some sort of pitch preview). Also, the Theremin's tuning changes if you move to a different spot, so you have to adjust the sound with your ears while you play. There's nothing to touch so you really have to find a technique that works for you and helps you play the right notes. Just the opposite thing happens with keyboard instruments; even a child with no experience could play a scale or a simple melody. However, a piano gets very hard on the advanced level when playing with many notes and chords.

Because the Theremin's reasons for being difficult are sometimes different from other instruments' reasons for being difficult, it seems harder while it actually isn't. My first few hours practicing with the Theremin were very frustrating, but don't get discouraged; you'll be playing something that isn't just a lot of noise before you know it.

About the Etherwave: I'm very happy with my Etherwave, and it doesn't seem to have any issues. I built it from the kit and it has a nice stained wood finish instead of the black on the standard ones. My Etherwave doesn't chirp when I touch the volume antenna. (But then again, I'm using the kit version)
Posted: 1/21/2006 5:05:43 AM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

The Etherwave has to be the most reliable theremin ever invented. I haven't heard one person complain about it in the way they have about the E'Pro. (Except people who accidentally manage to snap the antenna, or spill cola on it)
Posted: 1/21/2006 12:05:24 PM

From: Seattle

Joined: 4/19/2005

I personally believe there are various ranges of two kinds of people. Those who love the initial thrill of learning and can master things amaziningly quickly, and those who enjoy the thrill of mastery and eventually surpass the first group. Lest the first group sound la1zy or unwilling to work let me gi4ve an e2xample:

First they learn to ski, then before fully learning that they progress to ski jumping, then before being the best in the group they learn how to snowboard, then while others gain greater broad based knowledge they more to waterskiing with wakeboards behind a boat, then with a kite. No less work to learn all these things, but a totally different kind of work.

I belong to the initial thrill camp. I know how to play, rudimentally, at least 20 instruments, and I found the theremin the hardest at the beginning. As someone already mentioned, that initial phase of learning to play Go Tell Aunt Rhody, or some such beginnger piece, is really tough. Which brings up the second problem. Go Tell Aunt Rhody wouldnt be the best starter piece. The Swan is. Playing a piece that is all legato without a bunch of repeated notes is easiest.

So to me th theremin CAN be learned and you DO only need to worry about learning to play one note at a time, unlike the piano or organ, but you must have a good ear, unlike the piano, and I feel that for those who thrill only at the initial learning excitement it is going to be your biggest challenge.

My opinion. Ive played The SPellbound Concerto with an orchestra, played a gig with a rock band, and taught some students with some success, but personally feel it is the steepest curve of all I have learned given MY personality.

Posted: 1/21/2006 10:37:48 PM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

I am in the first groups as well. I play many different instruments and I am not a virtuosos at any of them.

Just in case someone is keeping track. My Etherwave doesn't chirp either.

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