How can I change the sound quality of my moog theremin?

Posted: 1/24/2007 3:25:04 PM

Joined: 1/24/2007

I just got the moog theremin. Pitch and volume are just set fine. Zero beat works perfekt - all as described in the manual. The instrument is situated on a mic stand. BUT: My theremin sounds quite awful. It is supposed to have the sound inbetween human voice and a violin, as in the music i listened to. But mine sounds like a broken trumpet. I checked the signal on my KO and it looks quite ok there. What can I do? Or am I having jutst bad luck?
Posted: 1/24/2007 3:50:38 PM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

Some of the sound depends on the instrument.

Some of the sound depends on the amplifier.

Some depends on the setting of the knobs on the instrument.

Some depends on the skill of the person playing it.

Clara Rockmore's family says her Theremin never sounded like it's famous for sounding when anyone else was playing it but her.

My Etherwave sounds like a crappy slide whistle on the crappy amp I own, but when I plugged it in at a friend's recording studio on his nice big amps, it sounded rich and huge and glorious.

Your mileage [i]will[/i] vary.
Posted: 1/24/2007 3:57:58 PM

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

Things like voices and trumpets are complex sound waves- the output of a theremin is a single simple repeating oscillation. Messing with wave and filter ("brightness" on the Etherwave) settings will alter the waveshape to a small degree, but in order to achieve the sounds you want you're going to have to modulate them with your hands. There is a vague swell with the volume hand, for instance, and vibrato with the pitch hand. These are just examples.

In the search for "tone", I use very little, I have an Alesis Nanoverb to add a very slight bit of reverb, making it sound a tiny bit rounder. But you'll mainly just get the sounds you want by knowing what you want and exploring with some patience :)
Posted: 1/24/2007 7:37:05 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I concur with Tom and Alex. Playing a theremin is about making music with your hands. Shaping notes and phrases. Tense, nervous movements make tense, nervous sounds. Smooth, confident movements make smooth, confident sounds.

With regards to the waveform and pitch knobs, the setting with the fewest harmonics is with the waveform fully clockwise and the brightness fully anticlockwise. This gives the softest tone available, and the most forgiving - IMO - a good place to start.

Once I had some of the measure of the instrument I tried various other settings and, for me at least, both knobs at 11 o'clock gives the most vocal tone (and only when I move my hands in the right sort of way.)
Posted: 1/24/2007 11:29:10 PM

From: new haven ct.

Joined: 7/8/2005

It could also be who you're listening too, and what instument being played.

Posted: 1/25/2007 2:08:14 AM

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

Totally - sometimes people just fake it. If it sounds like a human voice, more often or not they just paid a homeless guy to go "ooooo". Remember, accept no imitations.
Posted: 1/25/2007 2:49:50 AM

Joined: 1/24/2007

Dear all!
Thank you for your helpfull hints. I have before put the settings for sharpness and brightness as described above, which indeed helps a little. On the oszilloscope the beat then looks rather close to a sine-wave - but it still sounds not as pure as in recordings I ve heared.

My actual question is/was: Can I change anything by opening the housing and alter some electronics? Or would you think this is too diffucult or dangerous for the instrument?

Posted: 1/25/2007 3:36:58 AM

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

If by "change" you mean "break", yes...


Which recordings are you listening to, to give some idea of what sound you want?
Posted: 1/25/2007 4:41:15 AM

Joined: 1/24/2007

Yes, exactely... I don`t want to destroy the theremin after all.

What I would like to get is a "normal" sound like here:

My theremin looks exactely the same (it is black though) and is situated similar to this one on a stand.


Posted: 1/25/2007 7:06:29 AM

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

I'll have to watch that when I'm not in work :) But I still suspect it's just a case of patient exploration.

Incidentally, I admire your replacement of curvy letters with more angular, angry ones - [i]perfekt[/i], for instance, or [i]Oszilloscope[/i].

All in favour of an kraut-noise combo called Perfekt Oszillator?

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