Which Theremin to choose & why?

Posted: 12/2/2007 7:57:09 PM

Joined: 12/2/2007

Okay folks! I'm a new member to this site, as implyied by the "Newcomers" section. And, I guess I should give you a little back history to which led me here.

It was about a year ago, and it was around 3am; I had been awake all night... and well, lets just say I was flying a kite, and it was pretty HIGH. (sly & sneaky!) well anyway, I stumbled into the living room to turn off the televison as I wanted to go to sleep. And what I saw at that time, was like seeing your dad naked for the first-time; I was bewildered and confused.

What I saw was "Moog" the film, and it was right at the section where the young woman is playing the theremin and smoking a cigarette. It was love for me at first sight! I instantly (for the next 2 weeks) started researching these amazing instruments. The entire concept of playing WITHOUT touching is still, to me, amazing.

To the point: As we all know, Christmas is fast approching; this allows me a fair amount of monies to be spent on things. And I have decided I want a theremin! The purpose of me getting one is for mildly-musical applocations such as for recording and mixing sounds and perhaps some live preformance peices with our music group (we dont have a name, rather its a group of 13-15 people that gathers once a week and plays)

Besides the musical aspects of it, I will likely, more or less, use it to make noises while recording; so nothing major.

My questions are: Between the B3 Theremin, Mr. Kees Theremins, Thereminacs & No1oderland's theremins, can someone recommend me one of these?

I'm leaning towards the B3 b/c of the pitch and volume antennea, and frankly I'm not all that impressed with the results of an analog or whichever has ONLY the pitch. And because of Mr. Kees being only one man, there might be a considerable delay with the order (if he takes it) So I guess its between the B3 and Kees. I'm not all that thrilled with the "clothes hanger" that the B3 presents as a volume antennea (I think)

As you can tell, I'm a little bit prejudice againest the overall uglyness of the B3; I mean, honestly, if I plan on playing the thing and being SERIOUS with it, I'd much rather have the Kees, because it's gorgous!

Oh, and can you play the theremin with different objects for different effects? Perhaps instead of using soley your hands, using a metal wand/screwdriver or even a stuffed animal? I'm VERY interested in producing unique sounds with the theremin, although its already in a leauge of its own! Thank you guys!
Posted: 12/2/2007 11:06:06 PM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

It's pretty strongly agreed that the Kees theremins are excellent. However, Kees doesn't always take orders... you should check his web site, and if it doesn't say, email him to ask if he's taking orders.

The b3 suffers in part from the fact that the pitch and volume antennas are very close together. And as you say the volume antenna looks like a coat hanger. If you have just a little woodworking skill you could make a new box for it - or buy a box in a craft store and modify it - and you could buy some metal tubing at home depot and bend it into a new antenna.

I don't know enough about the other two brands to comment, although I have a theremaniacs unit here I haven't been able to do much with yet, and I'll have an opinion after I have time to get it in a case and hook up an antenna. (Before xmas.)
Posted: 12/3/2007 12:11:16 AM

From: Fresno, California USA

Joined: 3/26/2006

There are folks who will assemble a Theremax for you; one was mentioned in a recent thread with a suitcase-style one. I must say the Kees both looks and sounds very nice.
Posted: 12/3/2007 3:15:32 AM

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

"I've seen a UFO split the sky like a sheet, but I've never seen an egg and thought it was a brain" - Bill Hicks on drugs.

Similarly I've never encountered anyone who could compare a Theremin to their naked dad.
Posted: 12/3/2007 4:54:47 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi TheDiscoKing!

I started with a Kees and moved on to an etherwave. (My first gig was on a cold evening outside, and Kees don't like the cold.)

Unique effects. Oh, yes.

It is interesting to introduce moving conductors into the pitch and volume fields.

I have experimented with a frothatrill and a twangulator.

A frothatrill is a hand-held milk-frother with a single fuse-wire propellor entangled in the whisk. It sounds like Gadget the mogwai from the movie Gremlins.

A twangulator is a long metal ruler, strapped at one end to the top of a dining chair, with the free end under the theremin's volume loop. One twangs it like a ruler on a school desk. Thwubb-wubb-wubb-wubb-wubb.

You can hear the results on a Kees in my piece The Plummeting Man on my mySpace profile.


Also, delays are most excellent with theremins and a good place to start experimenting. Check just about everything else on my profile. (More on the videos page, and on youTube.)

Posted: 12/3/2007 10:03:23 AM

From: Fresno, California USA

Joined: 3/26/2006

Posted: 12/3/2007 10:24:26 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005


By the way, TheDiscoKing, the smoking thereminist (in many senses!) is Pamelia Kurstin.


Posted: 12/3/2007 5:05:12 PM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

And here I thought I'd bought into a stable, mature technology... but, no! Never mind an envelope follower; now I must seek out frothatrill and twangulator. Even for thereminists, progress hurtles ever forward into the future.

Seriously, though: all such devices are ultimately just a means to an end. Gordon, kudos on (again) putting the technology to excellent musical use. I wouldn't have guessed that I was hearing something that, if shown on video, would suggest a collaboration between Goldbergs, Julius and Rube.

Posted: 12/3/2007 6:12:10 PM

Joined: 12/2/2007

Thanks for the strong reply guys! I'm in the process now of averaging up the sum of money I should recive and what I've saved. And more than likely it will be the Kees. Oh, and thank you for my simily of a naked father to my amazment of the theremin, hah.

Our group of musicians, which is more likely to stay at a number of 5 or 6 with the chilly weather already here, is a very... um, "inventive group" to say the least. Besides WANTING to play the theremin very badly, I also dabbel in electric gutiar, bass, keyboard, saxaphone and possibly the STUPIDIST instrument of all time, the "glass harmanica" which as you likely know is playing crystal glasses.

Can anyone contrast the learning curve of a theremin to the glass harmanica? I know I said it was (and still is) a stupid instrument, but I love them; and I delight in seeing people fail at playing it when they believe it to be easy.
Posted: 12/3/2007 7:36:12 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Glass harmonica. Hmm.

You might enjoy this. It's not a glass harmonica. It's a Jal-tarang. Rice bowls. Just for some reason I was minded of it. http://youtube.com/watch?v=tPdl5H_FyUA

OK, sidebar over. I guess there's a knack to bowing the glass with your finger, and it's one of those things you either get or you don't - like whistling?

Uh, maybe it's the same with the theremin. Kind of depends. If you want to play in tune with other instruments, you're gonna have to work on hitting the notes. I imagine pretty much anyone with a decent ear can do it, given sufficient inclination.

However, I'm not the best person to talk to about that. There's an excellent thread - Aerial Fingering Technique (http://www.thereminworld.com/forum.asp?cmd=p&T=1391&F=780), over in the techniques forum that is well worth perusing on the subject.

There is an alternative, but it's the musical equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. (I suspect.) It's to simply not fret about hitting very specific pitches. It rules out a whole bunch of genres from your repertoire and rather reduces your potential audience, and it seems that I spend as much time figuring out how to not need to play "in tune" as other people do learning [i]how[/i] to play in tune, but it is an option. As you say you "want to play the theremin very badly" it might well suit you. :-)

It does make playing a whole lot easier.

Brian is quite right; it is a developing technology, and there is plenty of room for experimentation.

Your weekly circle sounds like a whole lot of fun! I think I'd enjoy that.

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