Quick intro and some questions.

Posted: 1/29/2009 9:24:23 AM

From: Twin Falls, Idaho

Joined: 1/29/2009

Hi all,
I just joined a few moments ago. I'm a relative newcomer to the world of the Therimin. I've been a fan of the music of Jean Michel Jarre for a number of years and it recently came to my attention while listening to his Oxygene album that he uses the Therimin in some of his music. I did some research about it but since I really don't know much about where to learn about it I haven't found much info. I should mention the fact that I'm totally blind and have been since birth, and I've recently been curious about whether it would be possible for a blind person to learn and master the Therimin. I only ask because the Therimin, as you all know, is played without being touched. For a blind person physical contact with an instrument is generally a crucial part of playing it. Of course it occurs to me that if you pay attention to the pitch and volume and experiment with hand motions you could probably do it. I remember hearing somewhere that one of Leon Therimin's students was blind but I don't know whether that's true or not. I'm actually thinking, if and when finances permit, of purchasing a Therimin kit, for a new hobby if nothing else. I've also been fascinated by what a Therimin would look like. So I'm curious to see what you all think, if it would be worthwhile for a blind person to try learning to play a Therimin. It certainly makes one of the coolest sounds I've ever heard from an instrument.
Posted: 1/29/2009 9:49:52 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi BryanP22, welcome to Theremin World.

It is certainly possible for a totally blind person to play the theremin. One of the people that attended Hands Off 2007 (a UK based theremin symposium), Patrick from California (if I recall correctly) demonstrated that to be the case.

I'm not sure if Patrick follows the Theremin World forums - if not I would be happy to pass your email address on to him if you have any specific questions he would be better qualified to answer.

My email address is gordonc {at} theremin {dot} org {dot} uk.

Posted: 1/29/2009 10:56:15 AM

From: Twin Falls, Idaho

Joined: 1/29/2009

Thanks for the reply. I figured it was at least possible for a blind person to play a Therimin. Means it wouldn't necessarily be a waste of money if I bought a kit. I'm really curious what they generally look like. My brother has a friend who used to own a Therimin and he described it as looking like a VCR at least in terms of size. But that may have just been a similar synthesizer. I understad that they usually have two antennas and that on most of them one of them is horizontal ad the other verticle. My question now would be how much I should expect to pay for a decent quality kit. I'm not necessarily looking for a professional grade Theriin but I would like one for more than just spooky sound effects...although that also sounds like a lot of fun.
Posted: 1/29/2009 12:27:11 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Because theremins are electronic instruments, and do not rely on the acoustic properties of the enclosure they can be pretty much any shape.

However, there are two shapes which you are most likely to encounter. The first is the classic shape of the original RCA Victor theremins. These resemble a writing bureau - a box standing on four legs, with a sloping front that the player could put his sheet music on. They are quite large, about chest high, to contain the old style tubes and coils of their circuits. The second is a slim box about the same width as your shoulders, supported by a microphone stand. Theremins of this style include the Moog Etherwave theremin and the Burns B3 Deluxe theremin, both of which would fit your requirements.

You certainly want a theremin with two antennas. The "pitch rod" - usually on the right hand side, for right handed players - is about 18 inches long and sticks straight up from the side of the instrument. This is sensitive to horizontal movements towards and away from it. Moving towards it causes the pitch to rise. The "volume loop" juts outwards from the other side and is roughly horseshoe shaped. This is a bent tube and if you were to lay the heel of your hand on the near side and stretch your fingers out you would touch the far side of the loop with your finger tips. It is sensitive to vertical movements. Moving your hand towards it causes the volume to reduce.

Of the two theremins mentioned above, the Moog is the more expensive, at about $400. This has a variety of timbres, determined by two knobs on the front - mostly the sound is quite brassy, and the etherwave is the weapon of choice for live performance. The Burns is about half the price and has a single timbre, which is pleasantly flutey. This is more for home and novice use. Bear in mind you will also want a microphone stand and an amplifier. (Not necessarily straight away - you can sit the instrument on a table with the volume loop hanging over the edge and plug it into your hi-fi, but a stand and amp is better.)

Writing bureau style theremins are far more expensive.

The Burns is not available as a kit. The Moog model is available as a mostly constructed kit at a saving of $40. It requires some soldering, and the wooden box requires painting or varnishing. Other kits are available, the best of which is the Paia Theremax theremin, although it is not as good an instrument as either the Burns or the Moog in terms of playability. It is not "mostly-constructed" and requires each individual component to be visually identified before soldering into place. With their suggested enclosure it is a bit more expensive than the Burns, at about $230, and if you want to supply your own box it is a little cheaper at $160.

Link to Moog's web page for the etherwave: click here (http://www.moogmusic.com/theremin/?section=product&product_id=21121).

Link to Burn's web page for the B3 Deluxe: click here (http://www.soundslikeburns.com/New_Items/deluxe.html).

Link to Paia web page for the Theremax: click here (http://www.paia.com/theremax.asp).
Posted: 1/29/2009 1:05:34 PM

From: Twin Falls, Idaho

Joined: 1/29/2009

Wow. Cool. I suppose I'd have to wait until I moved into a biger apartment. Mine's basically a stdio, so while I could certainly set a Moog Therimin on the table I don't know about getting a amp. But it's something to look into for the future. And the price f the Moog is actually better than I was expecting. I wonder if there are any sound clips of it.
Posted: 1/29/2009 3:05:23 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

An amp need not be big. I wouldn't get one much smaller than 15 inches in the largest dimension.

There are sound samples on the Moog web page, but I guess finding them is a little tricky. YouTube pages start playing automatically, so I'll suggest a few of those. (The links are to the pages with the quality set as high as possible, but the compression is still a bit noticeable - with a decent amp the sound is richer than you will hear for the etherwave. I cannot speak for the B3 as I have only heard it on youTube.)

The first is by Randy George, and is a demonstration video, rather than a piece of music, although he plays melodically.

(I should note, as he does on some of his other pages, that this was recorded early in his theremin playing career, and is a little pitchy at times. For comparison, the next link was recorded ten months later, on the superior but no longer available Moog Etherwave Pro. It is Aprés Un Rêve (After A Dream) by Gabriel Fauré.)

Finally for the etherwave, and shamelessly, on the flimsy excuse that you mentioned an interest in playing effects, here's one of my pieces. It's called Moths Are Made Of Dust - what you hear is me playing my etherwave through an echo box. I do not think of myself as a melodic player. (And neither does anyone else. Ha ha ha!)

And for the Burns, here is Thomas Grillo playing a selection of classical tunes on the Burns B3 Deluxe. This video is over half an hour long!
Posted: 1/31/2009 11:22:05 AM

Joined: 11/30/2008

Hi BryanP22,

I would like to add that you will be able to easily find a brand new Moog Etherwave cheaper than as listed on the manufacturer's website.

(Not sure if I am allowed to post this, if not please delete my post.)

Online right now, I see several authorized dealers listing them at $389 with free shipping. This is for the fully assembled ones. I used to see them as low as $369 with free shipping, but unfortunately they can't be found right now.

For the kit version (some soldering required), there is one listed at $319 and it includes free shipping as well.

One interesting thing I find with the theremin is that I tend to play better with my eyes closed. I should think that you will be able to very quickly get a feel for the instrument and be able to play it well in no time at all.

Another thing I would like to add, is that you need not get an amp right away. You could start off by just plugging the etherwave into your stereo's line-in input and start playing it right away. You can then decide to get a dedicated amp for it later.

Good luck and have fun!
Posted: 1/31/2009 12:51:58 PM

From: Twin Falls, Idaho

Joined: 1/29/2009

Wow. A fully assembled therimin. I suppose i'll have to look into that. It's funny, because ever since my brother told me about the friend he has who used to have a therimin, and more specifically since I joined this forum I've been mentally writing therimin parts to some of my favorite songs, at least ones where I thought a therimin might fit in. Paint it Black and As Tears go By by the Stones come to mind rather quickly. And although I'm not a huge Electronica fan I've had an interest in composer Jean Michel Jarre's music for a lot of years and I know he often plays therimins. In fact I believe he uses one on his album Oxygene, either that or it's just another synthesizer reproducing the sound of a therimin. But again, I have a sneaking suspicion if I buy a therimin it probably won't be unless and until I move to a larger aartment. I probably wouldn't have room for one in my little studio. And I don't imagine pluggig a pair of headphones into the thing would necessarily be a good idea.

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