Noobie theremin construction project

Posted: 9/25/2008 1:40:06 AM

Joined: 9/25/2008

I want to build a theremin for a school project and would like to know how long it might take to build one.

I would prefer it to not take much more than 40 hours but it has to take near 40 hours because of the project rules. It is not constrained to less than 40 hours though. I can spend some of the 40 hours learning how to play it. (btw it is 40 hours of work time over several months)

I know almost nothing about building electronics but I can learn and I am working on my soldering.
Are there any good Kits or DIY instructions that would work for a noob but would still take a decent amount of time (and hopefully make a decent theremin). I would like to make one that can make music but it's not required.

I have searched the forums but I couldn't find threads that give time estimates. I know the time it takes varies on the person but I just need an estimate.

Suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
Posted: 9/25/2008 8:57:01 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

The Moog kit is pretty easy as kits go, I've known guys to complete them in one weekend.
the Theremax kit a bit harder maybe but cheaper.
There have been several threads on this and a good one Tom listed a lot in is here ( a search on the word kit will get you a slew of posts too slew (
But you are right I cannot find much mention of time lines. Maybe one of our many experienced friendly "solder-jockeys" can chime in with details on that part, sorry I tend to play more than build anything now-a-days.

So, Prime, Welcome to ThermeinWorld! I'm very glad you found us; and I really hope you do proceed with the project and do some *playing* too when you're done - please do keep us posted!
You might get hooked on this crazy thing...
good luck.
Posted: 9/25/2008 10:36:47 AM

Joined: 9/25/2008

Thanks for the suggestion.

I was actually thinking about the theremax for the project. I saw this review and it seemed like a good pick.
I don't know if it is as easy for beginners as it says though.

Also, it doesn't have to take strictly 40 hours. It can take 30 hours and I can spend the other 10 hours learning how to play, or I can spend more time, like 50 hours, on it. I do want the majority of the time in building it though and I don't want it to take too much time.

Thanks for the welcome and I do hope I can do this for my project.
Posted: 9/25/2008 1:06:16 PM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Great, I hope they let you do it.
It's a great project.
You can learn a lot from the Theremin
whether you are playing it or building it.
Can't wait to hear how it comes out.
Posted: 9/26/2008 1:31:06 PM

From: Escondido, CA

Joined: 2/6/2008

So do the rules say that it has to take no more than 40 hours to construct?

As others have recommended, I would also suggest the Moog kit. Not that I have built any of the theremin kits, but that the Moog supposedly comes "pre-tuned". If you have no test equipment and no electronics background, the other kits would be too much of a challenge for you to get working within your time limits.

Posted: 9/28/2008 12:02:33 AM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

The kit market has significantly reduced. Jaycar dropped several models, they've just got their original kit available now. If you're a proficient solderer you should be able to assemble it in 10 or 12 hours. (I did most of the work in about 6, but never finished it.)

The Theremax is significantly more complex and I do not recommend it to a beginner. (Just look at their schematic, which you can find online, and compare it to the schematic for the jaycar, and you'll understand how much more complex I mean.)

The Etherwave kit is significantly easier, because the board is pre-fabricated and you just have to do final assembly an tuning.

Posted: 10/1/2008 1:34:53 AM

Joined: 9/25/2008

Again, thanks for the help.

Both of you are probably right, the moog etherwave kit does look a little more friendly to someone who is new to building electronics (such as myself). The Theremax schematics also look complicated, especially when I don't know what most of it means.

Anyways, I know that it depends on the constructor, but how long do you think it would take for a newcomer to electronics building to put together an Etherwave Kit.

It can be more than 40 hours. 40 hours is the minimum, but even if I get it complete a little before then, I can fill up the rest by learning how to play it. I don't want it to take up an unreasonable amount of time, obviously, because I do have other work and things to do, but something like 10 hours more probably wouldn't be a problem.

By the way, the proposal for the project got approved and they added on that I either have to do a performance or somehow demonstrate it, which I am fine with. I am excited that it was accepted.

Replies are greatly appreciated.
Posted: 10/2/2008 10:35:46 AM

From: Maryland, US

Joined: 6/9/2008

Hi Prime,
given your time constraints and background, I would say that the Moog kit is the surest way to have a working theremin with good sound (10 to 20Hours, just installing circuit board into case). The theremax is a complex project that can be completed by a novice but it could take MANY hours to troubleshoot if you make a mistake (??? Hours, but good sound and very playable).
If on the other hand you truly want to learn some of the electronics involved and don't expect the greatest sound quality then the Jaycar design would be an option (20 to 40 Hours, takes longer to tune).
Another design to look at It's a simple circuit that doesn't require alot of equipment to build or tune (10 to 20 Hours, not much to tune but harder to play, Pitch only). If you do run into a problem, troubleshooting will be alot easier.
My best advice is to find a friend that knows a little about electronics to lend a hand if you run into a problem. Now I'm not dissing all the help you can get on this forum but it can be very tough to troubleshoot via messages.
Good luck and have fun,

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