Gordon's Progress

Posted: 2/21/2006 6:29:54 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Well then you should be encouraged by knowing that the first great exponent of the theremin was a violinist.

Tell you what I'd do before I spent my money. I'd check the frappr map and see if there was anyone close by would let me have a try-out on theirs.

(And if I was a podcaster, I'd probably be thinking about taking a recording device with me! :-)


Posted: 2/21/2006 11:21:57 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

Hi, Gordon. Terry lives just a few miles from me. I don't have a Kees though. Terry, I'd be happy to show you my Theremax and Epro.

Good to hear that you are getting airplay, Gordon :)
Posted: 2/22/2006 4:11:10 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi Kevin,

Thanks. It's a nice feeling. :-)

I have to admit that I had looked at the frappr map myself before I suggested it. I hope you don't mind.

I did try to contact you privately first but couldn't find you email addy anywhere. Terry's addy is on the front page of his website (http://www.planetradio.libsyn.com).

Posted: 3/2/2006 8:15:25 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I've been having a go at playing "proper" music!

Delilah (http://www.lyricsfreak.com/t/tom-jones/138361.html) seems to come pretty easily. Couple of others I have tried not quite so.

I've been watching what I do with my pitch hand, and even tried a bit of knuckle extensions.

Here a little side-track. I claimed in my first posting to this thread that my ear was untrained. That was, I realise, inaccurate. Rather my ear is not classically trained, but it is trained. I have spent a great deal of my life listening to music, and mostly stuff that you actually have to [i]listen[/i] to, and often stuff that you have to work at getting past the strangeness thereof. Consequently I have a strong feeling for whether a note is right or not for that type of music, but no hope at all of knowing if it is a proper note from a popular scale, let alone naming it.

So, with knuckle extensions I'm not getting that feeling of rightness about the notes. I don't appear to have that much precise control over my hand when making that sort of movement. And why should I - I have never played a guitar, or a violin, have never practised holding chords, which requires movements not that dissimilar to knuckle extensions. Clara Rockmore - violinist. And a lot of other good aerial fingerers too.

So what do I know that involves precise control?

Typing - not much use - for my cluster drone, but little else.

Writing - that's mostly wrist work, and yes, I have been flexing my wrist a bit whilst playing, just for small adjustments - not enough to pull on the muscles of the forearm, which I'll come to in a moment. More importantly from writing I get the pen-holder grip, which stabilises the hand very well.

Shotokan Karate. I attended just enough lessons to learn how to make a basic punch. The appropriate stance is an exaggerated Tai Chi stance. For theremin purposes the Tai Chi a la Peter Pringle stance is more relaxed and preferable. One arm blocks, raised up to shoulder height, ending in a fist, knuckles outermost. The striking arm has its similarly thumb-locked fist by the hip, knuckles facing downwards. In one move the blocking arm is pulled down so it ends in striking arm position, the shoulders twisted and pushed forwards,and the striking fist is pushed forwards, very loose and fast, corkscrewing so that at full extension the knuckles are uppermost. A fraction before full extension the muscles are taughtened so that the full energy of the moving body is transferred through the fast moving fist to the opponent. Then the arm is withdrawn to blocking position ready for the next blow, again the fist rotates 180 degrees.

The key part for my purposes is - the arm is twisted whilst moving to keep the muscles relaxed, allowing very fast, precise movements that are not tiring.

And that is what I have been doing. With my hand by my chest the fingertips are uppermost - at full extension the knuckles face upwards and I might touch the pitch antenna with the tips of my fingers.

Now that I see what I have been doing intuitively I shall try to do it consciously and hence more consistently, until it becomes automatic.

One other thing I have noticed. If I move quickly to the next note I will hit a good one more often that [** edit: not "that" - "than" **] if I move slowly and stop when I hear it.

Does this statement make any sense? - I do better listening to the tune than to the individual notes.
Posted: 3/2/2006 8:52:55 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005


Always enjoy your posts.

You definately have the right idea about moving from one note to the next. Best to do it slowly and stop on the target note without overshooting the note.

Do this for awhile -- have faith -- the speed will come with time.

One of the ironies about music making, regardless of the instrument, is that to play fast, one must practice slow.

I predict some future Gordon music that combines freeform playing with held notes... :)
Posted: 3/3/2006 5:36:55 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Oh dear, I didn't express myself very well.

I was trying to say the exact opposite of that! (I have put an edit note in the posting to correct the offending word.)

If I move quickly I hit the note more often than not. If I move slowly and think about it I tend to miss the note.

It's a kind of "let-self-go" thing - trusting in automatic reflexes, just like you do when you ride a bike, or drive a car, or dance, or write - do you remember how awkward these things were when you were first learning and had to think about every little aspect of them?

I don't stress out over sour notes, just observe dispassionately that I hit a wrong one and carry on. Little by little the wrong ones become less frequent.

Ha! Zen in the Art of Theremin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen_and_the_Art_of_Archery).
Posted: 3/3/2006 5:38:13 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Ah Kevin. You remember some time ago you commented that the voice in My Sound Resounds faded in and out so some parts were inaudible.

Now I know what the problem was. The voice does not fade in and out - it circles round and round from left to right and back, while the theremin stays in the centre.

Except last night. Last night when I played it the voice stayed central and faded in and out. Weird! I tried it with various copies of the piece that I had compressed with different codecs, and it was the same every time. Then I unplugged my USB headphones and plugged them back in again and the problem went away!

I think for some reason the headphone driver decided to play one channel in both speakers, and nudging the driver caused the problem to be corrected.
Posted: 3/30/2006 11:06:04 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Just a quick posting, resulting from a trip to Asda (UK's Walmart.)

Spotted a device with some interesting potential in the sports department - a "cordless sports massager" - a blue, vaguely banana shaped device, pop a couple of AA batteries in the base, flick the switch and the other end trembles rapidly. £3.49 (about $6.) Apparently it's is to relieve muscle tension after strenuous exercise, but I thought of another use for it!

So, back at home, switched on the theremin, switched on the delay box, settings - very wet, quite a few very fast repeats. Held the massager in my pitch hand and flicked the switch. Excellent. The sound fattened up nicely without any obvious vibrato.

Another trick for the repertoire. Perhaps I'll use it on a cover of Good Vibrations. Or Air on a G String.


Posted: 3/30/2006 2:54:01 PM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

HA! that's great truely a new kinda Vibrat-OOOOOOH!
Posted: 3/31/2006 5:11:41 AM

From: Ypsilanti, MI, USA

Joined: 9/29/2005

I sounds like it works on the same principal as an Ebow. Fripp and Belew pioneered that on the guitar I believe. I can't wait to hear a track with it.


You must be logged in to post a reply. Please log in or register for a new account.