Alternating Knuckle Extension Method

Posted: 7/2/2012 8:39:59 PM

Joined: 5/15/2012

So Jo are you east or west of Colorado? Talking about fire.

Maybe we can hang out? LOL

No I'm VERY far east of Colorado, but we're having similar issues in our mountains here.  If I ever find myself in Southern California I'll be sure to let you know.

Posted: 7/2/2012 8:59:56 PM

From: portland

Joined: 11/30/2011

Jo -- Ive played the theremin in similar bands/venues to what you are going to do, and have had a lot of the same problems as Kevin, if perhaps in a different scale/context. The 10-15 min set up time is always an issue, it helps if you can bring in the theremin and plug it in somewhere in the venue early, which is often not a problem. Once you get everything plugged in, you generally only have a minute or two to tune, while everyone else you are playing with is doing the same thing and generally being noisy. Also the tuning settings are going to be very different at each venue, and stages are generally more cramped than you think they will be, you need like at least 2' in every direction from your antenna, including, of course, in front of you. Which is the size of a drum kit.  Often I have problems with band mates or the audience wandering too close to the pitch field.

A keyboard amp, pointed up at 45 degrees behind me, is usually what I have to do, but a lot of times I cant hear myself anywhere near ideally, it usually doesn't help that the people you play with play invariably softer when sound checking than they play the actual songs.

I assume, a pitch preview might mitigate some of these problems somewhat, but I have an etherwave standard, which doesn't have one. Muscle memory helps, but it is difficult as in some venues you cant have the pitch field as big as you would like, or cant get it tuned exactly, given time constraints, and general oddities. As it is probably 20% of shows I play, end up being mildly disastrous for problems, beyond that of my barely adequate skill at playing the theremin itself.

But, all in all, its frustrating, the theremin is an instrument that needs to be seen for the full effect, but is poorly suited to playing live in the sort of venues a musician starting out would likely be playing.

Posted: 7/2/2012 9:15:19 PM

Joined: 5/15/2012

I've played (not theremin) on some cramped stages, in other cities. I do really have to say, one thing our town is good for is nice, deep stages with plenty of clearance for my setup.  Here I'll present a brief list of spaces I could possibly play for your evaluation:

An indie record store here has probably the smallest stage I would consider.  It's in the storefront corner, and triangular.  If I were to draw a circle with a two-foot radius in the center, I would still have a minimum clearance of about six inches at the nearest sides, with room for an organist in one far corner or the other, electronics in the opposite corner, and an amp in the back corner behind me.

The vintage resale store has a rectangular stage of about 8x12 feet, elevated about 18" off the floor.  That elevation should make a big difference for passersby even if I set up at the front of the stage.

One bar has a stage about 6' deep and 15' wide.  I've seen a pitch-only theremin setup there before without issue.

Another bar has a 12x12 stage about two feet off the floor, and was designed for national acts, hosting local acts on weeknights usually.

I guess maybe a good rule of thumb going by your comparison of the control space dimensions to that of a drum kit would be that if a drummer can set up comfortably without anyone bumping into the kit, then a theremin could probably go there too, especially in my two-piece act.

Posted: 7/3/2012 5:35:54 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

"I think I can safely say that you and I take opposite approaches to arrangement in this respect.  I plan more for the live performance, with the recording as an afterthought."

fyi -- my most recent work are compositions that utilize live-looping without samples or pre-recorded tracks.  I have not released any CDs or videos so it is safe to say that recording is not a high priority for me.  Live performance is a priority and, as I wrote, my work is "entertaining" on small sound systems but only reaches its potential on a professional 5.1 system.

My footprint is large.  The Epro's control zone is large (I am nervous if anyone is closer than about 8' from the rod).  My sound system is large (5 SRM450s, 2 SWA1501s).  

I put this system together (at no small expense) to realize my artistic vision which is fully immersive.  I'm not playing the theremin as much as I am creating a 'world'.  The music fills this world -- it is more than a nice tune coming from a little speaker -- it is an entire universe.   What I endeavor to deliver is an opportunity for listeners to enter the space -- to have a few minutes of something uncommon.

My sound system is as important to me as the diamond speakers that others build and tweak to get the "sound".

Indeed, it is safe to say that my approach to music is "different".  I often feel like I am either obsessed or insane.

Posted: 7/6/2012 10:27:28 AM

From: Eastleigh, Hampshire, U.K. ................................... Fred Mundell. ................................... Electronics Engineer. (Primarily Analogue) .. CV Synths 1974-1980 .. Theremin developer 2007 to present .. soon to be Developing / Trading as . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

"I often feel like I am either obsessed or insane!" - kk

Your ok then - its only when you feel both obsessed and insane that you even need to be slightly worried IMO! ;-)

Posted: 3/7/2013 12:24:02 PM

From: Toronto, Ontario

Joined: 3/6/2013

This thread has been inactive for a while, but I found it interesting to read. I am a novice at theremin playing, I observed and tried other players' techniques, but the best results in my case seem to be with the "palm down" position, keeping the fingers (and thumb) stuck together and  pointing towards the antenna.

I find it simpler to extend and bend all fingers together forward and backwards to get notes that are close to each other, and use slight arm movements for wider changes. Putting the hand with the palm to the left and moving individual fingers requires much more actions for the brain to control and seem more difficult to master.

Since the theremin is a monophonic instrument, the simplest hand and finger movements the better! Works for me anyways.


Posted: 3/7/2013 2:47:55 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

My technique is a little different (and has evolved over the last 2 years). I am a leftie, so the palm faces right I do slight knuckle extension and I do my vibrato with a counter clock wise circular movement. Anything involving the whole arm for the vibrato tenses me too much. Also, i produce effective wrist movements to achieve faster passages.  Most likely, I’ll write something different in 2 years from now haha!

Posted: 3/7/2013 2:51:25 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

rogue, if you are planning on playing only for yourself, then the only consideration is whether your technique works for you.

If, however, you are planning on playing for others, then what works for you may or may not work for more objective and perhaps more discerning listeners.

One of the mistakes that beginner thereminists make is to go with a technique that seems easiest for the simple kinds of things that beginners play. What they realize later on is that they've hit an invisible wall, and the method that seemed so simple and effortless at the outset is keeping them from advancing to more difficult pieces.

At that point, they are faced with either having to learn an entirely new technique (that's what I did), or throwing the damn contraption off the Scarborough Bluffs (or into the Credit River, depending on which part of town they live in).  LOL

Posted: 3/7/2013 4:55:41 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

"...throwing the damn contraption off the Scarborough Bluffs (or into the Credit River, depending on which part of town they live in).  LOL"

I have considered this more often than I care to admit.  LOL -- or not.

Posted: 3/7/2013 5:53:51 PM

From: Toronto, Ontario

Joined: 3/6/2013

<< rogue, if you are planning on playing only for yourself, then the only consideration is whether your technique works for you.

If, however, you are planning on playing for others, then what works for you may or may not work for more objective and perhaps more discerning listeners. >>

Well, if the result is what you and the listeners expect, then the technique should be fine. I guess what counts is what you want to play and the sound that comes out of your playing. I don't believe there is one "correct" technique to play. I play other instruments, stringed and wind, and got through the same issue of adopting the "best" technique. 

I live near the East Don river, so that's another possible dumping location if things go sour...


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