Progress Reports

Posted: 10/16/2014 1:06:52 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Rich rote: "....just playing in tune doesn't mean you are really making music."


Agreed. But the failure to play in tune guarantees that you will be unable to communicate to your listeners whatever qualities of sensitivity and musicality your music may otherwise possess.


Playing (or singing) on pitch is basic to a performance. 




"In spite of the fact that Madame Schumann-Heink's performance was consistently off pitch, last night's audience at the Metropolitan Opera delighted in the magnificent tone of the diva's final 'high C' - even though the actual note was closer to B flat. The singer's passion and fire, as far as the audience was concerned, seemed to overcome the fact that she did not appear to be singing in the same key as the orchestra."


Musicians who want to be accepted on a professional level must always beware of mistaking their love of their instrument and their enthusiasm for what they are doing, for the quality of their performance. 


If someone is playing for the pure enjoyment of playing...well that's a whole 'nutha thang.

Posted: 9/12/2015 9:37:08 PM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 7/29/2014

 bist du bei mir - My Yearly Checkin

Well, it's been a year. I'm totally hooked. I know I’ll play the theremin till I die now – though it may well be the cause of my early demise. The theremin is by far the most enjoyable instrument I've ever played and I've played many (though we need not go into how well).

My observations and thoughts after a year:


  • As expected you get as much out of the theremin as you put into it. I just don’t practice enough to get really good. 2-3 hours a night minimum for years are required. Maybe I practice in a regimented way 2-3 hours a week with all the composing I do. That just won’t cut it.
  • I’m playing too much simply by feel. I have to incorporate more precise hand motions. After trying everything I see online, I’ve decide Peter’s hand motions are best suited for me (and in truth his playing style is by far the best suited to my temperament). For example, I totally changed my vibrato from side to side to the more up and down motion he uses and I like it a lot more. This also lets my hand move more freely towards and away from the antenna as I play.
  •  My pitch is getting much better as my ear gets more and more adjusted to the instrument, though unfortunately I have severe hearing loss and ringing in the ears which I know will limit my ability to get really good as my ears continue to degrade over time. I can’t hear much more than 3.5KHz anymore. Getting scared that someday soon all I will be doing is writing for bass drum and bassoon.
  • Playing the theremin is all about masking mistakes. Getting too far off pitch at any point is impossible to recover from. Playing the theremin is all about wondering when your next mistake is going to come. And one bad note can ruin a piece.
  • I have a few theremins now and each one is totally different. Different sounds. Much different pitch and vibrato response. Different linearity, etc. There is no question some theremins are better suited to some kinds of music than others. But I love playing them all.
  • I’ve thrown out the pitch preview with the bathwater. I just can’t use it with my hearing issues. It actually throws me off and severely sets off my tinnitus. Same thing with headphones.
  • I love writing for the instrument and that is likely where my love affair with it will be most fruitful.
  • The most difficult thing for me is hearing myself with the accompaniments. Since I can't record with a mic (can't wear headphones), I have to record direct and I'm still experimenting with getting the theremin positioned well to hear what I am doing (I split the signal to come from behind and in front of me sometimes and that seems to be best in the environment I play/record in.

We’ll see how things shape up when I check in after another year here.

The piece posted above is the famous “Bist du bei mir” from Bach’s Anna Magdalena notebook. A wonderful theremin piece. However, Bach did not write it. It’s from the opera Diomedesoder die triumphierende Unschul by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel. Bach loved to transcribe other composers works, obviously for his own edification.

For this take (around the 10th I tried), just reverb and a bit of compression added with some harmonic reinforcement using Waves new Cobalt Saphira plugin that lets you emphasize certain partials in a mix (even or odd depending on whether you want more edge or more warmth in the mix). Unfortunately, my poor ears really can't tell too much difference with it and without it.

And if anyone is interested in playing/practicing with my arrangement, you can find it on my Theremin Arrangements page.

Bist du bei mir - Score and Accompaniment

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