newcomer tuning questions

Posted: 12/28/2014 12:21:13 PM

From: Lausanne-Switzerland

Joined: 12/24/2014

okie i just posted a short introduction in the Roll call thread, so ill go straight into describing my difficulties now.

Im using the B3 deluxe theremin, came new in the mail earlier this week. I hesitated to order it with the dvd, but 20 euros is a lot of money for this guy, and figured that youtube would be a realistic alternative. My instrument came what i can only assume was perfect conditions...well wrapped etc, no problems on that end.

Since it came with an american power cable, i've hooked it up using a cable i found a few months ago for my little record player that also was an american device. Im pretty ignorant about most electronics stuff, but as far as i know (i asked a couple people before plugging in my b3) the cable im using has a largely sufficient margin that it should be just fine, and as far as i can tell the power supply seems to be working fine. I dont have an amplifier, i have what i would assume are considered keyboard speakers, these are hooked up to a Numark M101--i dont even know what it is, a little table de mix with two sources i guess, but its my roommates and has been in my room for months...its a little easier to mute my theremin with that than having to climb to the speakers to adjust the volume when i need a break and dont want to turn off the b3...however, im wondering about what effect the adjustments to the bass/treble/gain knobs have on the pitch... this afternoon when i fire up the theremin i will hook it up directly to the speakers and eliminate the Numark to see what changes it has in the sound. I've been conscious about setting up my playing space to avoid metal etc, but ill try to be even more vigilant today about having a "clean" playing field.

So, having seen a couple short videos about tuning and getting started, mostly following Carolina Ecyks tuning video, i've tuned my pitch knob (from behind as i'm a lefty) and feel that I've adjusted the field pretty well, pulling my left hand from the pitch antenna to my chest or so produces a decent sound from high to low... i can get it a bit lower but the sound starts to rumble a bit like a motor bike...i'd like to exploit the lower ends of my theremins range because at that spectrum i can already produce sounds that are much cleaner, close to a string instrument, but obviously once i get the puttering sound i assume I've gone to far and adjust the field back to the point where it sounds like the whole range is between myself and the theremin.

Carolina follows up by fine-tuning...she starts by finding the C or the Do with her hand in its closed starting position, and then fine tunes so that her hand in its (8th?) open position produces the same C note one octave higher, and the whole octave is in that space between closed and open hand. 

When i try to imitate this, i generally feel that im missing a finger position in order to have the whole range within my hand, i've compensated generally by extending my closes positing up/back towards my forearm, but im getting ahead of myself here...i have yet to see the different examples of finger positions, and have just tried to see what works  for me to get up and down between the "notes"

I would almost be playing a scale, but heres where i feel like i'm trying to walk through a brick wall... Where is that  sneaky C note???

carolina immediately has her staring c note memorized and ready before having to actually start her fine tuning which is normal considering her level of experience. But myself, geez i can't find a clean C or Do sound in a starting position! Ive tried changing how im sitting, trying to listing as i sloooowly move my hand forwards or backwards from the pitch antenna to find a DO, trying to put my arm and hand in what i feel would be the best starting position and then tuning with my other hand while keeping the pitch hand in place until it sounds closer to a do (which is pretty messy as it means messing with the overall playing field, plus with my whacky right hand fumbling for the pitch knob i end up distorting the change I'm making since the right hand is so close to the pitch antenna at this point.

Long story summarized, i just can't find a nice starting C...ive tried using a tuner application on my telephone to see if im getting closer, but generally this is a messy operation as well, my phone never placed so strategically as to feel convenient and then the closest sounding pitch to that C that im looking for tends to create a rapid indecisive fluctuation of notes on the tuner, or otherwise landing closer to an A or F (flat or sharp-dont remember, and my music theory is in a dusty box in the back of my mind).

So i think i'll wrap it up, i tried looking for help with the search function of this forum but just didn't quite find the help i needed, i'd love to start playing without the impression i've done nothing to tune my instrument. I feel like im almost able to squeak out over the rainbow or a 3 blind mice, but the tuning its just not where it needs to be. Hopefully im able to figure out a bit better my playing area, but I've got lots of crap at home and not much space :/ Also, im hoping my sound setup is adequate, and i think it is, because unfortunately my financial situation is pretty sad. I've got a book thats supposed to be great about electronic hacking, and im sure once i read more of it ill understand the technical side a bit better, but so far I've found the book a bit tedious to read without being able to experiment in front of me as i lack most of the small equipment needed.



Posted: 12/29/2014 3:17:58 PM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

If you listened well to what Carolina says in her videos, her tuning method applies to the Moog Etherwave Pro theremin and (within several limits) to the Moog Etherwave Standard and Plus Theremins which are equipped with the ESPE01 add-on module.

The B3 Standard and DeLuxe theremins from Dan Burns have much simpler oscillators and no antenna linearization circuits, so you will never find a coherent tone spacing on them, which makes them much more difficult to tune and to play, especially for beginners. Sorry, but that is what makes the price difference between a B3 and a Moog...

I'm always perplex when I see how avaricious people are when it comes to buying a theremin - everybody understands that a good violin costs at least a few thousands, but 420€ for a good entry level theremin seems to be too expensive for most people. Who buys too cheap pays twice...

About finding the C: Carolina has absolute pitch, she identifies it by ear without an external reference tone. If you don't have absolute pitch, you should play your C on another instrument nearby, i.e. a piano, and memorize it until you start playing the theremin.

Posted: 12/30/2014 9:57:02 PM

From: Lausanne-Switzerland

Joined: 12/24/2014

Thank you Thierry , I appreciate the technocal aspect of your response, once I received the b3 I understood the limitations. Otherwise I think perhaps  your interpretation of my attiitude is a bit skewed. Before going into anything, I of course had to consider the fact that I quit all music practice about 10 years ago, aside from a quick aside with the banjo a couple years ago, which did not last long at all. I worried that my fascination with the theremin  wohld be a passing  impulse, that I might recueve it and decide it was too difficult and quit. 

I am a student living in a foreign country under unusual circumstances, and after paying to eat a few times a week la portemonnaie est completement vide.... My "boss" wanted to offer me something for Christmas, and I thought that the b3 was much more reasonable a demand for a gift, and I had seeing videos of certain players gave me the impression the b3 was more playable. then I now feel with it in front of me. You would be absolutely right in saying that I did not investigate enough before choosing the b3, however I rem ember what a big deal it was for my family to pay upwards of $1200 for a flute after one year of playing....however I had had about a year of practice on a much cheaper instrument beforehand. 

I personally would have preferred to have ordered a moog that would naturally be of higher quality, and will certainly consider doing so once I've finished payingy taxes, bus fare, rent, and tuition, but I was in another fashion trying to be conscious about my decision.

its too bad about the limitations of my b3, but the amount of time I've spent researching since having received it at least reassures me that my intentions to advance with this instrument are genuine, I'll continue to squeak out what I can on my device, dip my toes back in the watera of basic music theory, sit behind a piano, and hopefully sooner rather than later I'll have the opportunity to play and a more advanced model. I think that where I live it far from the worst place I could be to meet others with experience. And like I said, I regret nothing no what I see how much more motivated I am now that I actually made the commitment to order my b3, whatever it's limitations may be.


thanls again for the response, was very happy to see you respond so quickly. I hope I didnt come off as aggressive, but I worry a bit about being taken seriously, I can imahine getting quickly classed into a league of beginners without enough drive on this forum ;)

Posted: 12/31/2014 11:25:27 AM

From: züriCH

Joined: 3/15/2014

hey buddythatscute,

if you live in lausanne, you might try: to get some possible contacts near you. sadly the francophonic has the forum closed and moved to facebook.

to cheer up a bit watch a thomas grillo b3 video on youtoobe.


Posted: 12/31/2014 4:40:11 PM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

buddythatscute, I wouldn't fret too much about getting the B3.  I don't own one but it's probably a fine starter instrument.  The higher end models tend to be touchier to setup and tune (Theirry's main gig along with repair).

Maybe get a cheap guitar tuner and plug your Theremin into it to help you "see" where the notes are.

Posted: 1/12/2015 3:10:04 PM

From: Cleveland, Ohio

Joined: 12/21/2014

Dear Buddythatscute,

I'm a newcomer to theremin as well, and also have a B3 deluxe.  It is definitely possible to match pitches, and to play it in tune! I too was confused by Carolina's fine-tuning video (not realizing it only applies to Moog), but I have been making good process w/Kip Rosser's tutorials, which are online for free.  Remember that every person's hand and body are unique, which does make a big difference.  As you experiment w/your instrument, you will find how scale intervals fit with your hand, and your particular instrument/room/setup.

It sounds like you will find Kip's ear-training videos very helpful.

Good luck!


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