Aerial Fingering: Accuracy vs Showmanship

Posted: 10/6/2019 2:49:01 PM
DanielMacKay

From: Halifax, Canada (east coast)

Joined: 7/28/2019

For the kind of performing I'll want to be doing, I would like extreme accuracy - I'd like to perform standard jazz, classical and pop tunes with singers and other instrumentalists and I will need to be in tune -- as in tune as the singer or the sax.

(I know this isn't the case with a lot of ways people perform with the theremin, but this is me.)

Like you I have watched a thousand or ten thousand performances; for some of them I really admire the showmanship of the aerial fingering - I know that the performer is moving much more, and more dramatically, than is required to make that music.

To me it seems like for the time being, I need to sacrifice showmanship for accuracy - and hope that at some point I'll be good enough to flamboyantly wave my hands up, down, sideways, and wiggle my fingers dramatically, and still get the right pitch.

This goes for my expression hand, too. I see many really great performers beating time with their expression hand or moving it in a way that in no way affects the loudness.

Do you feel the same way?  Do you end up being able to play more dramatically as you improve generally?

Posted: 10/6/2019 3:25:44 PM
DreadVox

From: The East of Netherlands

Joined: 6/18/2019

Hi Daniel, practice a lot and while doing so do allow yourself to fail to allow for the learning feedback loop. You could try to adopt a well defined fingering method like Carolina Eyck's for the pitch hand, or just let your hand do what it does while listening how close to perfect intonation you come, and correcting it in an organic way when needed. Your brain and nervous system need the time and practice for hand-ear feedback/coordination and open proprioception to develop, so over time the interface becomes more and more transparant and you can accurately sound the tone you're singing with you inner voice and/or hearing with your inner ear, and with enough playing and practicing it will come closer to how accurate you can sing and hear, whithout paying much attention to whatever yor hands are doing to make it happen. How accurately you can hear intonation will probably also improve along the way.

Keeping your hand an arm muscles as relaxed as you can (imagine light and airy dancing like butterflies) and the movements as efficient and accurate as possible, but without really thinking about it. Practice, play along with everything you know and like, and practice, practice, practice, play, play, play... I think that's the way. 'Beating time' or other subtle volume hand/fingers movements even if you cannot actually hear it affecting the volume much does still amplitude modulate the audio wave and thus affects the timbre, can introduce a tremolo and can bring more livelyness to the theremin's voice.

Posted: 10/6/2019 6:18:51 PM
bendra

From: Portland, Oregon

Joined: 2/22/2018

Daniel,

It will be obvious from watching any of my videos that I don't attempt any showmanship at all, other than to try to relax and not make too many crazy facial expressions. Among advanced and professional level players, I suspect that many of the movements that look like visual flourishes may not be deliberately so; remember the musician is not a robot or an automaton.  The human mind and body are a single unit and the emotional content that a player puts into a performance will likely be reflected in the way s/he moves while playing, like the way a violin soloist expressively rotates his torso along with the music while playing, or pianist's facial expressions. Neither is strictly necessary to produce the desired sounds, but they are a natural byproduct of the emotional content of the player's performance. At least that's my theory. Of course if (like me) you are very focused most of the time on finding the right pitch, this won't happen much (or at least not as much). So yes I would assume that as one's skill and accuracy improves, it would allow one to focus more on expressive musical interpretation, and I would expect that to be reflected visually in all of one's body as it moves. Since for a theremin player the body's movement consists of hand movements, you end up with what look like visual flourishes while playing notes. 
Again, at least that's my theory :-)

Posted: 10/7/2019 2:27:15 PM
rupertchappelle

From: earth

Joined: 5/8/2017

Aerial fingering is dramatic showmanship as is the pole antenna and standing while performing. Style over substance.

Overthinking is artful and impressive, but not necessary for playing instruments like the kazoo or theremin, turn off you mind, relax and just play notes, it is not working, it is playing . . . 

Play seated and use plate antennas and the problems of the theremin become a distant memory.

Posted: 10/7/2019 3:32:07 PM
DanielMacKay

From: Halifax, Canada (east coast)

Joined: 7/28/2019


Oh, Rupert, is there any problem in the world that can't be solved by playing seated and plate antennas?

Posted: 10/7/2019 4:14:40 PM
DreadVox

From: The East of Netherlands

Joined: 6/18/2019

Playing a theremin with 'rod and loop' standing is good for one's posture and kynaesthetics/proprioception though and appears to have a therapeutic and healing influence on my back hernia. I tried playing seated a few times too, but prefer to be standing, and to some extent using my body position too in getting pitches and in relation to what pitch reach I'm playing, moving my whole body closer to play in the highest range, and further away for the lowest octaves. I do have a background of practicing tai chi, so I think I'm getting the idea of incorporating shifts in body postion, and that in a subtle way the moving of a part of the body, involves movement of the whole body. The approach of keeping the body and torso rigid and just moving arms/hands doesn't feel right to me, for me it feels more natural to incorporate body position shifts and the influence of breathing into the equation and not trying to eliminate them as much as possible.

Posted: 10/7/2019 5:02:29 PM
rupertchappelle

From: earth

Joined: 5/8/2017

DanielMacKay - Alas, world peace has been unachievable despite my earnest and herculean efforts and fearsome hand gesticulations, however this year I returned to hurricane steerage after several years of retirement with some measure of success, far easier than finding a pitch and holding it steady, albeit with a negative impact upon the agricultural sector. My apologies. In the future I will direct my attention to music rather than hurricanes. This years hurricanes have already been dealt with so be patient until 2020.

Posted: 10/7/2019 5:08:32 PM
rupertchappelle

From: earth

Joined: 5/8/2017

DreadVox - the moving body is the enemy of any theremin player and the inhaling and exhaling of air are fiendish hobgoblins which are responsible for 98 percent of all occurrences of vibrato in theremin music. Since straightjackets are hard to find in my size and I still require oxygen, I shall remain seated whilst playing and use less oxygen causing less interference with the pitch antenna.

Hobgoblins?

It is October!!!

Posted: 10/7/2019 9:16:11 PM
DreadVox

From: The East of Netherlands

Joined: 6/18/2019

Rupert, I rather keep the moving body and my breathing as my friends, also when playing theremin, and it appears to be completely doable, given enough practice & play time. We should not underestimate what we can learn, and how adaptable the brains and the rest of out nervous system are. Throw some challenges at it is what I say, that keeps that grey matter flexible and young.

Posted: 10/8/2019 9:23:10 PM
rupertchappelle

From: earth

Joined: 5/8/2017

I was not kidding about the hurricanes, the only thing I do better than playing the theremin:

https://www.nhc.noaa.gov

"There are no tropical cyclones in the Atlantic at this time."

Nor will there be, until next year.


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