Theremin newbie -Open Theramin?

Posted: 12/15/2019 8:15:22 PM

Joined: 12/15/2019

Hey Theremin World,

I had a spare Arduino kicking around and impulsively ordered one of Gaudi's Open Theremin shields a while back, despite having no real prior interest in (or knowledge of) theremins. Finally assembled the kit and I'm absolutely in love with how it sounds!

I thought I was going to end up with a novelty noisemaker but now I'm actually interested in learning to play. I've been looking at youtube and lurking the forums here but everything I see features musicians playing traditional "real" theremins. Does anyone here actually play an open theremin? Is it possible to learn on? Or do I need to start saving for an etherwave?

I can definitely tell my open theremin is not as linear in terms of pitch response, but that might be partially due to me not having it calibrated correctly. 

Any advice you have is much appreciated! 

Posted: 12/16/2019 2:42:28 AM

From: 60 Miles North of San Diego, CA

Joined: 10/1/2014

Each theremin design has its own feel even though you are not touching anything. With your imagination think of the Moog Epro or one of my designs as juggling three pool balls, a real solid feel for your hands while playing. Then you borrow someone’s EtherWave Standard for a different sound. This is more like juggling three golf balls so you need to make some adjustments. Now go buy a basic digital theremin and it is like juggling three ping-pong balls. Of course you can get good at it if you practice but you will want more and your developed muscle memory skills will not have the precision of response using the advanced Theremins. If you just want to make funny noises that would be the classroom nextdoor. The theremin market is still very limited in what it offers.

YouTube will reveal if there is value in your theremin choice.


Posted: 12/16/2019 4:06:59 AM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

xyzzy: I have no direct experience with the Open.Theremin, but try to get the pitch field as linear as you can.  Does the pitch field seem stable enough to play it musically?  Does the volume field seem playable?  Try a Theremini in a music store and see how the volume and pitch response compares.  If you want more and money is no object then maybe buy a new Etherwave, though you should try one of those if possible first too.  If money is an issue maybe try to buy a used Etherwave.  If you get really serious I would suggest that you maybe avoid older Big Briar type Etherwave Theremins as the fields don't seem to be as optimized as the newer Etherwaves.

Almost all analog Theremins will give you around an octave with an open / closed hand gesture when adjusted to be optimally linear throughout the pitch field.  If the Open.Theremin is tighter than that I would consider looking elsewhere, as that's about as sensitive as is humanly playable IMO.  Good luck!

Posted: 12/16/2019 3:33:05 PM

From: Scotland

Joined: 9/27/2012

xyzzy, I don't have a vast experience with a wide variety of theremins but have two Open theremins: an early generation one and one of a much more recent generation.
The newer generation model is most certainly better than a toy in my opinion and I'm sure it could be used to learn on.
For sure, the linearisation may not be as good as a pro model but it is not bad and it's good enough to be playable.
The only caveat may be a slowly drifting field, in so far that you may have to re-calibrate more often than with more costly models but bear in mind, you do get what you pay for and I'd suggest that the cost of the Open Theremin belies it's quality.
I play an EW standard normally but have played the 1st gen Open theremin in public before and managed to get away with it :-)

N.B. Urs Gaudenz is incredibly helpfull and would help you out I'm sure if you had any troubles calibrating the device or questions about technical aspects.

Posted: 12/16/2019 5:10:14 PM

Joined: 12/15/2019

Thank you everyone this is very helpful! Sounds like I can flail away with my open theremin for at least a while and look at upgrading down the line if I ever progress beyond out of key scales 😂. 

Posted: 12/17/2019 1:31:15 AM

From: 60 Miles North of San Diego, CA

Joined: 10/1/2014

- As long as you are having fun is most important -

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