Tuning your instrument

Posted: 5/17/2005 9:50:18 PM

Joined: 5/12/2005

I think you are making this more complicated than it is. All you need to know is Middle C and zero beat. Follow the Moog Etherwave instructions (you can downlaod a .pdf copy of the Etherwave manual at the Moog website).

Posted: 6/30/2005 8:28:42 AM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

I once tried some tuning software for my laptop that would let me see the notes I was playing on a needle-style gauge from across the room. I was horrified to see that I couldn't hit a single note exactly. Yet, when I played back a recording of some of the music I was trying to perform, it actualy didn't sound all that bad. Keep in mind that even on professional recordings, many "real" instruments aren't in perfect tune either ;)
Posted: 6/30/2005 11:43:32 AM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

The idea of being perfectly 'in-tune' is something people all to often get worked up about anyway. To be perfectly in tune you would have to ditch vibrato completely, and this means that even concert singers can never be exactly in tune. Also, most people are unable to detect small differences in pitch. Google reveals that this difference amounts to about 5hz for a non-musician and 2-3Hz for someone who practices a lot. In other words, most people won't spot the minor errors that a theremin player would whilst playing. Provided you aren't more than 5 cents off the note you want to hit (roughly 5 degrees on a tuning dial), it should sound OK. It does for singing.

I'm ordering my theremin this weekend, and I don't think I'll get a tuner or intonation aid unless I really struggle. It'll make me complacent. Do you have any general tips for when I start out? Something that people often do wrong perhaps, or that might need to be unlearned later? I've been reading a lot about uncontrolled vibrato- and I have no idea how I'm supposed to vibrate my hand so fast without just 'wobbling' it.
Posted: 6/30/2005 4:12:35 PM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

Vibrato technique is a beast worthy of an entire chapter in a "how to play theremin" book :)

The trick is to not over-use vibrato. Don't use it for every note... Start out without, and then use subtle vibrato to add feeling to the note.

I've been working on a vibrato article for a while... probably time I wrap it up and post it to the website... There was a good discussion about it on LEVNET sometime about 3 months ago. Lots of people chimed in with opinions on theory and technique.

Basically, think of the notes as circles expanding outwards from the pitch antenna. You can play a note at any point along the circle. When you play vibrato, you want to vary your pitch hand slightly on both sides of the circle, inside and out. I tend to prefer going at a diagonal to the cirle (moving my hand forward and to the right to go inside the circle, backwards and left when going outside the circle). For deeper vibrato, I use a more direct path towards/away from the antenna.

Hope this helps!
Posted: 7/6/2005 5:08:43 PM
Paul Kray

From: Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Joined: 4/25/2005

So, I've had my Kees for a couple of months now. I've found that I enjoy playing it outdoors much better than in my basement.

I started out just playing it dry through a non-tube Fender amp that has a chorus effect in it. The chorus effect is just an electronic one and sounds sucky. Last week, I bought a Dunlop Rotovibe which didn't make hitting notes easier, but it made playing much more fun. Then over the weekend, a friend gave me a Danelectro delay pedal. They sound soooooo cool together! When I play alone, it's difficult to feel like I am making progress or playing a tune in key, but when I play along with my wife on guitar, it sounds much better and satisfying. I want to get a Vox wah pedal next and eventually a tube driven amp with spring reverb. Any suggestions on an amp? I was thinking a Vox or Fender.
Posted: 7/13/2005 1:55:44 AM

Joined: 2/21/2005

Traditionally theremins are tuned to maximize the efficiency of the player's control space. The best position should allow the player's extended pitch arm to just touch the pitch antenna. The theremin is tuned so that when the player bends the pitch arm upwards and away from the antenna a zero beat (silence) can be achieved without the player having to shift their body position.

Some thereminists reverse the tuning of the pitch circuit, so that the pitch rises as the hand is moved away from the antenna. In this case tuning would begin with the hand NEARLY touching the antenna, and zero beat being tuned for that point.

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