Aerial Fingering Technique

Posted: 1/6/2006 9:46:49 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Hey gang,

I've found the Takeuchi Method much better to start with than the Rockmore (which is very vague and I get the sense from it she didn't really want to write much about it) and the Sexton (who uses the wing technique but mentions others).

Those two start with very discrete intervals and scales. Takeuchi starts with octaves and fifths and then works down to smaller intervals.

Since his book is in Japanese I only understand the music exercises and illustrations and the acc. CD that came with it.

I do not use his fingering style which is basically the Kavina method, I'm currently working with a more relaxed arm style of the Rockmore knuckle extensions but lead with my middle finger rather than the little finger.

Takeuchi's was a very expensive little book to get here in the US, but it's the foundation of my regular technical practice.

thanks all!
Posted: 1/9/2006 1:54:46 AM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

Hi, would be very interested to become familiar with the Takeuchi Method.

The Rockmore method is a bit like looking at one of those "optical illusion" drawings... that is, you shake your head one way and it looks vague and simplistic -- shake your head another way and it seems incredibly rich.

Sometimes things are simple to describe and tough to execute.

I am reminded of a comedy sketch I heard years ago where someone says, "Its easy to play the flute. Just blow into it and move your fingers around."

And, the Theremin is equally "easy"... just stand next to it and move your hands thru the air.

Of course, there is Bach's oft-quoted remark that playing the organ is a matter of "hitting the right notes at the right time."

I think a limitation of Clara's method is her excercises only cover octave jumps... she doesn't cover off-octave jumps (i.e., 7ths or 9ths).

Her excercise of repeating a note and changing hand positions each time is a challenge to do with pinpoint accuracy.

Would be great if you could describe some of the excercises by Takeuchi that you find most helpful.

Thanks for sharing!
Posted: 1/10/2006 9:30:00 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

I suppose I'd consider Takeuchi's a primer to the Rockmore or Sexton.
The book comes with a handy CD with piano and metronome accompaniments to the exercises. His book also includes several complete pieces with both Theremin and piano, and just piano acc. tracks.

The book is the inversion of Rockmore's, lots more text, not as many exercises.
But the exercises start out more basically and that's why I think they're better at the very beginning. He also includes illustrations of the hand shapes under the notes (which I do not follow exactly as I find the Rockmore finger style more comfortable). His seems to be essentially the Kavina technique.

The exercises start with ||: root, octave, root octave :|| in whole notes,
then in half notes,
||: root octave, root fifth :||,
||: root octave, root fourth :||,
||: root octave, root third :||,
then the second.
All at a moderate tempo.
They do not go beyond a single octave.
(Now I usually use these as warm-ups doing them in "middle", then again in "upper" range)

He then moves on to a major scale, volume exercises, and three note patterns much like Rockmore.
Starting with the grosser motions and moving to the smaller more discrete ones may help some folks just starting out. It could also help set a restrained and pitch focused practice style before moving onto the more advanced methods. If I could afford it, I'd have a translation done even though I know I've departed from his personal style.

It's a little weak on the 6th, 7th, 9th intervals. For those I did exercises like his other ones with a drone box.

Since most of us are learning in isolation I'm always hoping the living masters will write more method books as well as produce more videos. Holograms would be even better! My technique is still evolving as I discover more nuances of the style I'm pursuing. Of the three videos I have, I find the Rockmore one the most helpful, followed closely by the Pringle.

The Sexton method also has lots exercises, it reminds me more of ear training books. Although I would not use his wing method, he has *a lot* of good advice on practicing and keeping perspective during the dry times.

Those substitution exercises, as you know from organ playing, are essential and we're lucky we have what we do of Clara's technique preserved.

Isn't there another Bach quote something like "Those who work as hard will do as well"?

thanks all!

Posted: 1/10/2006 11:50:02 PM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

Can you post a link to more info about the Takeuchi method book? Thanks!
Posted: 1/12/2006 9:03:50 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

I actually found the book through here, the magnificent Theremin World!

Ms. Sato helped me find it on Amazon Japan.
Here's the link I used.

link (

They used to have some sample pages showing the exercises but I do not see them now. Now there are examples of the art work. Besides being helpful to me, and I can't even read it, it's beautifully designed. I think it cost me about 60 - 70 US$.

link (

I tried to write the publisher a couple times asking about an English edition but never heard back.

hth - jh
Posted: 1/13/2006 4:27:42 PM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

Fascinating! I'll be bubbling this up to the front page tonight. Thanks so much!!
Posted: 1/23/2006 11:48:08 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

~~ The all-important first position ~~

What is first position? It is the finger position at which you play the lowest note from a given arm-distance from the pitch antenna.

Imagine a piece of yarn taped to your ceiling. Imagine yourself reaching up and plucking the yarn from your ceiling. The resulting position is close to first position. The index finger and thumb are touching, the other fingers are gently curled touching the fat tissue under the base of the thumb. The knuckles are aligned such that they are even... that is... none of them encroach on the electro-magnetic field to the right of your hand. It is a relaxed, secure position. (reverse this if you are playing a left-handed theremin).

I practice this position in the car, when standing in lines, when sitting at my desk. And this position has become an anchor.

Why is this position so vitally important? The reason is that you constantly return to it when playing -- you may extend your knuckles into the other positions however it is reassuring to KNOW that your first position note is 'marked' and a quick return to first position will land you squarely on pitch.

Consistancy builds confidence.

1st position is the basis for the other positions. Indeed, to play a note in a consitant 1st position assures that you can hit notes in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th positions consistantly.

A little "flexibility" in your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th positions may be needed when playing at different distances from the antenna however I have gotten best results by assuring that 1st position NEVER varies.

If you find that you have trouble consistantly hitting notes, establish your inmutable 1st position. Make it as natural as breathing. Make it an absolute position. Give it a try and see if your playing improves.

Hope this post is helpful and thought-provoking.

Good luck!
Posted: 1/24/2006 8:47:40 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Great comment, thanks!
I've been practicing that position and vibrato on the bus. If nothing else it usually ensures me a seat by my self. :~)

In watching the Clara video it seems she actually has two first positions: the standard one you describe (kinda like the finger-letter O), and an even more closed one with all fingers drawn to the palm which is used to accent downward intervals. Some players call that second action the 'clam'.

I agree totally with keeping a consistent anchor of first position. Sometimes to achieve those 'agogic accents' it seems you may have to close to a flattened position for downward jumps, and for upward jumps you may have to flatten the position or pull back and open it slightly to prep. for the upward 'toss'. Of course coordination with the volume hand is also key but we can talk about that more in the other thread.

much appreciated!
Posted: 2/10/2006 8:23:19 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

~~ slide fast, slide slow, knuckles vs. fingertips ~~

Every precision thereminist wants to play notes that are in tune. When moving from one note to the next, the easiest way to hit the next note is to slide to it slow enough that you can simply stop on the right note. Of course, this sliding is usually undesirable unless you are after a slide-whistle effect!

The alternative is to move fast enough from one note to the next that the slide is not noticeable. However, this requires a precise movement and doesn't afford the luxury of "sliding into the note". Also, move too fast and the music starts to sound stressed -- and to overshoot the notes becomes all too common.

I practice three different note-to-note movements: 1) an audible slide from on note to the next, 2) a quick, snap from one note to the next, and 3) a relaxed yet quick motion from one note to the next. My primary goal for most music is the third alternative -- I practice the other two to "bracket" the third.

The quest to hit notes precisely and fluidly has led me to curve my fingers when going for positions 2 and 3 (although, with my hand's size, I still have to extend my pinkie to get 4th position sometimes). Curving the fingers is really the same as the knuckle extensions that Peter Pringle covers in his excellent DVD.

I had trouble with knuckle extensions at first because my first position was not predictable. Now that I have identified (and hopefully solved) that I have found "knuckle extensions" to be a great way to achieve the other positions.

The advantage of using the knuckles rather than the fingertips is that the finger tips are out at the end of the fingers such that a little bit of hand motion is amplified at the end of the fingers. The same motion, when applied to curved fingers (the knuckles) results in less movement because the knuckles are closer to the hand than the fingertips. Thus, pitch control is easier.

The use of knuckles instead of finger tips allows a more relaxed vibrato -- again, with the fingers curved, it is easier to do a fluid vibrato because a given arm motion results in less movement at the fingers.

Also, with knuckle extensions it seems easier to achieve the "invisible" gliss -- slow enough that one can find the pitch -- fast enough that the listener doesn't notice it. Again, with fingers extended, a little motion of the hand is amplified at the fingertips -- thus, one must play "carefully" (i.e., introducing tension) to hit the notes. With knuckles only, one can fluidly move from one note to the next without "fighting" the control issue.

~~ tension and bio-feedback ~~

Tension really shows up when playing the Theremin. Fortunately, the Theremin provides bio-feedback on the tension issue! The easiest way I have found to reduce tension is to LISTEN to what I am playing and to consciously play so that it SOUNDS relaxed! If your music flows -- if it sounds relaxed, then you are probably playing relaxed!

Of course, tension is ok if you are looking for a declamatory effect in the music -- Lydia Kavina seems able to turn it on and off as the music demands it. (Sometimes her playing is DEFIANT! Then she'll turn around and melt your heart!)

Unwanted tension will make your music sound forced when you want it to sound fluid. I have found, if my performance sounds forced -- that I am usually trying too hard to mask the glisses between notes. The antidote is to slow down a bit.

In fact, slow practice on the Theremin is the best way to learn to play rapidly (same as all instruments). Practice playing without stress at slow tempi and as you speed up the relaxation will carry into your playing. If you feel tension, take a tempo that is slow enough that you can relax.

If all else fails and you are simply "stressed out", better to stop practicing, and spend the day/evening doing something relaxing. Come back to the Theremin when
Posted: 2/11/2006 9:10:44 AM

From: Leicester, UK

Joined: 9/23/2005

I was hung up on my fingering technique a while back - which style to use - Pamelia's minimal movement, Clara's standardised positions or Lydia's linear.

Lately tho I'm finding that I'm slowly by not thinking about it coming round to what feels natural - after all as Pamelia said it's the muscle memory you are training.

I've been finding my ear has become more important than my fingers. If my ear is in and on a good day, my fingers will do what they do to find the note.
I notice I am looking less at my fingers while I play lately too.

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