Aerial Fingering Technique

Posted: 4/12/2006 5:01:57 PM
Marble Field

From: Athens, Greece

Joined: 5/23/2005

Well, to correct myself on my second point, it would be theoretically possible for the reflected sound to reach you before the direct, but that would require an absolute directive sound source, and such a source does not exist...
Posted: 4/12/2006 6:13:38 PM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

>>singers tend to tune to perfect (as opposed to tempered)
Yes! absolutely I noticed that a lot working with choirs, when acappella they tuned more to un-tempered intervals.
Would thereminists not do the same thing?
We're using the same inner hearing we would when singing.
So I have to pose this:
How does understanding this help us with our fingering and playing in tune?
Probably back to Kevin's conclusion, ear training.
Posted: 4/12/2006 8:55:25 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

Hi, Marble!

You are correct that no speaker is totally directional. An entry level P.A. system (as opposed to a professional one) will likely only have left and right mains, and perhaps a sub. (Again, in this situation, to have one's own speaker for the Theremin is extremely advantageous).

In the absence of floor monitors, one would have to position one's self so that direct sound from the mains is clearly audible.

Regarding the pitch of reflected sound... all it takes is motion, such as ceiling fans, to impart the doppler effect to the sound. True, this may be a case of "splitting hairs" however it is worth knowing. Reflected sound is subject to effects that would obscure pitch as opposed to direct sound.

Of course, a floor monitor solves the problem of hearing direct sound.


You are correct, this topic of tuning/hearing may best be placed in another thread. The issue of tuning and precision playing are so closely intertwined that I just posted it here!

The issue of tuning is critical when laying down multiple Theremin tracks, such as I did in the "Byrd Ave Verum" (you can listen to this on my website ). I had to develop a different way of creating a cue track to play this -- I started with a piano track that arpeggiated the harmonies to establish the tempo/rubato and to keep things on pitch. When I first approached the work, I just played the parts and that didn't work because the equal-tempered tuning of the keyboard wasn't working with the choral sound of the Theremin tracks.

So, how does this topic in general apply to Aerial Fingering?

The best answer I can give is that the reason for Aerial fingering is to play notes with precision -- which can be a pretty tall order for a Thereminist! So, to put everything in one's favor makes the task a little easier.

The audience may be subject to masking, doppler-effect producing ceiling fans, reflected sound, and background noise however you as the performer want to hear, for better or for worse, exactly what you are doing!

May we all play such that some sound reflections and masking is all it takes (as opposed to excessive amounts of beer and wine) for the listeners to experience a great performance.

Posted: 4/13/2006 7:46:12 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Like I said I'm working with the Rockmore based fingerings and using some exercises from these new books. I'm using Kenny Werner's book most. For me it's definately the best advice to healthy effortless playing.
Thanks for all the thoughts Kevin, Marbles it helps a lot to bounce this stuff around. Pointing out the dangers of doubling the vocal/theremin part is welcomed.
Posted: 4/14/2006 12:50:35 AM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

On the issue of tuning and perception:

Kip Rosser pointed out to me (via e-mail) that there are, in effect, three different levels of accuracy going on in a theremin performance. The best of these tends to be What The Audience Hears, because so much of their attention is focused on simply watching your hands and trying to puzzle out how you're doing what you're doing... ergo, they simply don't notice many of the infelicities of intonation.

The next-best is What The Performer Hears In Performance... On the one hand, you're paying much more attention to intonation than your audience is... On the other hand, that concentration focuses so much of your own mental energy In The Moment that when you do miss a note, you correct it instantaneously, and then forget that error within a few seconds because you're thinking ahead to the next few pitches you need to find, remembering where to move your hand or arm, etc.

So, it's only when listening to a recording, without visual distractions or the mental tasks of performing, that we get to hear What Was Actually Performed, warts and all.

Posted: 4/14/2006 1:00:21 AM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

P.S. By way of illustration:

On Valentine's Day, I played a short midday recital of only ten selections.

The audience was twice as large as expected... a real SRO situation, for my first public performance! So I was a nervous wreck throughout.

Thanks to nerves, many numbers didn't go as well as they had in rehearsal.

Several friends were surprised that I expressed reservations about my intonation. Maybe they were just being polite, or maybe they were just amazed that anyone could get a recognizable tune out of the instrument, period... but if we take their surprise at face value, then they thought I was 10 for 10 (or at least, 8 or 9...).

In contrast, my own evaluation immediately afterward was that I had nailed three or four of the numbers cleanly from beginning to end, and had irretrievably botched several notes in all the others.

When I listened to the recording, I discovered that there was only ONE number I had played cleanly throughout; all the others were marred by intonation slips that I had instantaneously forgotten during the performance.

All best,


P.P.S. Oddly enough, the one that I got right was a last-minute substitution: the Bach Air "on the G string" (from his orchestral suite no. 3 in D major, BWV 1068), which I'd only started learning a few days before the performance... go figure.
Posted: 4/14/2006 6:21:45 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I think one might add a fourth item to Kip Rosser's list (via Telecaster) of what is heard at a recital.

1. What the audience heard.
2. What the performer heard.
3. What was recorded and heard in playback.
4. What the critic heard, which often bears no relationship to the other three whatsoever!

Posted: 4/14/2006 8:41:21 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Gordon, yes good point.
Just like video used for some sort of evidence,
recordings are a subjective reality in themselves.
Recordings are wonderful references for getting a sense of your playing through "another ear", but they don't fully capture what happens in a performance.

How about we branch intonation stuff here:
link (

It'll help future readers and the google search.
Good stuff! Soon, Jason should have more then he ever expected for his theremin palying FAQs or maybe he's going to end up with a collabrative Joyce-ian theremin technique book.
Posted: 6/1/2006 8:28:45 AM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

On the topic of video recordings... I went ahead and posted a short video clip from one of my recent rehearsal sessions.

The video was taken with a simple camcorder and its internal mic. What it doesn't pick up is the 90+ heat that day and the bug-repellent that I sprayed on to keep the skeeters at bay. I am rehearsing out on my back patio.

link (

While the video is an excerpt of the entire work ("Meteor Mallets") you can also hear the entire work on my website or on the "Spellbound" program.
Posted: 6/1/2006 9:07:22 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Good video, great music! Thanks for posting that.

You make it look so easy. I figure you've been playing about 8 months or so. Whoever said it takes two years to get the hang of playing the theremin clearly never met you.

BTW - congrats on your 300th posting to Theremin World.



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