Hand and Finger size - just an observation

Posted: 1/4/2011 11:33:20 AM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

Even though I am an adult, I have pretty small hands and fingers. My middle finger from the palm to the tip is almost 2 1/2 inches and my pinky well, it is a little less than 1 1/4 inches and my whole hand from palm to mid fingertip is a smidge over 5 1/4 inches. I think most children around 10 years old have bigger hands than mine.

I find it difficult to do the aerial fingering with the knuckles ( position 2-3-4 ) as I think they don't really extend far enough to make a definite pitch change while trying to not move the hand, so I somewhat compensate with moving my hand... Perhaps, that discomfort is due to the fact that I don't really know exactly what I am doing and all seem foreign to me still :)

When I played the harp in my youth, I couldn't reach full octaves with my thumb and ring finger (you don't use the pinky in harp playing) so I had to constantly roll chords so after playing for 5 years, I realized that the instrument might not be the best suited for my build. Then I went onto the cello. Because of my hands again, I had to play a 1/2 or a 3/4 size because i couldn't wrap my hand around the neck to reach the strings without strain... I hope I can find a way to play the Theremin that will take in consideration my physical challenges...

Not really being upset - just sharing my challenges :)
Posted: 1/4/2011 12:00:14 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I have yet to see a photo of Clara Rockmore standing next to someone shorter than her - usually other people are significantly taller, so I am guessing that she was of a dainty stature. And with slender hands too (mass - or possibly surface area I'm not sure - counts for as much as finger length.)

Similarly Pamelia Kurstin is a diddy little thing, and a bit stubby-fingered.

At the other extreme, Thorvald Jorgensen probably wrestles bears before breakfast.

All jolly good thereminists! So sorry, no excuses there.

Your hand isn't too small for the pitch field, rather your pitch field is too large for your hand - turn the pitch knob a bit and be thankful you're not Brother Lee Love (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX03hgf_LcM). :-)
Posted: 1/4/2011 12:36:22 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

I am barely 5 2". so I am not really tall. I was just saying that for doing the knuckle positions, it's a little straining for me just doing that to reach any pitch change, i have to move as well.

.... I am not making excuses ... ? Just sharing what I am going through as a Newbie. Perhaps it is boring and annoying to most. Sorry about that.

Posted: 1/4/2011 12:49:28 PM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

If you are "tuning" the theremin to suit your fingering method...

In this case you may be resigned to using full finger extensions (like Lydia, Carolina, etc.) to get an adequate note spacing. You need sufficient note spacing to facilitate accuracy and a nice vibrato.

However, like the harp, you may have to settle for only a fourth or fifth in range. That would be the same as you would get using only knuckle extensions.

So, it won't make playing the theremin impossible, but you may have to adapt to your physiology. I don't think it would be much different than a large man with "sausage" fingers.

If I'm not mistaken...Clara Rockmore was petite, but she did have fairly long and spidery fingers.
Posted: 1/4/2011 12:57:35 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

THanks Jeff -

I have small hands AND saussage fingers lol. What a combo! I guess I'll have to tune the theremin maybe with less range so I can make the interval between notes not so clustered. So many things to think about lol.

I'll try this tonight :)
Posted: 1/4/2011 4:11:29 PM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Yea, but your cute as a button and have a beautiful voice. We all have our own cross to bear.

I am also hearing impaired and not blessed with perfect pitch. So, I decided to take up the theremin! LOL
Posted: 1/4/2011 4:30:08 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

Jeff -

Thank you for the kind compliment on my voice ( and button-ness ;), I have pretty good pitch overall. I can sing without loosing the pitch acapela, but on the Theremin, when I sing to try to get the right starting note, boy! It messes me up! I find myself re-sing the starting note over and over until i find it with the theremin lol. All of these nano semi tones can be quite testy on your ear! lol
Posted: 1/4/2011 6:54:30 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

Gordon -

I just viewed the Video you posted... Lol. I love my small hands now! ;)
Posted: 1/4/2011 7:12:30 PM

From: A Coruña, Spain

Joined: 9/26/2010

I'm not an expert, but from what I know finger size should not be a problem... since the theremin's field size can be changed to match your hands. Smaller hands will logically require a smaller field. My theremin is not the same as yours, but by fiddling with the pitch knob I can make the field ridiculously small, to the point where it's only 1 or 2 cm wide, you have to play near the pitch antenna and evan a small finger movement (of my admittedly standard-sized hand) will give you more than an octave. I suppose it's the same in the ePlus?

What I do to tune is, I put my hand in positions 1 and 4, judge if what I hear is (IMHO ;)) a fourth, and if it is not, adjust the pitch knob to get it closer to a fourth. Repeat until I actually get a fourth. Have you tried this? Does it not work with your hand?
Posted: 1/4/2011 8:16:29 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008


Pay no attention to what others are telling you. Look deep into my eyes, and listen only to my voice. All other sounds are fading into nothing and only the sound of my voice remains.........etc. etc.

Tiny hands with cocktail sausage fingers are no problem. You can still use a Rockmore style "aerial fingering" technique but instead of using four positions you will use only three. Position one is with the fingers nestled in the palm of the hand, in position two the fingers are fanned slightly forward toward the pitch antenna, and in position three they are fully extended.

What you must understand is that playing the theremin is essentially an intuitive thing and since everyone is constructed differently you must adapt (like the Borg).

A simple major scale would be played with the following hand positions 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2, rather than 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4.

What you must not do is get discouraged and start using some technique of your own devising. It might seem much better to begin with and sound like you are getting results, but in the long run it would most likely be defeating.

BTW, Clara was tiny and had freakishly long fingers that were curiously double jointed. Many people have suggested that this accounted for her uncanny ability on the theremin. I do not believe that. I think it was because she worked so hard to overcome the problems she had, that she developed such extraordinary facility. Don't forget, it was because of a disability of her right arm and hand (her bowing arm) that she had to abandon the violin in 1930 and take up the theremin in the first place.

Violinist Itzhak Perlman once said that the difficulty of any musical instrument can be judged by how long it takes a beginner to learn to play a simple melody on it accurately and consistently.

"The theremin is the most difficult of all instruments. It's much harder than the violin, which I played for years." Clara Rockmore

Many singers come to the theremin and think they are going to be able to play it quite easily because the instrument sounds like a singer and singing is something they can already do. There is a period of shock (I know because I went through it) that can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. This is a dangerous time because it is so easy to get discouraged and decide you have made a mistake in deciding to take up the theremin in the first place.

Suddenly you're a singer who is singing off key!

Stick with it and all that will eventually straighten out. When it does, you will find that playing the theremin, although it is a constant challenge, is profoundly rewarding and satisfying.

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