What can the Theremin sound like ?

Posted: 4/11/2007 8:37:14 PM

From: Australia

Joined: 4/11/2007

I am thinking of buying one after seeing it on tv, it looks soo much fun. How has one and plays it? I went to alot of links here to hear what it sounds like being played by different people. But alot of them have backing music not using the theremin so its hard to hear what it exactly sounds like. I heard someone on tv play it and it sounded almost like a violin, can it really sound like that or was I hearing it wrong ? I won't want to spend so much if it can only sound like when it was used on "the day the earth stood still", as its not the cheapest thing to buy.
Posted: 4/11/2007 9:28:17 PM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

The sound of a Theremin will depend on a large number of factors, including what model you buy, how you adjust it, what amp you use it with, your personal playing technique, etc.

If you get one and are not entirely satisfied with its sound, you can do a number of things such as adjusting the instrument differently, changing the amp you use, adding devices to modify the sound, or altering your technique. These will not guarantee that you will get the particular sound you desire, but would likely help get you closer to it.
Posted: 4/11/2007 9:36:55 PM

From: Australia

Joined: 4/11/2007

Thanks Tom, I was searching more audio for the theremin and it does sound different everytime in different ways. I love it when it goes really high. Thanks for responding so quick, I think I will definately get one..soon :)
Posted: 4/12/2007 2:49:46 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi, hippiejane.

To hear a shed-load of theremin, try the podcast Spellbound: A Brief Program of Music For Theremin.


Also try the top friends listed on my mySpace profile.


Posted: 4/12/2007 5:54:19 AM

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

If you've got a Korg MS-20 (or any CV-controlled synth with filter & amplitude envelope followers), it can sound like an electric guitar! Check the "Theremin techniques" forum over the next few days for patch data. If anyone wants to host some sound samples for me, all the better.
Posted: 4/12/2007 8:24:41 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Alexander has a fair point. Combined with a synth it can sound like pretty much anything you want.

Here's an extreme example...


(Thanks for pointing me towards that one, K.)

And, even without strapping on a synth, as Tom says, just about everything affects a theremin's sound - even down to the way you form your vibrato. (There's a form of FM Synthesis going on whereby the way you [i]wave[/i] your hand modulates the frequency of the tone generated by the theremin - a fast saw-toothy vibrato will mush the sound out a bit and make it fuzzy - a slower, more sine-wavey vibrato will leave a purer tone.)
Posted: 4/12/2007 8:46:25 AM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

The Day the Earth Stood Still features the classic Sci-Fi sound of the instrument but it can also mimic a violin or my personal favorite the "singing lady".

Most theremins have controls that can change the sound from a saw tooth wave to more of s smooth tone.

As, has been mentioned before, effects can really alter the sound.

I use an auto=wah type of effect and a little reverb in the very low register and it sounds like a tuba.
Posted: 4/16/2007 7:53:08 PM

From: Australia

Joined: 4/11/2007

Thanks everyone, youve all been really helpful. Fingers crossed for me getting a Theremin for my birthday this July...I cannot wait to try it out.
Posted: 4/16/2007 8:54:25 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

The Etherwave Pro has half a dozen timbre settings including a user-settable timbre.

When I recorded the Cesar Franck "Prelude, Fugue, and Variation" I arranged the work to showcase all the timbres on the Pro from the brightest to the mellowest.

You can find this at:


In the video section of my website, I have posted a couple of video demos wherein I play the Etherwave Pro without any other instruments.

Welcome to the theremin community.

[i]-- Kevin[/i]
Posted: 4/16/2007 9:19:23 PM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

LOL....In order to sound like "The Day The Earth Stood Still", you'd have to have a vintage RCA theremin.

Not an affordable option. To buy one in good condition, if you could find one, would set you back anywhere from $5000 to $15,000 USD!

I've yet to hear of anyone finding one at a garage sale...not to say that it couldn't happen.

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