Pitch arm - relaxed or tense?

Posted: 8/11/2005 11:55:49 PM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

I've been especially inspired after Ethermusic 2005 to work on my technique. Pamelia told me she plays with her pitch arm completely relaxed. I tend to lock mine at the wrist and elbow, which makes my arm really tired after about 30 minutes. I've been trying the relaxed technique for a couple of days now, and I have to say, it's hard!

I'm going to hold onto the notion that I'll be a better player (and not wear our my elbow) in the long run though.

I'm curious to hear how other people play?
Posted: 8/12/2005 1:59:35 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

That's funny...after closely watching Lydia during the first nights concert, that's the one question I asked her when I got the opportunity to speak with her one on one. I wanted to know exactly what it takes to play with the precision she does.
Unfortunately, I didn't get the definitive answer I was hoping for, but I believe she said she couldn't get too tense because of shoulder and back problems.
My theory is a semi-tense is best, but one that varies depending on the demands of the piece. I get sloppy if I'm too relaxed.
Posted: 8/12/2005 3:33:14 AM

From: new haven ct.

Joined: 7/8/2005

I keep my pitch are relaxed, it keeps me from getting tired and uncomfortable, plus I can move quicker and compensate when I come in off key a lot smoother.
I also sit on a stool when I play
Posted: 8/12/2005 6:07:47 AM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

I agree that tension depends almost entirely on what is being played. If the piece is flowing and legato then I tend to hold my pitch hand less rigidly than if the piece involves jumps, lots of angry staccato or quickly repeated phrases.

Tension comes across in the music, and sometimes it fits, but other times it doesn't.
Posted: 8/12/2005 4:33:10 PM

From: Greenville, NC

Joined: 6/21/2005

i tend to keep my arm relaxed most of the time, except for in the higher registers. i play tensed up on the high notes to keep everything really tight.
Posted: 8/12/2005 8:16:16 PM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

Pamelia also gave me the tip to practice with my back resting against a wall and my elbow touching my side. She said that would help me focus on learning where the notes are with muscle memory.

I dunno... She said she doesn't believe you need perfect pitch to play, and in fact she doesn't believe in perfect pitch. But when you see her perform, it's hard to swallow. She's also ambidextrous and can write the same thing forwards and backwards at the same time with both hands. Fascinating woman.
Posted: 8/12/2005 10:18:34 PM

From: new haven ct.

Joined: 7/8/2005

I don't think you need Perfect pitch to play theremin. If that was the case there'd be even less players. you do need good relative pitch which is completly different.
Posted: 8/13/2005 12:03:58 AM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

"You don't need hammers to work with air
Don't forget that you are dealing with air! Think of your fingers as delicate butterfly wings, and you will get much further than if you use strength."
-Clara Rockmore


I personally try to keep my pitch arm very relaxed and make very gentle motions with my fingers, while my left arm... I just don't think about my left arm, and it seems to just do what I want it to without me having to bother about it somehow. (If only my pitch control was as magically easy to me as my volume control, I'd be the next Clara.) Sometimes it's very tense and sometimes it's light as a feather, it depends on the piece.
Posted: 8/13/2005 12:16:52 AM

From: Winston-Salem, NC

Joined: 6/30/2005

At a table at EtherMusic, a few of us were talking about a guy the night before who was standing in front of the stage making finger motions in time to the theremin music. We started joking about having "Air Theremin" contests similar to "Air Guitar" events.

When we assembled for the group photo, I ended up behind Lydia and Pamelia. The photographer asked us all to gesture. I made a comment about playing "Air Theremin".

Lydia said: "It's ALL air theremin!"
Posted: 8/13/2005 1:28:18 AM

From: new haven ct.

Joined: 7/8/2005

Ever since I was a kid I wanted a theremin. don't remember where I saw one, or why (probably Sam Hoffman on the Mickey Mouse club, yes I'm that old )but always loved the sound, Anyway, all my life i've been playing air theremin, way before I ever had one, and it turns out it was pretty close to what it should be. So even know i'm constantly doing it still. Even if the notes aren't close, it's still a good excercise to loosen your hands

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