Finding the center of the notes--i.e., playing in tune

Posted: 9/26/2017 3:14:50 AM

From: New England

Joined: 11/15/2009

I've been playing on and off for about a year and am happy with my progress.  But one thing that bugs me is not being able to play notes in tune.  I mean REALLY in tune.  I do okay on long notes, but when it comes to eighths and quicker quarters, it's a struggle to locate the precise pitch.

I'm sure this is by no means unusual.  I'm just wondering if there are some specialized ways of practicing playing in tune and being able to find the precise pitch.

Posted: 9/26/2017 4:08:51 PM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

Hi JimSn,

I'm not a Theremin player, but I imagine it comes down to your Theremin having a fairly linear pitch field so that muscle memory and fingering techniques alone work anywhere in the field, and lots of practice to build the muscle memory.  Some form of quick and accurate visual pitch feedback (not talking guitar tuner here) would probably help too, as I believe the ear isn't all that fast at pitch recognition.

Posted: 9/26/2017 9:06:23 PM

From: earth

Joined: 5/8/2017

I use the angling technique for play. The human body movements works on angles and your brain is very good at calculating angles - distances NOT SO MUCH.

Set the low note with your hand at your sternum, set the high note by aiming at a certain point on the antenna or space near it. For my plate antenna theremin this is about two inches from the left lower corner of the plate, if I want to play impossibly high notes, I am for the center of the plate - but that is above piano range.

Now, start with the low notes, figure out a whole step, then halve the distance for a half step, then work your way up to the octave. You will notice as you get closer to the antenna, the distance decreases between the note intervals. Your mind will eventually learn how to calculate the angle that gives you the note you desire. Practice INTERVALS. But not so much. Give yourselff TIME between your efforts.

You learn more once you go to sleep.

Never play the instrument more than one hour a day.

Now the hard and ugly truth.

It takes years to get good at the instrument. This is a meditation, a yoga, a discipline and a feedback loop for your motor control skills.

In the meantime play with the intervals you are comfortable with and when you detect the note being off, correct it immediately, this programs you to do that automatically. Enough caffeine and no one will notice it - keep in mind that thereminists who use vibrato all the time are concealing their off pitch play. Learn to hit and hold the note first and then add vibrato as you like - all the best theremin players can do that.

Hit the note and hold it steady as a rock.

After seven years of this technique I have achieved the rare pinnacle where my music can annoy the hell out of other thereminists.

And because I don't have to think about FINGER POSITIONS or DISTANCES, I can play fast. People use their frontal lobes and that makes them slow. Motor control is faster.

Now for the good news, can you pick up a dropped coin? Can you reach up on a bookshelf and pull out the book you selected? Can you write your name? Can you pitch a ball? (PITCH) Can you catch a ball?

Those are the motor skills which will enable you to play fast and accurately.

But even the best, will err, so learn about mordents and trills - the baroque solution  to errors.

Finally, the piano has 88 notes and MIDI has 96. The theremin has thousands of notes.

Don't cut yourself short.

Pay no attention to the volume antenna - only I do the TREMOLO - stay off my turf. (unless someone has stolen my idea to use the volume antenna like a real musician would)

Posted: 9/27/2017 8:18:18 AM

From: Scotland

Joined: 9/27/2012

I'm going to be controversial and boring here:

know your instrument and lots and lots and lots of practice.

Posted: 10/2/2017 5:57:46 PM

From: earth

Joined: 5/8/2017

Anyone seen my pearls of wisdom I cast out here the other day?


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