[LAU] [Off topic] DIY Theremin

Dominique Michel dominique.c.michel at gmail.com
Wed Jan 2 00:08:25 CET 2019

Le Mon, 31 Dec 2018 19:40:23 +0100,
Ralf Mardorf <ralf.mardorf at alice-dsl.net> a écrit :

> I started a song and my intention is to include a Theremin sound made
> with the Animoog. Actually it's possible to fake a Theremin sound,
> _but_ it's more or less impossible to come close to the volume and
> pitch abilities of a real Theremin and it's not as easy to play via a
> touch screen, as some trivial tests made me believe. It's possible to
> fool a listener, who does not know that the composition is made for
> the limits of the faked Theremin sound (e.g. by using a LFO to
> fake hand movements), but actually, at least for me, it's impossible
> to realise what could be done with a real Theremin, by somebody who is
> able to play the instrument. I either will not use a faked Theremin or
> I'll do postprocessing via the tochscreen using the automation of the
> DAW to manipulate a recorded faked Theremin. The result would have
> limitations, comparable to playing sampled phrases of a real Theremin.

To learn that instrument, I am following Kip Rosser's lessons:
I like his approach based on experimentation. The first lessons present
the fundamental techniques. As example, the lesson 12 show a left hand
technique which allow to make a vibrato like effect with the volume,
resulting in successive pitches. Lesson 20 show the vibrato technique
for the pitch.

I think the main difficulty when playing a theremin, as we get a
concert piano range into something like 50 to 60 centimetres, and no
other mean to know where are the notes than our earring, is the
resulting constant imprecision of the pitch. A good theremin player
will succeed very well to mask it.

Another difficulty is than for a guitar player like me, pitches in the
C1 to C2 range or C7 to C8 range are very extreme ear training. The C7
to C8 range is the worst because the antenna cease to be linear at that
distance (only a few centimetres from the antenna) and that octave is
shorter than the others.

At the same time, this is what make that instrument so fun. With the
null of the pitch, you get a barrel like shape at 50/60 cm from the
antenna, it have a few cm more width at the center of the antenna than
at its extremities. This is our instrument and when playing it, it will
react from all directions and with any part of your body. I can change
the null and set it at only a few centimetres from the antenna. With
such a setting, it is very weird to play, also because I can add
pop like sounds between the pitches by touching the pitch antenna.

Also it seam to have a terrific sound, because a neighbour tell me than
he can ear me when I play it in the basement, with him in the house
opposite making music with a computer and his headphones. For that, to
play a theremin is worst than to play bass, you get a powerful sound
but on the whole audio range.

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