The theremin, also known as the etherphone, thereminophone, or termenvox/thereminvox, is an electronic musical instrument controlled by the thereminist without the need for physical contact (performer). It is named after Leon Theremin, the device’s creator, who patented it in 1928. León Theremin, a Soviet radio engineer, stunned audiences throughout the world in the early 1920s. It looked to be a magic performance at first glance. He directed his hands in precise patterns and shapes in front of a gadget. It looked like a radio with two antennas, never touching the instrument itself. A strange mechanical harmony emerged when Theremin’s hands moved as if he was creating music out of thin air.

The Theremin Redesigned

To manipulate Theremin’s original design, which he officially patented in 1928, users move their hands next to two wires jutting from a small box. Manipulating the electromagnetic fields between the antennas, the player can raise or lower the music’s tone by moving one’s fingers up or down. Theremin began to perform to broad acclaim after improving his skills. A 1922 performance thus pleased Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. He dispatched the inventor on a tour of Russia, Europe, and the United States to share his modern, Soviet sound with the rest of the world. Beginning in December 1927, Theremin embarked on a lengthy tour of the United States. He performed at the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, and other notable venues. Theremin’s creation gained a devoted following over the next few decades, selling for around $175 per instrument (approximately $2,600 today).

According to Smithsonian, the Theremin’s gadget also inspired Robert Moog, an American inventor who created his own theremin at the age of 14 by replicating designs from a hobbyist magazine. When Moog introduced the first commercial modern synthesizer in 1964, he permanently changed the music scene.

The Principles Use by Theremin

The theremin uses the heterodyne principle to generate an audio signal. The instrument’s pitch circuitry includes two radio frequency oscillators set below 500 kHz to minimize radio interference. One oscillator operates at a fixed frequency. The frequency of the other oscillator is almost identical. It is controlled by the performer’s distance from the pitch control antenna.

The performer’s hand functions as the grounded plate of a variable capacitor in an L-C (inductance-capacitance) circuit, which is part of the oscillator and sets its frequency (the performer’s body is the link to the ground). The antenna is directly connected to the tuned circuit of the oscillator in the simplest designs, and the ‘pitch field,’ or to change of note with distance. It is extremely nonlinear since the capacitance variation with distance is much larger near the antenna. When the antenna is removed from such systems, the oscillator goes higher in frequency. Unlike touched instruments, where simply halting play or damping a resonator in the traditional sense silences the instrument. The thereminist must “play the rests, as well as the notes”, as Clara Rockmore observed.

How a Theremin Works

If the pitch hand is moved between notes, without first lowering the volume hand, the result is a “swooping” sound akin to a swanee whistle or a glissando played on the violin. Small flutters of the pitch hand can be used to produce a vibrato effect. To produce distinct notes requires a pecking action with the volume hand to mute the volume while the pitch hand moves between positions. Thereminists like Carolina Eyck employ a set arm position per octave and fixed finger placements to generate the sounds within the octave. It allows for extremely quick transitions between adjacent notes. Although volume technique is less established than pitch technique, there are certain thereminists who have tried to improve it including Pamelia Kurstin with her “walking bass” approach and Rupert Chappelle.

How A Theremin Works

So if the pitch hand is moved between notes. So Without first lowering the volume hand. Also the result is a “swooping” sound akin to a swanee whistle or a glissando played on the violin. Also, the Small flutters of the pitched hand can be used to produce a vibrato effect. To produce distinct notes requires a pecking action with the volume hand. To mute the volume while the pitch hand moves between positions. Thereminists like Carolina Eyck employ a set arm position per octave. fixed finger placements to generate the sounds within the octave.
It allowing for extremely quick transitions between adjacent notes. Although volume technique is less established than pitch technique. There are certain thereminists. such as Pamelia Kurstin with her “walking bass” approach and Rupert Chappelle. I have tried to improve it. Also I have played the theremin instrument. It is a powerful instrument. Everyone can learn it. The theremin can be controlled. Surely without physical contact by the thereminist.

How A Theremin Works

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