Invented in 1919 by Leon Theremin, a Russian physicist, and musician, the theremin is the first electronic musical instrument. It's played without touching it at all, other than for making minor adjustments.
The theremin plays one note at a time, and is therefore a monophonic instrument. The sound produced has been compared to sounding like a cross between a stringed instrument in the low to mid registers, and a female voice in the upper range.
For about ten years after it's production by RCA in the late 1920s, the theremin was used mostly for classical style music. For about fifteen to twenty years thereafter, the instrument left the limelight with the acception of performances by noted thereminists like Clara Rockmore, and Samual Hoffman. The instrument made a comback to be heared, but not seen in science fiction, thriller, and horror movies from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.
In the late 1950s, theremins started to reappear as a young electronics enthusiast by the name of Robert A. Moog started producing a small number of theremins with his father.
In the early 1990s, Moog started producing theremins on an industrial scale, and has released several unique versions of theremins sinsce.
Because of the industrial efforts not only by Moog, but producers such as PAIA, Wavefront, Kees, Theremaniacs inc, Thereminplanet, and others, the theremin is making a very strong return to the limelight in all genres of music.
The theremin is now available in many forms, and markets on the web, but is not readily available in local manstream retail markets just yet.
A theremin consists of a cabinet containing analog electronics, and comes with either one, or two antennae. Both antennae produce a radio magnetic field which becomes the human interface for the instrument. Sound is produced by electronic devices on the electronics board called oscilators which produce very high frequencies which neither humans, nor dogs can hear. Two oscilators would be tuned slightly off from one another, producing a lower, and audible tone through a process known as "heterodyning". (hetero = opposite, and dyn = energy). One oscilator is set to be variable, and is controlled by the pitch antenna. The same process also involves the volume antenna.
The vertical rod antenna provides conrtol of pitch, and expressive vibrato, and is used by moving one's hand horizontally to, and from the vertical antenna to change notes. By moving one's hand closer to the vertical antenna, the notes go up in pitch. The further the hand is from the antenna, the lower the notes become in pitch. Advanced thereminists change notes by moving the fingers, as well as the arm, and hand in a technique called "aerial fingering".
The horizontally mounted ring antenna, usually mounted on the left side of the theremin, is used to control dynamic, expressive volume, and is used by moving one's hand viertially above the antenna. The closer one's hand is to the volume antenna, the quieter the notes become. The further away the hand is, the louder the music becomes.
In the case of left handed thereminists, the volume antenna, is on the right side, and the pitch antenna, on the left.
Theremins go totally against the normal logic of conventional stringed instruments which are played using opposite hands. But, that doesn't mean you can't play it the way you want!
Where did theremins come from?
What are theremins, and how do they work?
& Travel Case.
B-3 Original theremin, and B-3 Deluxe over B-3 Pro by Burns.
91 A, B & C
Moog series 91-A
Moog Etherwave Standard
Theremins seen here are shown for historical, and educational purposes. I don't manufacture, or sell theremins, yet.