Theremin : An Amazing Musical Instrument
An Odd Instrument
Playing an Instrument without Touching It
Many people have never heard of a very interesting instrument. Called the theremin, you actually play it by holding your hands above it and moving them in certain ways to get certain sounds, without touching the unit itself.
The theremin has a very distinct sound, and it is marvelously adaptable for playing all sorts of things from classical music to rock.
What is a Theremin?
A theremin is an instrument that is sort of like an electronic box with antennas. It is played by the musician moving his or her hands in the air above the instrument and not touching it. It creates an unusual and distinct sound, almost an electronic whine or a singing soprano. It's also been compared to the sound from playing a hand saw as a musical instrument.
The theremin has also been known as an etherphone, thereminvox, and a thereminophone and someone who plays a theremin is known as a thereminist.
First created in the early 1900s in Russia by Leon Theremin, the theremin was part of a plan by the Soviet government who was trying to develop proximity sensors so they could know when people were coming close. Leon patented the theremin in 1928 when he came to the United States.
Leon Theremin Playing His Instrument
Get an Inexpensive Theremin
How Does It Work?
Basically, a theremin is a box with a couple of antennas attached.
It works by sensing your hands near it. Each of the antennas puts out an electromagnetic field that is altered by your hand moving through it. One antenna controls the pitch, the other makes the volume go up and down. Each hand plays a different aspect depending on which antenna the hand is near.
Theremin players need to hold their hands just so and move them very precisely in order to get the right notes. It is a bit harder than people expect.
Theremins in Popular Music
Theremins are great instruments and their sound works well for many different types of music, most commonly classical and rock.
Popular Music Featuring the Theremin
Led Zeppelin - "Whole Lotta Love" and "No Quarter"
The Rolling Stones - albums "Between the Buttons" and "Satanic Majesties Request"
Portishead - "Mysterons"
Hawkwind - many songs
Lothar and the Hand People - many songs
Some people also believe a theremin was used during Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys, but it actually is a different type of instrument with a similar sound.
Get Some Theremin Music
Enjoying Her New Theremin
Theremins Were a Hit in the '30s.
Not long after they were created theremins were fairly popular. Everyone was astonished at the strange electronic instrument and the weird noises it produced. There were concerts and a few dedicated musicians. It wasn't a commercial success, but it was something odd that people needed to see.
An Antique Theremin
Some people make their own theremins. There are many instructions on the Internet about how to do it, and it's not too complicated a process for those with electronic and wiring skills.
The instructions here seem very doable:
Theremins in the Movies and on TV
You may have heard a theremin before now and not even realized it. Theremins have such a unique sound that they have been used for several shows.
Midsomer Murders (theme song)
Big Bang Theory (in episode The Bus Pants Utilization)
The Red House
The Lost Weekend
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Ten Commandments
The Thing (from Another World)
Many people will be questioning why Star Trek is not on this list. Although most people think the theremin is played in the theme song, it actually is a soprano singer making those sounds most of the time, and the other times it's a synthesizer. It just really, really sounds like a theremin and many people use a theremin to replicate the sound.
Get Theremin the Movie
Playing Over the Rainbow on the Theremin
What do you think of theremins?
Playing the Theremin
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© 2013 Alisha Vargas