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Anatomy of an Instrument: The Theremin

Laura  Barnes
Anatomy of an Instrument: The Theremin

Here’s everything you could possibly need to know about the Theremin – an electronic, spooky-sounding instrument that’s been fascinating the music world since 1920.

What is a Theremin?

The Theremin is an early electronic instrument created by Leon Theremin. It is controlled without physical contact. The performer of the instrument is called a thereminist and the device has been used in numerous movie soundtracks, especially horrors and thrillers due to its eerie and spooky qualities.

How is it made?
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A Theremin usually takes the form of a wooden of plastic box. It has two metal antennas protruding from it, which control pitch and volume. Cheaper version have just one antenna, which just controls the pitch.

How do you play it and what does it sound like?

The closer you move your hand to the volume antenna, the quieter the sound is, the closer you move your other hand to the pitch antenna, the higher the pitch becomes.

Here are some of our favourite Theremin videos:

Is there an online community?

There are a few dedicated Theremin websites out there, but Thereminworld.com is probably the most active.

It has a lot of information about learning to play, the latest news, and Theremin events, as well as advice on buying and building your own device. There is lots of content about Theremin mods and software, and there’s also a thriving forum section.

Should I stock them?

The Theremin is quite a specific instrument and a lot of enthusiasts are keen to build their own devices. But if you are looking for some quirky instruments to add to your displays, it might just be the thing for you.

There are various products that fit into different price ranges so they don’t have to be an expensive purchase. And there is always an option to stock parts for those musical inventors out there looking for bits and bobs to help them create their own take on a Theremin.

Who makes them?

Some prominent Theremin manufacturers include:

- Burns
- Harrison Instruments
- Mandarin Electron
- Moog Music
- PAiA
- Theremaniacs
- Theremin Planet
- Wavefront Technologies

Read more Anatomy of an Instrument articles here.

Tags: theremin , Anatomy of an Instrument , the theremin

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