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Composing with the Theremini

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Composing with the Theremini

Postby rkram53 » Sun Oct 26, 2014 2:02 pm

To all Theremini enthusiasts like myself, I'd like to start a thread talking about tools, tips, techniques and anything else you may want to discuss regarding composing with the Theremini. So far I have not done much as I'm still getting used to playing the instrument, but with the new Theremini editor/librarian that just came out, a whole new world of sonic possibilities has just opened up to us.

So here's my Theremini call to arms - let's get busy writing some music for this great new instrument. And even though this is a Moog forum, I think we can also discuss non-Moog interfaces and tools that may also be applied to composition with the Theremini. Though I'm going to start with using my Moogerfoogers with the Theremini to see what kind of things I can do.

I just don't see that there is any better place for an open and positive discussion of this topic than here.

Rich
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby rkram53 » Mon Oct 27, 2014 8:04 am

Got the urge to write a more experimental ambient piece (haven't written this kind of thing in years) using the Theremini and PSP Audioware's now almost iconic N2O effect plugin. I started by creating a sawtooth-like theremin sound in the editor and then played three tracks with limited pitch content into Cubase each using the N2O plugin (using the default Lighthouse, Laryngitis and Abyss patches. Added some tube saturation and reverb. Used mostly just the wet output from N2O.

https://soundcloud.com/rk53-1/nitrous-voices-for-theremini-and-n2o

Before this I only used the Theremini pitch display to get a starting note ( playing very tonal pieces), but I notice now when playing the more experimental material that pitch display is indispensable if I map a pitch content out before I play and want to layer in pitches on top of a complex setting. I can also see now it will also come in very useful if I want to create more serial pitch content.
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby rickreid » Sun Nov 30, 2014 8:59 am

I have found that the pitch correction and the note display make for an effective way to play individual notes in a chord. I use an EHX Chill Switch to mute the signal while I find the note, then quickly unmute the signal for a staccator effect. You can hear it on this recording: https://soundcloud.com/rickreid/time-shadows

I also use the Chill Switch to mute the signal while I change patches. Here's an example: https://soundcloud.com/rickreid/rosettas-tune
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby Satri » Sun Nov 30, 2014 11:19 am

rkram53 wrote:To all Theremini enthusiasts like myself, I'd like to start a thread talking about tools, tips, techniques and anything else you may want to discuss regarding composing with the Theremini.


Count me interested. I just got my Theremini two weeks ago and I'm enthusiastic (but only stopped myself to play twice yet, but I know I'll be spending more time exploring with it). I think we'd benefit from a common webplace to discuss & document playing with the Theremini. I'm totally new to theremins - could thereminworld.com act as the place for this? (I honestly don't know much about that website) It's not that I want us to divert away from the Moog forums, but I think we'd need more than a forum. For instance, I'd really like a location for sharing user-modified Theremini presets.

I'm slowly trying to build such a community-driven website, but for Animoog (see sig), I already have little spare time, so I don't want to lead a Theremini community-driven website, but if anyone wants to begin/maintain one, I'll be glad to contribute. Cheers -- Alex
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby rkram53 » Sun Nov 30, 2014 12:03 pm

Thereminworld.com is not the place to go to discuss the Theremini. They don't understand it's potential, not being a "traditional theremin" - which is all they are interested in. But you can learn a lot about the theremin there.

If you are just starting here's some tips for the Theremini if you are interested in playing melodies with it:
1. Dial back the range to C2..C5. I've found this gives you are pretty good and consistent spacing between notes (linearity) for most of the range.
2. Dial the pitch correction to about 10 O'clock. This will add some correction, but not too much so that you get over quantized - which at the beginning may actually make it harder for you as you want some fudge factor (portamento) between notes to try and make easy corrections.
3. Make sure you set to Chromatic scale, I set root to C , but that can be whatever you like.
4. Start with the Classic Theremini setting - and play around with it in the editor if you like.
5. Add in some delay to your liking. The default Theremin setting does not have enough.
6. Put on some slow music and try and play along with it. Don't worry too much about the left hand to start. Just try and match pitches.


This is all I did for about two weeks. But it really helped me get my ear in tune with the theremin.

And having a place to share Theremini presets is a good idea. I wonder if this site can be set up for that (if Moog is reading this?). This is the ideal place of course. But I agree a separate site devoted to Theremini would be great.
Last edited by rkram53 on Sun Nov 30, 2014 12:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby rkram53 » Sun Nov 30, 2014 12:07 pm

Rick,
Rosetta's Tune is great. Is that all Theremini?
What other techniques did you use to do this? How did you get that wonderful "crackling sound"?

Rich
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby Satri » Sun Nov 30, 2014 12:47 pm

rkram53 wrote:And having a place to share Theremini presets is a good idea. I wonder if this site can be set up for that (if Moog is reading this?). This is the ideal place of course. But I agree a separate site devoted to Theremini would be great.


For sharing Theremini presets, I can easily to that, shouldn't require much time and I actually want to try other people's Theremini presets! If you have any, please send them to me, I'll make them available to everyone's benefit.

Thanks rkram53 for the tips, I just republished them on a new page: http://animoog.org/theremini/ :-)

Cheers -- Alex
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby rickreid » Sun Nov 30, 2014 2:13 pm

rkram53 wrote:Rick,
Rosetta's Tune is great. Is that all Theremini?
What other techniques did you use to do this? How did you get that wonderful "crackling sound"?

Rich


Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

Every instrument sound came from the Theremini. That crackling sound is a new patch called BTWEENWORLDS. It is one of 35 new patches pre-loaded in the iPad editor / librarian app. I also used CLANGY and SPACE RADIO! from the new presets and my tweaked version of CLASSIC THRMN from the original factory patches. I think I used a couple more of the new presets toward the end, but I don't remember which ones they were. I also used three effects pedals: the EHX Chill Switch, a Boss DD-20 delay pedal, and a Berhinger RV600 stereo reverb pedal.

Everything was performed live and recorded with a portable digital recorder connected to the output of the reverb pedal. The long delay produced by the DD-20 allowed me to play a particular patch for awhile, then have it repeat and decay as I played a new patch over the top. The older sounds are constantly fading away as the news sounds come in. It is an effective tool for simulating the Brian Eno / Robert Fripp "Frippertronics" analog tape delay effect. I have looper pedals, but I like the DD-20 better, because I don't have to think about starting and stopping the device as I add new layers of sound.

I just used the EHX Chill Switch to mute the output of the Theremini while I dialed up new patches. With a traditional theremin you can drape your instrument cord over the volume antenna to mute the sound. This does not necessarily work with the Theremini, because you can edit the volume antenna to control more than one parameter of the patch at a time, or even to control the volume backwards from the traditional configuration.

My original recording was a bit longer than what I've posted. I used audio editing software on my computer to fade in and out at the points that I thought were most appropriate for a beginning and ending. I also used my computer to apply a little dynamic compression and to expand the stereo field a bit.
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby rkram53 » Sun Nov 30, 2014 9:09 pm

Thanks for sharing your process. Very interesting how you did that.
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby synthguy » Tue Dec 02, 2014 5:20 pm

Sounds really nice, Rick!
I like that low frequency filtered crackling sound as well.
If you have any sort of midi controllers like the free Yamaha faders IPad app, you can send CC 7 to allow you to fade the Theremini in and out. CC103 just affects the Animoog oscillator, leaving any trailing delays.

That free Yamaha app can be REALLY useful.
You can assign (and completely adjust and scale) up to three different CCs to each of the 8 faders, and the X/Y pad borders can be patched to any fader combo. Turn the gravity for the center dot off, and when you launch the dot it bounces continuously around the perimeters, automating the patched faders, slow or fast, your choice.
Look at the CC list in the back of the Theremini manual...ANY of those things listed can be animated! Your carefully designed setup can be named, saved as a preset, and recalled later.
Wonderful and unexpected stuff can happen.
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby Satri » Thu Dec 04, 2014 10:22 pm

Hi rickreid,

Indeed, your Theremini tracks on SoundCloud are very interesting! Have you thought of toggling the setting to make them downloadable directly from SoundCloud? Is there an other way that I can get a copy of your Theremini tracks (to put on my iPod and be able to listen to them offline)? Were you planning an album or such?

Thanks! -- Alex
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby rkram53 » Sun Dec 07, 2014 12:54 am

Well, did a little improv using my new Pittsburgh Modular Foundation 3.1 synth and the Theremini. A bit of experimenting here starting with a sequenced patch on the modular. Then I actually both mixed in a Theremini patch and also ran the Theremini CV out to a Doepfer CV to MIDI converter and then fed the MIDI output of that back into the MIDI3 input card on the Foundation. The CV to MIDI card needs to be gated however so I gated that with a Foundataion clocked output. Also had a bit of clock division control and the main sequence was run by Pittsburgh Modular's 8 note sequencer. Then I ran everything through a PSP N2O effect on the DAW for a bit more motion to the sound. Before the obvious Theremini solo comes in you can hear a bit of [pitch variation in the sequence - that's the Theremini CV pitch output (semi-quantized) with volume antenna muted.

https://soundcloud.com/rk53-1/theremini ... zer-improv

Not a masterpiece, but an interesting experiment.
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby synthguy » Tue Dec 09, 2014 12:32 pm

Congrats on the new modular...that looks like a great musical tool in a really portable enclosure. Very interesting sounds as well. Thanks for sharing!

Have you tried patching the pitch CV directly to the oscillators? Currently with the pitch scaling turned on, the low note and high note settings scale the tracking. I found that setting them for the lowest note and around C#8 (?) got close, buy not quite in proper scale. Setting the scale to the 5ths setting makes it easier set the coarse tracking...fewer notes to deal with.

You can play with these settings to get something you like, and use one of your attenuators to fine tune the tracking. The oscillators may be several octaves apart. I built a simple ranger-scaler circuit from a dual opamp to help with this, and I'll bet your modular can duplicate the same sort of functions. I like to sync the oscillators, and use the volume CV to push just one of the oscillators to get that "sync" sound.

Try using the MidiBridge app to patch the theremini Midi in to Theremini Midi out, and set the antenna CCs to control interesting stuff, like the delay settings or the scan position for the scannable waveforms ( currently just Animoog1 and Etherwave).
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby rickreid » Wed Dec 10, 2014 6:08 pm

Satri wrote:Hi rickreid,

Indeed, your Theremini tracks on SoundCloud are very interesting! Have you thought of toggling the setting to make them downloadable directly from SoundCloud? Is there an other way that I can get a copy of your Theremini tracks (to put on my iPod and be able to listen to them offline)? Were you planning an album or such?

Thanks! -- Alex



I'm glad you like my recordings, Alex. Thank you! Around the end of December or first week of January, I plan to have a new album posted to my Bandcamp page. It will definitely include "Time Shadows" and "Rosetta's Tune." I may record a new version of "Act now. Don't Delay!" The album will be a "name your own price" offering, so you can either download it for free or pay me a few dollars to show your appreciation. Watch for it here in a few weeks: http://rickreidtheremin.bandcamp.com/
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Re: Composing with the Theremini

Postby Satri » Wed Dec 10, 2014 6:54 pm

Thanks Rick! I'm now following your bandcamp account and I promise I'll get your latest album with the Theremini explorations once it's available :-)

I also plan to offer my second album on Bandcamp around the same timeframe are yours.. satri.bandcamp.com (nothing there yet)

take care & have fun! -- Alex
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