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Issues playing Thermini with a live band...

Posted: Mon Feb 01, 2021 6:13 pm
by ZHMusic
Hello All!

I am new to the Mood community with the purchase of a Thermini. I love all of the presets and pitch correction knob that makes playing a breeze. When I practice alone in my apartment with head phones on, everything works great! However after brining it to the band room I am noticing some issues...

The first is that it seems when plugging in the stereo 1/4" outputs in the back it bypasses the volume control and instead makes you adjust the volume by the master output in the settings. Obviously use can adjust the volume with your hand on the instrument, but it would be great if I could use the volume knob on the Termini as a cut off when I am not playing the instrument (I play guitar / sing and there are only certain parts the Thermin is used). Is there anyway to avoid bypassing the volume knob when plugged in?

My second question is with the calibration. I understand the process of setting it up but want to know - does it need to be set up every time you play it? Or just in a new space? The issue I am running into is in my practice space. The band has a lot of gear / stands / metal around and it is difficult to have 4’ on every side of the Instrument at all times. I tried to calibrate it in a different room with space and no metal around it and then bring it in the practice space but even then everything around it seems to be interfering with it. Even if I calibrate it so that the top data points for the volume and pitch are relatively close to the Thermini (2' or so) things still seem to interfere as soon as I leave and return to the calibrated space (basically just playing a constant note as if the calibration was no longer set up). Also - how am I supposed to mount it to a mic stand when the mic stand is made of metal? Wouldn't that effect the calibration? I just ordered a mic stand adapter but thought of this after. I have been using a wooden coffee table up to this point :lol:

I have also tried setting it up in the practice space without having the 4’ which didn’t work either.

My goal is to use it with the band and at practice and live shows so I was wondering if anyone could shed any light on the above issues! I reached out directly to the Moog support email but did not get a response.

Thank you all!

Re: Issues playing Thermini with a live band...

Posted: Mon Jun 07, 2021 2:21 pm
by mfl

I never tried the theremini but hopefully my experience with etherwaves can help a bit.

About the volume, I don't know if there's a parameter that can be set to allow controlling the volume with the knob when using the 1/4 output but if not, I know a theremin player who adds a guitar volume pedal in his signal chain for when he switches to other instruments. I believe that simply placing some object on the volume antenna should be enough to mute it.

About calibration, you should calibrate it from inside the practice room once everyone else is setup. Even if calibrated for only 2', everything around affects it (proportional to the inverse square of the distance, 10 times farther affecting 100 times less). I used to tell everyone I play with that when it's on, everyone is actually playing it (any movements from band members or even the audience do have a slight impact on the pitch) but since I'm the one closest to the antenna, I'm the one who has the most impact and can compensate for almost anything they do (does take practice and minimal collaboration with everyone you share the stage with).

As a (stringed) bass player pretending to be playing bass theremin, my best friends are the drummer and the keyboard player. Their instruments being relatively big and immobile, setting up next to them do very slightly shield myself from others (adding a lot of surrounding capacitance, requiring a very different 'tuning' than if I'm playing at home). And even if the drummer himself do moves a lot, since I expect him to be doing so following the rhythm, compensating for his movements is much easier than it would be for a guitarist randomly walking around (the farther the guitarist is, the less he can mess up with what I'm trying to do).

Everything in the surrounding affect how I have to adjust my theremin. One of the worst experience I had has been construction / digging on the street outside of were I was practising. Every time they moved their big machinery had an absurdly big impact on how I had to adjust my instrument.

As a variation to the old guitarists joke saying: "Every good guitarist spends half his time tuning his instrument and the other half playing out of tune" I would say: "Every good theremin player spends half his time adjusting his instrument and the other half trying to play in tune" (pitch quantization and digital magic probably helps but should still require a lot of adjustment / calibration).

Re: Issues playing Thermini with a live band...

Posted: Wed Jun 09, 2021 2:09 pm
by mfl
I certainly don't want to discourage you (or anyone) from attempting to play theremin in a live band setup but common sense would suggest that it should be almost impossible. Many have done it before us but don't set your expectations too high.

In a classical, everyone else sitting on a chair context, it should be relatively easy to play the same things you play at home but don't expect to be able to play like Clara Rockmore, Lydia Kavina or Carolina Eyck in a crowded bar. However, playing at that level is thankfully not required to entertain a crowd or simply have fun jamming with other musicians in less formal contexts (my personal opinion).