Posts categorized "Theremin" Feed

Video of Bob Moog on Theremin September 29, 1991 Stanford University

Via a Bob Moog Foundation tweet – I  just discovered this wonderful video of Bob Moog talking about his history with the Theremin.


Electronic Musician, Boulder CO

What Was That Instrument The Beach Boys Played During "Good Vibrations" at the 2012 Grammy Awards?

What Was That Instrument The Beach Boys Played on During “Good Vibrations” at the 2012 Grammy’s? It’s called an Electro-Theremin – also known as a Tannerin. Wikipedia has a nice summary:

… developed by trombonist Paul Tanner and amateur inventor Bob Whitsell in the late 1950s to produce a sound to mimic that of the theremin. The instrument features a tone and portamento similar to that of the theremin (or thereminvox), but with a different control mechanism. It consisted of a sine wave generator with a knob that controlled the pitch, placed inside a wooden box. The pitch knob was attached to a slider on the outside of the box with some string. The player would move the slider, thus turning the knob to the desired frequency, with the help of markings drawn on the box.

Differences Between Theremin and Electro-Theremin


In a nutshell, Theremin’s determine pitch based on proximity of your hand to a pitch antenna.  Because the Electro-Theremin uses this slider system which has visual reference points along the slider, it’s much easier to consistently hit the note your going for – while still sounding theremin-like.


Here are two good articles I found that dig even deeper into the differences.

First is this page by Tom Polk.


Next is this page by Theremin World.


Brian Wilson on Theremin and Tannerin

Tom Polk has two page you might be interested in:

Here is a recent interview with Brian Wilson on Theremin.

Anyone Still Making These?


After a quick search I found a Synthtopia Post on custom music instruments. Swing by their site to watch a video.

Want to Hear Some Theremin-Like Music?

More Links Related to Electro-Theremin


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
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Music Monday: Armen Ra "Plays The Theremin"


I was first introduced to Armen Ra’s music through the radio show and podcast Spellbound, a brief program of music for theremin where I heard the song “Dle Yaman”. The song is both beautiful and haunting. I immediately bought his album Plays the Theremin which is simply fantastic.

Most of the songs have sparse accompaniment leaving plenty of breathing room for the Theremin virtuoso’s dynamic emotive playing style to shine through in each piece. The exception to this rule “The Call” which is beat driven. In some cases Armen over dubs with additional Theremin parts. For example in the track “Garouna”, at the 0:53 mark, he plays another line an octave up but dancing around timing of the first line which really adds tension to the piece. The entire album is great so I recommend you give it a listen and support Armen’s indie work with a buy.

You can buy the album on iTunes US, iTunes UK/EU, or Purchase Physical CD.

In other Armen Ra music news, he will also be appearing on an episode of CSI which will air around Halloween, and his tracks will be be on NPR’s Nationally syndicated show Hearts of Space (most stations will run it on October 16 – check local listings


Armen has a YouTube channel so I thought I’d include some videos. Here is a video of the song "Crane” which is track 2 on the album.

Here is another video Theremin CHOPIN NOCTURNE ARMEN RA rehearsal. This song is not on the album but I thought I’d include it as it shows off Armen’s Theremin skills which he’s been developing since 2001.




Mark Mosher
Electronic/Experimental Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Synthesist | Composer | Keyboardist | Performer

Synth Geek Blog:
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An Exclusive First Look at Tim Thompson's Kinect-Based Instrument: MultiMultiTouchTouch


Tim Thompson is a software engineer, musician, and installation artist. He was recently mentioned in Roger Linn’s post “Research Project: LinnStrument -- A New Musical Instrument Concept where Roger credits Tim with writing a program that “translates the TouchCo's proprietary USB messages into TUIO messages sent over OSC.”

I met Tim at my recent concert at the Art Institute of California/Sunnyvale and he was kind enough to invite me over to see his latest development project, the MultiMultiTouchTouch. This custom solution offers players any number of arbitrarily-shaped multitouch areas with three-dimensional spatial control. Interaction with this space allows users to control and play virtual synthesizers using nothing but a Microsoft Kinect as the controller.

Ironically, the concept shown in Moog Music’s April Fools video “Introducing the Moog Polyphonic Theremin” is not only a reality, but Tim has one-upped this idea by providing polyphonic spatial control in multiple “frames”, AND more granular control than a Theremin with finger blob detection. In short MultiMultiTouchTouch is like having a polyphonic/multitimbral Theremin that can not only detect hand movements, but finger movements as well - from multiple players!!!

Luckily I brought my video camera along and recorded Tim describing and demoing the technology. I also give the MultiMultiTouchTouch a try at the end of the video. So, without further ado, I present the video “An Exclusive First Look at Tim Thompson's Kinect-Based Instrument: MultiMultiTouchTouch”

Watch embedded video in HD

An Exclusive First Look at Tim Thompson’s Kinect-Based: MultiMultiTouchTouch

In summary, Tim developed with the following components:

The raw output of this controller is OSC messages formatted using the TUIO (multitouch) standard format. Parameters of the software can be controlled with JSON-formatted messages.

If you're near Silicon Valley, you can play with this controller on April 10 at the Stanford DIY Musical Instrument Tailgate Party , or at the Kinect Hackathon at Hacker Dojo. Tim will also be using it in installations at Lightning In a Bottle and Burning Man this year.

Pass It On
I want to reiterate, this is real and NOT a late April Fool’s joke. Incredible work Tim! Congrats. I can’t wait to see where Tim takes this and look forward to the possibility of doing some MultiMultiTouchTouch compositions and performances myself. To help Tim promote his work share this video.



Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist & Synthesist, Boulder, CO

Free Music Friday: "Control Zone" Electronica Track and Video by Mark Mosher Performed on Theremin and AudioCube

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One Man, One Theremin, One AudioCube :^) In this video I perform the original instrumental electronic music song "Control Zone" off of my album I HEAR YOUR SIGNALS which you can download name your price (enter $0 for FREE) on You can of course also buy my songs/albums on iTunes, Amazon MP3, LastFM, ReverbNation, Zune, and as Physical CDs.

Listener/Viewer Notes
This video is in HD and I captured the audio full fidelity right from my sound card so listen with some good headphones or on a good system and select HD for full-screen viewing. The video and audio were captured in one continuous take with no content edits.

Composer Notes
To fit the back-story of my album, I set out to compose a song that sounded a bit alien in origin. To liberate myself from my typical compositional instrument of the keyboard, I decided to compose and perform the textures and melodies using only spatial controllers. I this case I used a Moog Etherwave Theremin, and a Percussa AudioCube. Once I got going with this notion I really got using 6 dimension of spatial control to go “Hendrix” with the Theremin. The title of the song has many meanings, one of which should be obvious to Theremin fans.

Producer Notes 
I'm routing the Theremin analog signal into Ableton Live and then I convert the the signal from pitch-to-MIDI in real-time. This signal is routed to various virtual instruments hosted in Live. I then use a Percussa AudioCube in Sensor mode to add 4 additional dimensions of modulate in real-time. So 6 dimensions of spatial control. I'm changing the signal routing of the Theremin to route MIDI to different virtual instruments on the fly using the Novation Launchpad.

Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Boulder, CO

Free Music Friday: "Dark Signals" Electronica Track and Video by Mark Mosher

Watch Embedded Video (I recommend watching in HD!)


"Dark Signals" is a song from my album I Hear Your Signals. This is an original dark electronica song with driving big beats, bit-crushed high-hats, a dash of ambient texture, and distorted synth leads. It's one of my favorite songs off the album and is becoming a crowd favorite at live shows.

In the spirit of Free Music Friday you can get this song, or the entire album over at name your price (enter $0 for FREE).

The song and video are Copyright 2010 Mark J. Mosher and are under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Listener/Viewer Notes

This video is in HD and I captured the audio full fidelity right from my sound card.  So I recommend you listen with some good headphones or on a good system. You can play full screen, and or stream to your home theater via Tivo, Apple TV.

The video and audio were captured in one continuous take with no content edits so you can here a few artifacts and – dare I say it – teeny mistakes here and there which I left in as it’s part of the “character” of live performance. The only editing is on the video side where I added camera movement, camera mixing and visual effects.

Composer/Producer Notes
The song is original and was composed and produced entirely Ableton Live 8 with virtual instruments and lots of native Live effects. I either played all the notes, hand programmed the notes, or played them live.

The song is peformed in Session view. I have all the scenes laid out so I can control the arrangement on the fly in session view. I’ve mapped a foot controller plugged into my Novation Remote SL MIDI mapped to “Scene Launch” leaving my hands free to play and configure the Tenori-On function on the fly while advancing the arrangement. This also means I’m not locked in and can change the arrangement or extend scenes if I like.

It’s a little hard to see, but when I’m playing keys, I’m riding the modulation wheel to add grit. I’ve also use after touch to add distortion like effects.

The Moog Etherwave Theremin signal is converted from pitch-to-MIDI using a VSTand is driving a textural pad from a virtual synth.

At the 1:42 mark I’m playing lead using Tenori-On matrix controller sending MIDI notes to a virtual synth running in Live. I also use a different “layer” in the Tenori-On to play the nasty metalic pad sound.


The blinking cubes are Percuss AudioCubes. Normally I use these as controllers, but in this song they are light sources which I programed and control using RGB MIDI clips from live.

I created a copy of this set for performance and then froze and flattened tracks with virtual instruments that were either not being played live or were not being modulated live. As a result, I got my set load time down to about 6 seconds and my CPU load down to around 10-20% peaking at around 25% even though I’m playing some VSTs live.


Mark Mosher, Electronic Musician, Boulder, CO

Celebrating Leon Theremin's Birthday with Video, Notes, Links, and a Soundcloud Set


Leon Theremin (born Lev Sergeyevich Terme) was born on this day, August 15th, 1896. To help celebrate I’m going to do a bit of a stream of consciousness post and will offer some links on Leon and his wonderful instrument and some notes on my use of it. Hang in there till the end of the post as I’ve created a Soundcloud set called “Theremin Action” which is a collection of all the songs from REBOOT and I Hear Your Signals that use that Theremin sound or Theremin as a Controller.

Watch Embedded Video


As a youngster, I can vividly remember the first time I saw the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. I was captivated by the sound of the Theremin in the film. In a related note, below is a pic I took of a reproduction of Gort last weekend while visiting Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum in Seattle.

iPhone 2010-08 223

According to, the Theremin in the film was played by Samuel Hoffmann and Paul Shure for a score by Bernard Herrmann. Thereminvox has a re-posted An interview with Samuel Hoffman from Down Beat magazine originally published on 02.09.1951 called “Dr. Hoffman Tells Whys, Wherefores of Theremin” which is a fun read.

I started incorporating the Theremin sound in my original compositions before I actually owned a Theremin. I did so by emulating the sound and performance with synthesizers and playing via keyboard. For example, the song “They Walk Amoung Us” from my album  REBOOT is loaded with Theremin lead lines. In my recent album I Hear Your Signals, I composed the song  “Arrival” which has a Theremin sound as the lead instrument in the second chorus. I created the sound using a patch I programmed from “init” with FAW Circle.

In April I took delivery of a real Theremin – a Moog Etherwave. I did an unboxing review about it here.


While I am learning “classic” Theremin technique, I also began using the Theremin as a spatial controller to control virtual digital synthesizers running out of Ableton Live in combination with Percussa AudioCubes. This combination allows me to control 6 dimensions of sound without touching a knob or dial (volume and pitch from Theremin, 4 dimensions from AudioCubes).


I used the Theremin HEAVILY in the song “Control Zone”. All the pad, lead tracks, and unusual sounding guitar and bell sounds where played in real-time and recorded in one pass with only minimal editing after the fact.

I also used the Theremin as a controller in the song “Dark Signals” to play special effects sounds in various sections of the song.

I’m using a Theremin when I perform live now. It’s just fantastic. I recently played a private event and used the Theremin as a controller and after the show I got a lot of questions about it and some requests to play it. After all these years and advancements in technology, people are still intrigued by an electronic instrument patented in 1928. Clearly, the notion that you can perform music and control sound using spatial movement is still intriguing.

As promised, here is a Soundloud set with all my Theremin related songs. Happy Birthday Leon! And thanks Bob and Moog Music. Theremin Action by MarkMosher

Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Thereminst, Boulder CO