Theremin controls electronic gear

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Moog has released a Theremin called the Etherwave Plus that can be used to control electronic gear.

Moog Music, the world’s largest manufacturer of Theremins, today began shipping its latest model…the Etherwave Plus. The Etherwave Plus extends the Theremin’s gestural playing technique to the world of analog synthesis and beyond by allowing the user to control gear with a wave of a hand, controlling synthesizers and effects while playing the Theremin. It’s also a stand-alone CV (Control Voltage) controller.

“The Etherwave Plus is our most versatile Theremin yet. It can be played as a normal Theremin, but it really shines in bringing the Theremin’s gestural control interface to synthesizers, effects processors and beyond. There are applications for DJs, singers, guitarists, keyboardists…even dancers,” said Chris Stack, Moog Music Marketing Manager.

Moog Music’s staff has produced a demonstration video to showcase the Etherwave Plus’ capabilities. To see the Etherwave Plus in action visit Moog’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/moogmusicinc.

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  1. Funny. I keep reading things about Theremins lately. Anyone follow the guy who travels through time on Twitter? He says he’s invented a time machine and communicates with the present through twitter. yesterday he traveled back and saw the cover of an electronics magazine that featured a theremin. anyone see this guy?

    anyways, maybe its a sign i need to buy a theremin :)

  2. Note, that in the guitar+theremin video they are using the Moog guitar, with infinite sustain to get some of those effects (like ‘strumming’ the guitar with the theremin – really they are just opening and closing the filter on the sustained chord).

    As the youtube Moog guy states: “You can run your guitar through some Moogerfoogers, control them with the Etherwave Plus and do some very similar things. The Moog Guitar’s infinite sustain and onboard filter make it particularly convenient.”
    __

    ! FreshKicks: that twitter guy sounds like a laugh.. what’s his twitter name?

  3. Thanks Fresh.

    ..also, you seem to be falling into some sort of synchronic paradox, good luck with that :)

  4. @#6 CV lets you control pre-midi analog and modular equipment. CV to Midi converters are easy to build (Paia has a kit for that as well) if you’d like to do both. The Moog guitar is pretty much a regular guitar with a fancy sustainer in it. Having built both the Paia and Moog Kits I’ve got to say that the moog has a little bit better tone and a slightly larger range, but the Paia is way more versatile and really works well. The Paia also has two CV outs instead of one and a gate out too! The moog is a bit over-priced IMHO.

  5. My Etherwave Signature Edition came with “hot-rodding” instructions that show how you can add CV to the standard theremin. It looks quite easy to do the volume antenna mod, but I mostly run my theremin through my Korg MS-20’s external signal processor if I want to control other gear with it. And, of course, thereminers do it with no hands! (running and hiding now…)

  6. @Arkizzle:

    I’ve seen DIY kits and schematics for CV to MIDI conversion. You could do this with a BasicStamp pretty easily. Come to think of it, and there would be a CV-MIDI converter inside any “toy” instrument that outputs MIDI– you could probably hook your CV to where the pitch bend pot is on any garage-sale keyboard without too much trouble. There may even be software to allow you to put a CV into one of your audio ins, and convert it to any kind of midi.

    That said, a MIDI output would be more useful. I’d be very surprised if you couldn’t find plans or a kit for one somewhere.

  7. MIDI output was done for a while but it didnt really catch on. Mostly due to the extremely low resolution of MIDI controler data (7bit CC’s = yuck)
    The theremin is an extremely sensitive instrument and you loose so much when you reduce the resolution this far.
    This is why CV is more appropriate particularly when using it to control analog gear. (such as the rest of Moog’s entire product line) Instead of a finite value from 0-127 you now have a smooth analog value that can be used to more accurately control pitch, filter settings, or whatever.
    MOTU is also taking the same approach with their new Voltia product that allows you to use and Direct Coupled audio interfce to pass control voltages from reaktor, MaxMSP, or DAW (logic, cubase, protools, etc)

  8. Leon Theremin experimented with a theremin “room” or “cage” in which a ballet dancer would perform precise movements, creating the music. The dancer couldn’t move precisely enough, and he gave up. This was according to a live Theremin docudrama I saw at the London Science Museum.

  9. MIDI is discrete pitches. The beauty of a theremin is that it produces a continuous range of frequencies. Existing solutions leave much to be desired, and frankly miss the point.

  10. If you make a theremin yourself, be prepared to accept non-linearity and other hindrances to playing actual music, instead of just being a spooky noisemaker.

  11. Sometimes you want granularity, and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you want a continuous, analog variable, and sometimes you don’t. Each has its strengths and weaknesses for different projects.

    I’d personally find a MIDI theramin more useful for controlling other things simply because I have more things that can be controlled that way.

    Relaxing is right though—the distinctive sound of a theremin derives from continuous control. A seven-bit theremin would be a contradiction in terms, and you wouldn’t be able to make “teremin music” on it. A teremin-as-controller outputting 7-bit midi data would be a different kind of beast however. You couldn’t make theremin music with it. You’d use it for other types of things. ;)

  12. Great answers!

    The continuous voltage is the exact answer for me. I hadn’t really considered the midi standard restrictive in that sense, but now that it has been pointed out I suddenly see lots of small problems I encountered over the years that are attributable to it (and similar digital limits).

    I don’t see why they don’t incluce both ports though.. seems equally restricted (as midi is to voltage) in usability terms, for your average electronic musician. If you have to buy (or build!) an extra part for the system to work with your gear, there is a trick being missed.

  13. You could connect this to your car, no? You’d get an early version of the controls used in the ships used in “Earth: Final Conflict”.

  14. @Arkizzle

    The trick is that the theremin is already creating a number of different continuously variable voltage levels – all you have to do is wire a jack to the appropriate point, and you’re done. Older gear, or anything that can take CV and gate data, can just use it like that.

    Generating MIDI from the voltages means you need to add an analog-to-digital converter to convert the voltage levels into numbers, and a microcontroller to generate MIDI signals from those digitized voltage numbers, inside the Theremin. Then you send MIDI out to some other gear, which processes it through its own microcontroller, passes digital values to a digital-to-analog converter, and uses the output voltage levels for CV to control analog circuits.

    So, MIDI would mean using an ADC, two microcontrollers, and a DAC, to achieve a lossily what you could have done losslessly with a coax cable.

    At least – that is in the case of the Paia Theremax, which is what I’ve built. Dunno about the Moog, but I assume it would be the same.

  15. Dragon, I think you are missing my point..

    Most people don’t own analogue synths.

    So for most people, for this to be usable, they will either have to buy a convertor, or build one. I can’t imagine the ADC/DAC unit would cost Moog more than a few dollars to stamp out (and apparently they already had a working model).

    I understand the balance of analogue vs midi (and avoiding extra conversion-steps is a good thing), I just think that they could have catered to both the purist and the average electronic musician (by including both CV and MIDI ports), without any real impact on their bottom line.

  16. Y’know, I keep thinking, “I want a gesture-based mode-switching device for my Mac.” F’rinstance, I could wave my left hand, and my mouse would go from “pointer” to “window mover” (courtesy MondoMouse). But no such thing exists.

    Then I see this. A Theremin’s an expression pedal. And what’s an expression pedal but a mode switcher? (That’s why they[1] call it modal music.)

    What’s the quickest, cheapest, simplest way to turn a theremin into a USB HID device?

    [1] Yeah, but prove I’m wrong for all values of “they”.

  17. ..prove I’m wrong for all values of ‘they’.

    This is my new universal get-out. Thanks Jay.

    (Also, if you have an iphone or an ipod touch, you can use a vnc, like jaadu, to use the touchscreen as a controller.)

  18. andrey smirnov over at the theremin centre in moscow has been developing digital theremins-as-controllers for years. i think i’m right in saying they’ll talk to pretty much anything…

    http://asmir.theremin.ru/about.htm

    p.s – muteboy – the instrument you’re thinking of is probably the ‘terpsitone’; ‘ve had a go on it and frankly, the antenna one is more fun.

  19. Arkizzle – fair enough, I don’t really know how prevalent the availability of CV inputs is anymore (I have only one synth, a x0xb0x, which accepts both MIDI and CV/gate).

    If I was building the add-on for voltage -> MIDI, I would guess it would cost me about $15 or $20 in parts. I suspect Moog gets rather better volume discounts than I do.

    One other thing that makes the CV a nice option – at least with the Paia Theremax, you have I think four different voltage outputs, and you can choose which output to connect to which input on the synth.

    If you do the conversion to MIDI in the theremin, you get only one choice for how those voltage levels get tranlated into MIDI signals (I think – I don’t know much about MIDI).

  20. I’m pretty sure you could assign your MIDI out value of the two pole-axies, to anything on your inbound MIDI toom, though.

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