Originally invented in the 1920s, the Theremin is the weird instrument has been responsible for spooky science fiction soundtracks for a half-century. Its woozy sound is unmistakeable, but it is also notoriously difficult to play. Bob Moog started selling theremins in the 1950’s, and today, his company announced a new version, the Theremini, which uses pitch control to make it impossible to play a wrong note.
The Theremin is difficult to play because rather than touch it, you wave your arms in front of the thing interrupting the electromagnetic field that’s emanating from a pair of antennae; your proximity to each determines the sound. In the customary arrangement, the vertical antenna on the right controls pitch and the looped horizontal antenna on the left controls volume. Nailing pitch is really difficult. People who really know what they’re doing move their hands with the precision of a concert violinist. The rest of us wave our arms in the air like a bunch of fools.
The $320 Theremini solves this problem with an adjustable pitch control knob, which corrects the sound you’re trying to play from zero to 100 percent. At zero, it doesn’t correct the sound at all, but at 100, the instrument will only play the notes within the scale you’ve selected.
Great for beginners! But it kind of takes the fun out of an instrument that gets its charm from the imperfections of the output.