Moog Music Theremini
By Ara Ajizian |
Ahh, the theremin. It still captivates us with its eerie, warbly sound, not to mention the touch-free method by which it’s played (it just looks fun, doesn’t it?). Although some might say the theremin’s time came and went, it left an indelible mark on the late, great Bob Moog. His love for electronic instruments began with the theremin, spawning every incredible innovation and instrument that he gave us during his lifetime. And of course, those innovations continue today at Moog Music, so it’s fitting that they have re-imagined the instrument that started it all and brought us the Theremini, a superbly musical and intuitive instrument that incorporates the classic playability of the theremin with a sound engine based on the Animoog. That, and a host of other modern features, deliver an amazing amount of musical potential in an instrument that’s truly inspirational and fun to play.
One of the things that makes the theremin so intriguing is the fact that you don’t actually touch it in order to play it. Every instrument up until the theremin required physical contact with the player to create sound. Even though there are buttons and switches on the Theremini, it’s controlled just like a theremin: there’s an upright antenna for your right hand that controls pitch as you move your hand up and down and closer and farther away; and a loop antenna for your left that controls volume via proximity. The physical response of the Theremini to your movements is outstanding thanks to the analog heterodyning oscillator it employs to control pitch, just like a standard theremin.
The Theremini provides you with left/right ¼” audio outputs, a USB connection for handling MIDI data and an analog Control Voltage output for interacting with other analog gear. The ability to use the Theremini with other synths and effects makes its sonic potential limitless. But make no mistake, what it can do out of the box is nothing short of amazing. An LCD screen at the front keeps you abreast of everything you need to know as you play, including preset, scale, root note, and a real-time tuner that shows you exactly what note you’re playing. There’s also a headphone jack and onboard monitor speaker, but let’s face it…you want to plug this thing into something LOUD and explore outer space! I know I did.
Sound without limits
Where the Theremini really takes the theremin concept into overdrive is with its Animoog-derived sound engine, which essentially makes it a powerful synth with theremin-like controls. 32 editable presets get you started right away, and you can tweak and save them (along with several other parameters) via Moog’s MIDI editor for the Theremini. With names like “Wondertron,” Glockenspiel,” “Strange Stuff” and “Ethersaw,” it’s a wide array of sounds to get started with. From there, you have the ability to adjust the scale and root note. There are 22 scales you can select, from major and minor blues to chromatic, as well as more eclectic choices like Gypsy, Arabian, Egyptian, Dorian and many others. As if all this wasn’t enough, also onboard the Theremini is a stereo ping-pong delay effect with three settings and a blend knob, making its sounds even more otherworldly if you so desire.
Perhaps one of the Theremini’s best features is its built-in pitch correction. Because playing a theremin takes some getting used to, Moog added this feature to ensure you always hit the right note. You can have zero pitch correction, where the Theremini functions as any theremin would, leaving it up to you to play the correct notes. As you dial the knob up, pitch correction kicks in to your desired level, all the way to only allowing the notes in the selected scale to be played. It’s a very helpful way to learn your way around the instrument and incorporate it with your music right away. As you improve, you can dial back the pitch correction to take advantage of the effects you can create with your hand movements.
The Theremini is yet another in a long line of innovative products from the folks at Moog Music. In revisiting their founder’s first love, they’ve taken the theremin concept into the 21st century by including classic Moog synthesis for an entirely new palette of sounds while retaining the response of the original instrument. Options for controlling other analog equipment and MIDI capability further its versatility, making this a viable option for countless bands and musicians looking to introduce new sounds and ideas into their music. If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air in an instrument that anyone can play, look no further than the Moog Theremini.
Ara Ajizian, Harmony Central's Editorial Director, has been playing bass and guitar as well as singing since he was 18, and soon that love of music combined with a passion for writing; launching what's now a decade-long career immersed in the gear world. He's thrilled to be back on the Harmony Central team after two years as Managing Editor for Musician's Friend covering gear, bands and events and gigging in the Los Angeles area.