Lev The Robot Plays Theremin Better Than Most People

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Ranjit Bhatnagar’s Lev is a robot that plays the theremin.

And while he’s far from being a virtuoso, he plays better than a lot of thereminists.

Lev may be the ultimate MacGyver music hack. He was made out of an old floor lamp, some plumbing supplies, a few empty mint tins, and some microprocessors.

Lev is named after Lev Termen or Leon Theremin, a Russian scientist who invented one of the first electronic musical instruments, an instrument which is played without touching, and which bears his name.

via MoonMilk, synthgear


31 thoughts on “Lev The Robot Plays Theremin Better Than Most People

  1. Dang! That's two postings disappeared into the ether. Sorry about the multiple comments but I'm going to repost the second one in bits – it's important to me. (How sad is that?)

    Part 1.

    Aargh! I just typed in a long reply an it seems to have disappeared into the ether. So here I am retyping it in case it has gone forever. Maybe it'll be more coherent the second time around, and I really want to say this. Synthhead, if both appear, please can you remove the previous one. :-)

    "he plays better than a lot of thereminists"

    There are certainly a fair number of ropey theremin videos on youtube.

    On the tonal theremin side a lot of players post before they are ready to perform in public. Some do it for feedback from other thereminists – it's harder to play in tune than a violin, and theremin tutors are a very rare breed. Others quite possibly are "Joe Theremin"s. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi69hDPupGs ) And quite a few undoubtedly don't progress much further than that – perhaps they didn't realise quite the amount of practice required to stay "in tune."

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  2. Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. Aargh! I just typed in a long reply an it seems to have disappeared into the ether. So here I am retyping it in case it has gone forever. Maybe it'll be more coherent the second time around, and I really want to say this. Synthhead, if both appear, please can you remove the previous one. :-)

    "he plays better than a lot of thereminists"

    There are certainly a fair number of ropey theremin videos on youtube.

    On the tonal theremin side a lot of players post before they are ready to perform in public. Some do it for feedback from other thereminists – it's harder to play in tune than a violin, and theremin tutors are a very rare breed. Others quite possibly are "Joe Theremin"s. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi69hDPupGs ) And quite a few undoubtedly don't progress much further than that – perhaps they didn't realise quite the amount of practice required to stay "in tune."

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music, just a theremin, an amp and a few fx pedals. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks, most of which are recorded as if I were performing live. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Aargh! I just typed in a long reply an it seems to have disappeared into the ether. So here I am retyping it in case it has gone forever. Maybe it'll be more coherent the second time around, and I really want to say this. Synthhead, if both appear, please can you remove the previous one. :-)

    "he plays better than a lot of thereminists"

    There are certainly a fair number of ropey theremin videos on youtube.

    On the tonal theremin side a lot of players post before they are ready to perform in public. Some do it for feedback from other thereminists – it's harder to play in tune than a violin, and theremin tutors are a very rare breed. Others quite possibly are "Joe Theremin"s. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi69hDPupGs ) And quite a few undoubtedly don't progress much further than that – perhaps they didn't realise quite the amount of practice required to stay "in tune."

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music, just a theremin, an amp and a few fx pedals. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks, most of which are recorded as if I were performing live. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

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  5. (OK, not completely electronic. It still requires a speaker. I imagine connecting one to a singing tesla coil would be full of technical drawbacks to do with its capacitive fields. But would be so neat if it did work.)

    Also – undeveloped with one p!

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  6. Dang! That's two postings disappeared into the ether. Sorry about the multiple comments but I'm going to repost the second one in bits – it's important to me. (How sad is that?)

    Part 1.

    Aargh! I just typed in a long reply an it seems to have disappeared into the ether. So here I am retyping it in case it has gone forever. Maybe it'll be more coherent the second time around, and I really want to say this. Synthhead, if both appear, please can you remove the previous one. :-)

    "he plays better than a lot of thereminists"

    There are certainly a fair number of ropey theremin videos on youtube.

    On the tonal theremin side a lot of players post before they are ready to perform in public. Some do it for feedback from other thereminists – it's harder to play in tune than a violin, and theremin tutors are a very rare breed. Others quite possibly are "Joe Theremin"s. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi69hDPupGs ) And quite a few undoubtedly don't progress much further than that – perhaps they didn't realise quite the amount of practice required to stay "in tune."

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. Dang! That's two postings disappeared into the ether. Sorry about the multiple comments but I'm going to repost the second one in bits – it's important to me. (How sad is that?)

    Part 1.

    Aargh! I just typed in a long reply an it seems to have disappeared into the ether. So here I am retyping it in case it has gone forever. Maybe it'll be more coherent the second time around, and I really want to say this. Synthhead, if both appear, please can you remove the previous one. :-)

    "he plays better than a lot of thereminists"

    There are certainly a fair number of ropey theremin videos on youtube.

    On the tonal theremin side a lot of players post before they are ready to perform in public. Some do it for feedback from other thereminists – it's harder to play in tune than a violin, and theremin tutors are a very rare breed. Others quite possibly are "Joe Theremin"s. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi69hDPupGs ) And quite a few undoubtedly don't progress much further than that – perhaps they didn't realise quite the amount of practice required to stay "in tune."

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  9. Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  10. Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  11. Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  12. Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Now read the first comment!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  13. Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Now read the first comment!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  14. Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  15. Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  16. Apples and oranges, Phil.

    OK, now you've posted I'm going to try posting part 2 of my long comment again… (yes, I am a little bit obsessive)

    Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Now read the first comment!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  17. Apples and oranges, Phil.

    OK, now you've posted I'm going to try posting part 2 of my long comment again… (yes, I am a little bit obsessive)

    Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Now read the first comment!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  18. Gordon – I've posted quite a few videos of thereminists that are great players. Peter Pringle's latest video comes to mind.

    The problem with most theremin performances is that players don't have good intonation control, so everything sounds flat or sharp all the time. Lev seems to have this problem, too.

    Some people blame this on the theremin's design – but probably some of it's because the theremin doesn't have a long, developed history of performance practice.

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  19. Gordon – I've posted quite a few videos of thereminists that are great players. Peter Pringle's latest video comes to mind.

    The problem with most theremin performances is that players don't have good intonation control, so everything sounds flat or sharp all the time. Lev seems to have this problem, too.

    Some people blame this on the theremin's design – but probably some of it's because the theremin doesn't have a long, developed history of performance practice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  20. Synthhead – no argument here – I think your coverage of theremin videos is excellent. I can't think of more than a couple of bits of theremin excellence that didn't make it onto synthtopia. (Specifically this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfQenM5LaBI and this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTZK9FNgK74 )

    Now I'm going to try and post the second (and final) part of my long posting (Yet again!. For some reason synthtopia's comment system seems to dislike me. :-( )

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  21. Synthhead – no argument here – I think your coverage of theremin videos is excellent. I can't think of more than a couple of bits of theremin excellence that didn't make it onto synthtopia. (Specifically this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfQenM5LaBI and this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTZK9FNgK74 )

    Now I'm going to try and post the second (and final) part of my long posting (Yet again!. For some reason synthtopia's comment system seems to dislike me. :-( )

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  22. Perhaps, Phil, but it doesn't have your charm and quick wit!

    Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Now read the first comment!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  23. Perhaps, Phil, but it doesn't have your charm and quick wit!

    Part 2.

    On the atonal side – broadly speaking considering the theremin as a proto-synthesiser rather than an erzatz-violin – the theremin can sound great without the virtuosic skills required of the classical thereminist. But for some reason that eludes me the theremin – the original totally electronic instrument (not a mechanical knob or key in sight) – remains seriously under-developped as an instrument of electronic music. It's not as if it even requires a lot of heavy-duty tech – just a few simple pedals suffice to transform it from a woo-woo machine into a fairly complete one-man-electronic-band.

    But judge for yourself. I perform (very occasionally) as Beat Frequency with the lightest rig of anyone I've ever seen play electronic music. And I make little youTube vids of my album tracks. http://www.youtube.com/user/GordonCharlton

    (If you're curious as to how to make a theremin sound like that, I wrote a little booklet. http://tinyurl.com/beatfreqbook – this is not a sales pitch, you certainly don't have to buy it – most of the album tracks are on the player and ALL of the text is on the link to scribd.)

    Now read the first comment!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  24. "Perhaps, Phil, but it doesn't have your charm and quick wit!"

    Thanks for that Gordon, but just wait – the next version will be fitted with the new AtmelCharm and PICwit chips.

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  25. "Perhaps, Phil, but it doesn't have your charm and quick wit!"

    Thanks for that Gordon, but just wait – the next version will be fitted with the new AtmelCharm and PICwit chips.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  26. Gordan

    Thanks for pointing out the commenting system problems. We use IntenseDebate and every know and then it seems to freak out and loose a few comments or repeat them. Really annoying.

    Let us know if the problems continue.

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