Mind Blowing Vocal Synthesis With A Theremin

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Sunday Synth Jam: Multi-instrumentalist Peter Pringle‘s theremin performances are always impressive. But Pringle takes things to new heights with this performance of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, from the opera Turandot.

The theremin in this video is the instrument that once belonged to Julius Goldberg, the partner and personal assistant of Russian inventor Leon Theremin. This is a 1929 RCA theremin that was customized by Goldberg in the early 1930’s and provided with “lightning bolt” volume and pitch antennas.

For this performance, Pringle is processing the theremin with an Electro-Harmonix Talking Machine, set to create an open ‘ah’ sound. The Talking Machine is a vocal formant filter. The result bears an uncanny resemblance to that sound of a tenor.

via reader Gordon Charlton, who says, “RCA Theremin played by Peter Pringle through an Electro Harmonix Talking Machine = Pavarotti forgot the words.”

Check it out and let us know what you think of Pringle’s performance!


19 thoughts on “Mind Blowing Vocal Synthesis With A Theremin

  1. I play theremin. His “volume” hand doesn’t seem to cut the tone out quickly enough to avoid glissando (smearing of pitch from one note to the next). The audio for this video has very little glissando. I’m skeptical that this is what it appears to be…

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    • Pumping the volume to mask glissando is not recommended practice for classical thereminists. The reason that Pringle is not producing a lot of glissando is that he is moving from one pitch to the next very rapidly and precisely. (This has a side-efefct of momentarily causing an apparent dip in volume as a sudden change in pitch causes the waveform to change (it’s a basic sort of FM Synthesis!) introducing extra harmonics and hence spreading the sound energy over more of the audio spectrum.)

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    • Different amplifier simulations with often clip the lower volume components removing the glissando and similar operations may occur in the formant procession unit. Volume control settings can also be used to yield clipped glissando. Your skepticism is unwarranted.

      Get acquainted with amplifier sims.

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  2. You know, I used to hate youtube. Used to be made up of mainly jackass’s and so on. But now there are tutorial videos, musical performances and so on. And every once in a while, someone like this comes along and blows you away, demonstrating true human talent.

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  3. why doesn’t he just use a filter for his vibrato, he doesn’t change the dynamics once

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    • That s Mr. Pringle’s artistic and signature style.

      In fact, if you do not use vibrato all the time while playing the theremin, some considered it not only bad form, but anathema.

      As for me, I prefer tremolo. That way i can tell if I am on the note or not. With vibrato, who knows?

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  4. This vid is pretty cool, I saw Tomas Zunk making his theremin growl and scream at AVG 2012, it was an utter inspiration. I believe he used some kind of foot pedal, was really something though

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  5. I wonder if this could be emulated with a monosynth, controlling the VCA and VCO pitch with foot pedals..? Immensely inspiring!

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  6. Does anyone know if there is a VST or plug-in that produces the same effect as the Talking Machine hardware? Thanks so much!

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