Look, no hands!

I have long been fascinated by the theremin, the first truly electronic instrument, and have used it as an example in my courses on electrodynamics because it uses the idea of mutual inductance and how circuits can be tuned to resonate at given frequencies.

The theremin is played without touching the instrument, the movement of one hand controlling the volume and the other hand controlling the pitch. By moving one’s hands, one changes the mutual inductance of the circuits and thus changes the resonance frequency. It is not an easy instrument to master.

Here is a nice demonstration of it, with Peter Pringle playing Over the Rainbow on a 1929 RCA theremin.


  1. says

    My old Roland MC-505 had a D-beam controller, which was 3-axis infrared controller. One of the things I loved about it was that you could set a sine wave patch to the cut/rezo/pitch options on the D-beam and you basically had a stereo theremin. For added fun you play that out with an Alesis Airfx and use that for pan/tilt. The results of that are face-melting craziness, especially if you start out simulating a plain old theremin and then start adding dimensional wobble.

    There’s some good theremin work on orchestra obsolete’s cover of “blue monday” -- at the end.

  2. flex says


    I might just have a new favorite band.

    Well, they probably won’t beat Bach, Beethoven, and Brubeck, but I’m going to have to go searching for more.

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