Building a Theremincello

building-a-theremin-cello

We totally missed the ball on this project. It should have been run on April Fools’ day and you would have no idea if it were real or a hoax. That’s because the very serious performance given after the break is hard to watch without a least a bit of a chuckle. The instrument shown above is a Theremincello. It’s an instrument in the shape of a cello which functions in a similar way to a Theremin.

The instrument being played in that video clip is the first generation and the one pictured above is its successor. The creator wanted to refine the electronics so that the resulting sound wasn’t so ‘flutey’. The result can be heard on the video embedded in this Theremin World article and we think they’ve accomplished the goal; it sounds much better! In the clip [Thierry Frenkel] demonstrates changing notes on the fingerboard with the left hand. The right hand which would normally bow the strings operates the lever to adjust the volume of the note being played back.

If a single fingerboard isn’t enough for your needs you may consider building this four-track design instead.

[Thanks David]

11 thoughts on “Building a Theremincello

  1. Re: my four track design. I don’t use four physical strings anymore, as there is no way to play open notes. However, with my build, you can shift between the four strings of a cello using rocker switches mounted on the bow.

  2. very interesting, both sound and concept wise, would love to hear more.
    i also love the collection in the background.

  3. Doc Theramin designed quite a few instruments based on his original electronic design. IIRC he had one similar to this, but not as pretty. There was a full body unit too.

  4. I think the scaling on it’s wrong. Like linear when it should be logarithmic for any sane musical instrument. Also should probably have not markings like frets.

    1. Um, that sentence reads like there’s either a word missing or a word added. I assume you meant to say “Should probably have markings like frets.”

      Cellos don’t have frets or markings. You place your fingers by muscle memory and by ear.

  5. I have 2 pix off the web of Leon and two cohorts in a trio before a radio mic, pre war. One is playing the thermincello the other is on “electrokeys” and Leon on what else. The other is a tiny scan of 6 or 7 players of thermincelli with each having his or her own diamond shaped speaker. Note no mono mix-down, in either setup. The location of the speakers is spot on, behind you. A first for audio on stage, they got it right in the beginning. Other than guitar amps, most of stage sound needs monitors and they colour the sound whilst the house sound is unheard by the musician until those column speakers recently.
    Linear vs log controllers are up to personal use. The linear contemporary is the Ondes Martinot. For today, YouTube search for; Radiohead-Jigsaw falling into place. That makes sense placed against the keyboard. I play infinite steel guitar, no frets or marks just pure musical freedom allot like singing. I have tried playing it in a cello position, but it just don’t work for me. It seems to be ergonomic. I play table style, with right hand barring. You can generally adapt to anything.

  6. This is an amazing invention! I always love hacked musical instruments especially when they are so beautifully crafted. It would be interesting to see/hear an ensemble of these performed (or a quartet with different sized instruments and timbres).

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