The Portable, Digital, Visual Theremin

The theremin is, for some reason, what people think of first when they think of electronic musical instruments. Maybe that’s because it was arguably the first purely electronic musical instrument, or because there’s no mechanical analog to something that makes sound simply by waving your hand over it. This project takes that idea and cranks it up to eleven. It’s a portable synthesizer that’s controlled by IR reflectors. Just wave your hand in front of it, and that’s what pitch is going to sound.

The audio hardware for this synth is, like so many winners in the Musical Instrument Challenge in this year’s Hackaday Prize, based on the Teensy and its incredible Audio library. The code consists of two oscillators and a pink noise generator. Pressing down button one activates the oscillators, and the frequency is determined by the IR sensor. Button two cycles through various waveforms, while the third and fourth buttons shift the octaves up and down. The output is I2S, and from there everything is out to an amplifier and speaker.

Of course, it’s really not a musical instrument unless it looks cool, and that’s where this project is really great. It’s a fully 3D printed enclosure that actually looks good. There’s an 8×8 LED array to display the current waveform, and this is something that could actually be a product instead of a project. It’s a great synth, and we’re happy to have it in the running for the Hackaday Prize.

6 thoughts on “The Portable, Digital, Visual Theremin

    1. And when I tie a necktie, it is a reversed Windsor knot…
      Not quite sure how that came to be, maybe the person who originally tied it for me, did it in reverse because they were facing me…

  1. It’s not just sense is backwards, maybe not as it’s also left handed for pitch. Leon was smart to use the dexter hand for dexterous control of pitch and the sinister for volume control. I would turn it around to enable right hand use and then the range sense would make musical sense.

    The e-bow type of sustaining slide guitar I made takes only one hand to play. Not being a guitar player I started out baring the strings with my right hand with great effect quickly learned. Years ago I spent less than 5 minutes on a “D” pad lefty game controller and just put it down as no fun at all.

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