The theremin was the first electronic musical instrument ever invented and is one of the few instruments in the world played without touch. It was accidentally created in 1920 by Soviet scientist Leon Theremin as he was working on wartime technology.
How it’s played: The two antennae on either side of the instrument are creating electromagnetic fields, which are then interrupted by the presence of the human body. This is how sound is generated. Then, with precise movements of the hands and fingers, sound can be transformed into pitch and melody. Watch the 6 Minute Theremin Lesson below to learn how to play.
My theremin experience: I came across my first in-person theremin about 4 years ago at Phoenix AZ’s Musical Instrument Museum, in their “hands on” exhibit (note the irony). As I spastically played my first alien-esque notes on the Moog Etherwave Plus, I became enchanted right away by this idea that I could have TWO voices instead of just one. I got my own Etherwave Plus that same year and began the long and tedious process of teaching myself to play.
Today, I connect my theremin to loop stations and effect pedals. I incorporate it into my original music. I do professional demonstrations with it, and I busk out on sidewalks in cities I travel through (to the utter shock of most passers by).