Tones of New Stringless Cello Generated by Electricity (May, 1932)

Tones of New Stringless Cello Generated by Electricity

AN ELECTRIC cello without strings capable of producing tremendous volume and exquisite tone has been invented by Leon Theremin, who is shown in the photo on the left demonstrating how his new instrument is played.

Tones are varied by running the fingers of the left hand up and down the heavy black line which replaces the strings, while the right hand works the pump to control the volume.

An external oscillator, amplifier and loud speaker are used with this cello and the tones are generated by the oscillating tubes in the instrument. As the fingers are run up and down the black line, under which a coil is concealed, the player varies the capacity of the circuit which alters the frequency, or pitch, of the oscillating tubes.

  1. Al Bear says: January 18, 20093:39 am

    Man Mr. Theremin was really ahead of his time. Thi is damned cool.

  2. Tõnu says: January 18, 200910:44 am

    Probably even more important to history than his musical toys was “The Thing” – first modern eavesdropping device:…

  3. Tõnu says: January 18, 200910:49 am

    Sorry that link looks bad, try pasting this on address bar:…

  4. Richard says: January 18, 200912:51 pm

    I’d dearly love a go at playing one of those… especially an original rather than a modern clone.

    The thing that’s always amazed me with Mr. Theremin was his ability to imagine his instruments – building them would have been challenging enough given the technology of the day, but surely dreaming them up in the first place must have been even harder?

    I bet his shed was a sight to see. 🙂

  5. MrG says: January 18, 20091:35 pm

    I glanced at that and didn’t even notice it was Theremin. Now I have the Beach Boys’ GOOD VIBRATIONS going through my head. Cheers, MrG,…

  6. blueferretdog says: January 18, 20097:01 pm

    A group called “Lothar and the Hand People” put out an album featuring a Theramin which was another instrument he designed,
    it was an device that had an aerial mounted on a horizontal base which varied the tone by where you placed your hand between it and the base. In the right hands it could produce a really nice sound, not in mine , however, I had the chance to try to play one, and only managed to produce a sound similar to that of a cat when you step on its tail.

  7. KRiemer says: January 19, 20092:14 pm

    For all things Theremin (and a few things that are not) see:…

  8. Rick says: January 19, 20092:49 pm

    I owned a Theramin once (the device described by blueferretdog above) and my son now has it. Mine was a modern transistorized version of the original, which was quite large. It took awhile but I actually learned to play it to some extent. Since playing it consisted of moving your hands at varying distances from the two aerials (one for volume the other for pitch) you had to keep your body rock steady because any movement besides your hands would also cause the pitch or volume to change slightly. Once you learned to do that the rest was just a matter of practice. The theramin was a popular instrument to be used in suspense movies of the late forties and early fifties because of its really creepy, unearthly voice-like sound. Among other things, I used mine pretty effectively at Halloween parties. Never had a problem getting invited to one 😉 Anyone interested in hearing what they sounded like should get a copy of a Clara Rockmore CD from your local library or perhaps google her and see what you can find. It’s a sound you’ll never forget once you’ve heard it played properly. She was the first and maybe the only virtuoso on the Theramin, having worked with the inventor himself early on. A very interesting instrument indeed.


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