Graham Morrison - 3:52pm on Monday January 5th 2009
I wasn't quite as productive as Mike over the holiday period. I had great plans for all that spare time, but I don't seem to have done anything with it. My Monome step-sequencer project is still on hold, and I barely touched a computer. However, I did build a theremin! Quite by surprise, and perhaps heading off my hints for a new synthesizer, I was bought a DIY theremin kit for Christmas. The theremin is a device used for creating ethereal electronic music, and the basic design was patented in 1928. Modern units are still built, but they're a little on the expensive side. It's played by waving your hands over two antennas - one for volume and one for pitch, and the result is that 1950s sci-fi sound that's become a cliché. Imagine the sound of a female alien singing in the cellar, heard through a ventilation shaft.
Step 1: Stick everything onto the green thing
My kit came from Australia, and had around 60 components that needed to be soldered onto a small printed circuit board. You then had to squeeze the whole bundle into a plastic box, and attach an aluminium antenna for the volume control and a normal radio aerial for the pitch. It took me a few days to find the time, and several hours of pain when I soldered one component the wrong way around. But I was able to get it up and running without too many problems.
Step 2: Force the badly fitting PCB into the box
After twenty minutes tuning the various coils on the board, I had a working theremin. While it lacks the finesse and refinement of a Moog, and sounds a little harsh, I love it. I've become slightly addicted to banging out popular 1980s hits with my right hand while I sit at my desk. Highly recommended if you're stuck for a birthday present!