Video: Carolina Eyck Explains How to Play the Theremin and Performs a Haunting Tune

Carolina Eyck is a German musician who specializes in a unique instrument we don't often see: the theremin.

Invented in 1919 by Russian physicist Léon Theremin, the ethereal electronic instrument has been featured in all kinds of compositions, most famously in film scores like 1945's Spellbound, the first score it was used in. Jimmy Page used a modified theremin on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," while the Beach Boys employed the electro-theremin, an instrument derived from the original that was far easier to play, in "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" and "Good Vibrations." The legendary Bob Moog even kicked off his career with theremins, building and selling them out of his father's basement to pay his way through college and graduate school.

In the video above, Carolina breaks down the components of the instrument—its two antennas, what they do, and how to use them. The tall antenna on her right controls the pitch, so Carolina plays all of her articulations and notes with her right hand, while the flatter antenna on the left controls the volume. But how does she actually make different notes? It all comes down to finger position.

"The way I do it is that, for specific notes, I have specific finger positions which I use so that I can play my notes in tune. And I will sort of measure the air with my hand." Carolina demonstrates with what she calls position one, showing how she can play a single note, stretch out her hand, and hit the octave. "That's how I tune the instrument. So, once I have that, I have one octave in my hand, [and] I can play a scale by just opening my hand and my fingers."

The thereminist's pedals include a Boss RC-50 Loop Station, a Flower Pedals Dandelion Harmonic Tremolo, an Old Blood Noise Endeavors Reflector V3 Chorus, a Boss DC-2W Chorus, and a DigiTech Whammy.

"You can play very classical music—just good notes in tune and beautiful melodies. You can also play with effects and just play around with it. And I like to combine all these options so we can get a broad picture of what the instrument is capable of," she says.

Be sure to watch Carolina Eyck's full video above to learn more about how to play the air on the theremin, and check out the video below to see her perform a spooky composition in celebration of Halloween.

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