Dave's Theremin Home Page presents...

The Paul Tanner Electro-Theremin Page

The Electro-Theremin

Here you'll find everything you ever wanted to know about the Electro-Theremin. First, we'll start off with a little picture tour of the history of the instrument.

Here, we see the first proto-type instrument:

As you can easily tell, the instrument played in an arc-like motion. Tanner discusses this in my interview of him. So what is this instrument he is playing? Well, it's a simple a audio oscillator, like this one made by Heathkit:

The problem with playing in an arc was made known to Tanner immediately. Eventually, the "keyboard" was straightened and the working components were housed in a wooden box. Hence the nickname, "Paul's Box" many of his friends gave the instrument. Below, we see Paul playing the final version of the instrument.

The Electro-Theremin is not a traditional theremin. It is not played "in space" with the hands in front of antennas. It is a mechanical controller of an audio generator (oscillator). A hand device controls pitch by moving back and forth along a keyboard diagram, and on that hand device is a switch that controls articulation. The left hand riding the knob of an amp controls volume.

Below is a close up of the keyboard diagram and playing surface of the Electro-Theremin. The knob at the right of the photo is one of two that held the "keyboard" into place. To change keys (transpose), Tanner would move the entire keyboard. The other two knobs: far left, Range Selector (the instrument had three ranges) and to the right of that knob, the main Volume Out potentiometer. Up from that control, obscured by Tanner's hand, was a Pilot Light to indicate Power On.

The amplifier used was the Heathkit EA-2 12 watt amp. Here's a photo of just the EA-2:

Here is a close-up of Paul controlling the volume knob of the EA-2:

For a closer look at the EA-2 images, click HERE.

"So how big was this thing?", you ask. Roughly, the Electro-Theremin measured 24 inches wide, 12 inches deep, and 10 inches tall. The opening in the box where the EA-2 was placed, measured 13 inches by 4 1/2 inches. I've rendered what the complete instrument looked like. You can see this image by clicking HERE

Well, that's about it for now. I'll add more info as I discover it. Please come back. Thanks!

2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 David S. Miller