Thetar, let’s make a digital version

The Thetar is a device I’ve been working on, that allows you to transform your electric guitar into a thermin-guitar. The thermin is one of the first electronic instruments, it was invented in 1920 by engineer Léon Theremin. It is played without physical contact, thanks to a couple antennas that act as capacitors and react to the position of the player’s hands. The thetar works similarly : the strings become antennas and the guitarist can control the output pitch by varying the distance between their hand and the strings.

I first made an analog prototype inspired by Bob Moog’s Etherwave. It was functional, but very difficult to calibrate, as you had to find the proper setting with 4 different potentiometers. This could be done by ear or with an oscilloscope, but either way it was a long and unintuitive process. And it had to be done every time the thetar was moved to a different place. Since my goal is to make an accessible, plug&play device, I am now starting over and making a digital version that auto-calibrates.

Below is an old video of the analog version, when it was still in the lab. Sorry for the poor quality of both video and interpretation.

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