December 27, 2012

Moog Factory Tour: Etherwave Theremin

In this part of our Moog Factory Tour series, Jim Debardi explores the history of the theremin and its relation to Moog Music Inc. The theremin is not only the oldest electronic instrument, but it’s also the instrument that laid the groundwork for Bob Moog’s legacy with electronic instruments and synthesizers. Be sure to check out our Moog Factory Tour Introduction and be on the lookout for the remaining parts of this series.

Just like in our last post, we will use this post to give you the latest news from Moog Music Inc. On the heels of the release of the Animoog V2 iPad App comes the incorporation of the Grateful Dead Expansion Pack. This pack takes the sounds from the Grateful Dead’s Feb. 14th 1968 performance at the Carousel Ballroom and turns it into a pack that features 82 presets and 45 timbres for use within the Animoog’s Anisotropic Synthesis Engine. These are more than just samples. They are selections from the Grateful Dead’s performance that have been transformed into new instruments and new voices. The great thing about these new instruments and voices is that they are a starting point for you to expand upon and create your own original sonic presence. The possibilities to get creative and expressive with these sounds are almost endless and can be great for the Moog aficionado on the road. So if you are an avid user of the Animoog app, or a Dead Head looking to explore some classic Dead sounds, then download this expansion to bring that 60s era soundscape to your tablet. Mickey Hart will thank you for it.

The introduction of this expansion is building on the legacy that Bob Moog left behind which was one of close communication and constant collaboration with artists and musicians when crafting sounds and building new instruments. In the videos that follow in our Moog Factory Tour series, Jim will often touch on this subject as it is an important part of Moog and will continue to be their mantra as the company moves into the future. Be sure to head over to for great deals on Moog gear as well as a wide array of professional audio and digital recording equipment.

To check out the other videos in our Moog Factory Tour series then click one of the links below:

Be sure to post your thoughts and questions about the Etherwave Theremin, the Grateful Dead Animoog expansion pack, or anything Moog or pro audio related.



Hey guys this is Kaitlin with We’re here at the Moog Factory and Jim is going to give us a history of the Etherwave Theremin.

So here we have our Etherwave Theremins. The theremin was the worlds first electronic musical instrument. It was invented in the 1920s by a Russian scientist named Leon Theremin and to this day nearly ninety years later its still the only analog, electronic, musical instrument that you play without touching. The way that you perform with this instrument is you can see that there are two metal antennas on either side and you move your hand around both of those antennas and you’re able to control the pitch and volume of the tone that is coming out. Obviously back in the twenties, word of such a unique instrument such as this spread pretty quickly. It was a technology that had never been seen before and eventually the American company RCA contacted Leon Theremin. They wanted a contract with him in the U.S. and mass produce his instrument. At which point the Russian government actually stepped in and sort of pushed him along and sent him over. Their idea was that they would have one of their scientists go to work for a U.S. technology company during the twenties and have access to all of their information and send that back to Russia, which is exactly what he did. The man that invented the Theremin was a spy for the Russian government.

Now for this company the theremin is also a very important instrument because it represents Bob Moog’s doorway into this entire world. Bob built his first theremin when he was fourteen years old, using the instructions from the back of a hobby magazine. When the company was founded some years later, Bob was nineteen years old and the first purpose of Moog was to sell Theremin kits through mail order. People would send Bob money, through the mail, and he would mail them a pack with all of the parts and all of the instructions that they needed to build their own theremin. We actually still to this day offer our theremins as kits if anyone wants to actually sit down and build their own theremin just like Bob did back in the fifties.

Now with the money that Bob was making from the theremin business, he actually helped pay his way through college. Once he graduated, came out the other side of the university system, obviously he moved into other directions, other areas of interest. Developing new instruments, pioneering the synthesizer, but Bob still always kept this affection for the theremin. He just thought it was the most unique, the most amazing, coolest instrument that he had ever seen. So he was constantly refining his design and coming up with new ideas for theremins and always keeping the theremin in the product line at Moog all the way up until he passed in 2005. The theremin we build today is the last theremin that Bob Moog designed and it’s really an amazing instrument because in a way its representative of Bob’s entire life as an engineer and as a designer. From the first theremin that he built when he was fourteen, through all of the different changes in viewpoints, different design tweaks that he had made to his evolution as a designer, everything culminates in this final instrument that we sell today.