There are few instruments more memorable than the theremin. Together with the laser harp, the theremin is one of the only instruments played without physical contact. It's also the first fully electronic instrument still in use today, having been developed around 1920 and preceded only by the telharmonium. Compared to that instrument, which weighed seven tons or more and had to be transported by train, the theremin was far more practical. Interestingly, the theremin's roots go back to the Russian government's research into proximity sensors in the early twentieth century. Its inventor, Léon Theremin, left Russia shortly after inventing the instrument and eventually made his way to the United States to patent it. In the 1950s, when newer, easier-to-play electronic instruments came into the limelight, the theremin entered the unique niche where it remains today. In that decade, an electronics enthusiast named Robert Moog began building theremins, and you'll find instruments here still bearing his name.
The theremin has always been a tinkerer's instrument, and if you're handy with a soldering iron, you can build your own from the ground up with the Moog Etherwave Build-Your-Own Theremin kit. There are also the Etherwave Standard and Etherwave Plus models for those who would prefer to skip the building and get straight to playing. A modern update to the instrument is the Moog Theremini, which includes some more modern electronics. The Theremini is perfect for learning to play the theremin, with a tuner that gives real-time visual feedback to help you ensure you're correctly hitting the notes. You can also take advantage of its pitch-assistive function, which allows the Theremini to 'jump' to the nearest note in the scale so you're always spot-on. This feature can be adjusted and turned down as you improve your skill and accuracy in order to eventually allow more expressive pitch control and vibrato. If you are looking for an instrument that's truly unique, the theremin definitely fits the bill. As en early electronic instrument, it's also like owning a little piece of music history. Whether your build your own kit theremin or choose one that's ready-made, you'll have a challenging and rewarding instrument at your disposal.