Seven potentiometers control
the operation of the Altura
theremin. The FUNCTION control
selects which function of the
theremin to manipulate, and the
other six controls are used for
configuration of the selected
function. The three-digit display
always shows the current settings.
Table 1 describes what
functions do what. Needless to
say, there are a large number of
possible control settings that
should satisfy most tweakers.
The possible control settings
are too numerous to list here, but
the online manuals available from
Zeppelin Design Labs covers them
all in detail. Of particular interest to musicians are the
scales this theremin supports.
A scale is defined by the intervals between adjacent
notes as you make your way up an octave from one root
note to the next. Table 2 shows the 12 supported scales.
It’s important to understand that while a traditional
theremin allows infinite frequency variations between
notes, the Altura theremin maps your hand movements
into notes of the selected scale. This means it’s not
possible to play a bad note or at least a note that is
outside of the selected scale.
Zeppelin Design Labs supports
the open hardware and open source
software models. They plan to
publish a design for a case which
can be 3D printed, and they make
their code freely available at
zeppelindesignlabs for perusal
The code was developed in the
Arduino integrated development
environment (IDE), so you can
modify the code to your heart’s
content and upload it to the Altura
theremin via the ISP header on the
printed circuit board. Updates to the
theremin's code from Zeppelin
Design Labs would be applied this
Was this kit fun and easy to
build? You bet. Does this theremin have enough
functionality to keep you entertained for a long while?
You bet. Is the theremin easy to master? I would have to
Playing the Altura theremin in key is much easier than
with a traditional analog theremin, but you still need a
good musical ear and good hand coordination to play a
song without error.
Is the effort necessary to master this device worth the
investment in time? I definitely think so. I already have
some ideas on how I will incorporate the Altura theremin
into my next round of recordings. NV
Table 2. The Altura theremin scales (2s represent whole steps between notes and 1s
represent half steps).
March 2018 45