The Five Best Songs to Use a Theremin

Most songs, especially those in the rock genre, usually consist of drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. Although these four instruments have created some of the best songs of all time, artists can achieve unique sonic credibility by adding something a little different.

A particularly fascinating instrument to incorporate into a mix is ​​the theremin, as it can provide an eerie element to a seemingly ordinary track and works without any physical contact from its performer. It was invented by Leon Theremin, who patented it in 1928.

The theremin detects the relationship of the performer’s hands to two metal antennae – one to determine the frequency of the note and the other to determine its volume. This relationship produces an electronic signal, which is then sent to a loudspeaker via amplification.

Scary sound is created using a theremin and has been used in many sci-fi features including first man and The day the earth stood still. Many artists and bands have also used it in their hits, so let’s review five of the best uses of the theremin on record.

The Five Best Songs to Use a Theremin

‘Velouria’ – Pixies

Black Francis had been interested in science fiction, particularly space travel, aliens, and flying saucers. His interest is evident in the use of the sci-fi-sounding theremin in ‘Velouria’.

This is the third track from the Pixies’ third studio album. Bossanova. Francis said of the song, “It’s based on folklore; the Rosicrucians of the 1920s in San Jose, California had some pretty interesting ideas.”

‘Whole Lotta Love’ – Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page decided to use the instrument during the “panic” section of their signature track after hearing the band Spirit use one. The theremin can be heard to great effect in Zeppelin’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

‘Whole Lotta Love’ opens Led Zeppelin IIand many lyrics were adapted from Willie Dixon’s song “You Need Love”, although he was uncredited until a lawsuit was settled in 1985.

‘Incense’ – Erykah Badu

Kirsten Agresta played the theremin on Badu’s 2010 album New Amerykah, Part Two: The Return of the Ankh. Agresta’s A&R rep said, “She was going to play harp on the song, but she changed her mind at the last minute.”

Badu has collaborated with several top internet hip hop producers including J Dilla, Questlove and Madlib. The album was praised for its analog sound and loose structure.

‘Good Vibes’ – The Beach Boys

Paul Tanner built a theremin-like instrument in the 1960s called “The Box” that Brian Wilson would use to the classic Beach Boys tune. Unfortunately, “The Box” was destroyed in an earthquake in 1971.

“Good Vibrations” helped subvert expectations of pop music, which had become somewhat stereotypical in the 1960s. Brian Wilson wrote the song about cosmic vibrations and extrasensory perceptions.

‘BU2B’ – Rush

Clockwork Angels Producer Nick Raskulinecz said, “We took the theremin, plugged it into an amp, put a delay and a phaser in it, and did a solo. I think [Geddy Lee] could have played one in the 70s. His performance is cool. He did it once, and it worked really well.”

“BU2B” came as the B-side to the lead single from Rush’s 2010 album, “Caravan”. The title means “raised to believe”. Alex Lifeson said of his guitar solo in the song, “At first we experimented with something more traditional, but it just sounded, I don’t know, ordinary. So we decided to punctuate points in the solo section with a more garish guitar presence. I think it worked”.

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