It’s September 1951 and “teen-agers” all over America are flocking to downtown cinemas to watch the newest B-movie sensation, The Day the Earth Stood Still. The suspense gradually racks up until, seven minutes into the film, an eerie sound heralds the entrance of a terrifying apparition…
While Gort the robot and his tank-melting vision may look naff to jaded 2017 eyes, Bernard Herrmann’s theremin soundtrack remains as unnerving as ever. But how can you recreate the haunting sound at home without paying a penny?
How to play the theremin online: Browser
The best online theremin by far comes courtesy of Luke Phillips. The tool is incredibly simple to use: click on the yellow area of the screen and drag the cursor around to generate a sound. You can then fiddle with the delay, feedback and scuzz sliders, as well as change the waveform shape, to get the weird tone you desire. You’ll be playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow in no time.
If you’re more than a part-time thereminist, it’s also worth downloading the app (available on Android and iOS) for a couple of quid. This not only allows you to play with multiple fingers, but also record and replay your creations to bemused family or friends. However, to be very honest, my compositions all sound like a riot on the Clangers’ planet…
How to play the theremin online: App
I had more success with the excellent Leon app for Android and even created something resembling a tune. Again, moving your fingers gently across the screen will emulate the theremin sound, but Leon is a lot more intuitive than the previous app offering. More importantly, it also sounds better, with a range of frequency and wavelength sliders helping you generate that genuine 1950s vibe.
Read next: How do I create an iPhone ringtone?
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