Making a Theremin with Arduino

When we are defining what is a music instrument, it is touching some key to make sound, or some other actions?
May be the theory or influence by Pierre Schaeffer, we have thousands of experimental music instrument to play with.

“Theremin is one of the earliest fully electronic musical instruments . It was invented by Russian Leon Theremin in 1919, and it is unique in that it was the first musical instrument designed to be played without being touched. It consists of two radio frequency oscillators and two metal loop antennas . The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker .”
“To play the theremin, the theremin player moves his or her hands around the two metal antennae , which control the instrument’s frequency (pitch) and amplitude ( volume ). The theremin is widely associated with “alien”, surreal, and eerie-sounding portamento , glissando , tremolo , and vibrato sounds, due to its use in film soundtracks such as Spellbound , The Lost Weekend , and The Day the Earth Stood Still . The theremin is also used in art music (especially avant-garde and 20th-century “new music”) and in popular music genres such as rock and pop.” – by Wikipedia (

Parts for this project:

-Piezo Buzzer
-Resistor, 10K (optional , to make the sound smaller)

In this project, we are making the theremin without connecting the Arduino to the computer. That means it can play the melody/sound/noise by itself.

In order to make this, you are not playing the melody in computer by through Piezo Buzzer.


Piezo “, derived from the Greek piezein , which means to squeeze or press

Piezoelectricity is the ability of crystals and certain ceramic materials to generate a voltage in response to applied mechanical stress .

The piezoelectric effect is reversible in that piezoelectric crystals, when subjected to an externally applied voltage, can change shape by a small amount.The effect finds useful applications such as the production and detection of sound, generation of high voltages, electronic frequency generation, microbalance , and ultra fine focusing of optical assemblies.


Piezo Buzzer

Two wires: red and black. Black is ground and red is power. (usually)


Apply an oscillating voltage to make a noise.

The buzzer case supports the piezo elements and has resonant cavity for sound.

Simple making noise with buzzer:

But you can add a photocell to make a Theremin!!

DIY: Add photocell and make it become a Theremin.

int potPin = 0;   //photocell input
int speakerPin = 7;  //piezo buzzer output
int val = 0;  //photocell input value

void setup() {
 pinMode(speakerPin, OUTPUT); //initiate the pin

void loop() {
 digitalWrite(speakerPin, LOW);
 val = analogRead(potPin);
 val = val*2;      //this is not exact value,
                  //try to DIY this calculation

 // play it for 50 cycles
 for( int i=0; i<500; i++ ) {
   digitalWrite(speakerPin, HIGH);
   digitalWrite(speakPin, HIGH);


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Lily is an open source, browser-based, visual programming environment written in JavaScript. Lily enables users to build programs graphically by connecting functional modules to fetch and direct the flow of data, play sound or video, add animation or interactivity, and display results. Lily programs can be shared with other Lily users, installed as Firefox add-ons or run as standalone apps using XULrunner.



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(c) dajun, the photograph


BioMuseを用いた演奏風景(Atau Tanaka)
(c) Peter Kers, the photograph



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the clash – london calling
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