What Was That Instrument The Beach Boys Played During “Good Vibrations” at the 2012 Grammy Awards?

What Was That Instrument The Beach Boys Played on During “Good Vibrations” at the 2012 Grammy’s? It’s called an Electro-Theremin – also known as a Tannerin. Wikipedia has a nice summary:

… developed by trombonist Paul Tanner and amateur inventor Bob Whitsell in the late 1950s to produce a sound to mimic that of the theremin. The instrument features a tone and portamento similar to that of the theremin (or thereminvox), but with a different control mechanism. It consisted of a sine wave generator with a knob that controlled the pitch, placed inside a wooden box. The pitch knob was attached to a slider on the outside of the box with some string. The player would move the slider, thus turning the knob to the desired frequency, with the help of markings drawn on the box.

Differences Between Theremin and Electro-Theremin


In a nutshell, Theremin’s determine pitch based on proximity of your hand to a pitch antenna.  Because the Electro-Theremin uses this slider system which has visual reference points along the slider, it’s much easier to consistently hit the note your going for – while still sounding theremin-like.


Here are two good articles I found that dig even deeper into the differences.

First is this page by Tom Polk.


Next is this page by Theremin World.


Brian Wilson on Theremin and Tannerin

Tom Polk has two page you might be interested in:

Here is a recent interview with Brian Wilson on Theremin.

Anyone Still Making These?


After a quick search I found a Synthtopia Post on http://www.therevox.com/ custom music instruments. Swing by their site to watch a video.

Want to Hear Some Theremin-Like Music?

More Links Related to Electro-Theremin


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Official Web Site: www.MarkMosherMusic.com
Listen/Download Albums: www.MarkMosherMusic.com/music.html


Mark Mosher • Audio/Visual Synthesist | Boulder, CO View All →

Artist site: http://www.markmoshermusic.com
Host of Sonic Encounters Podcast: http://markmoshermusic.com/podcast/.
Boulder Synthesizer Meetup founder and host: http://www.bouldersynth.com

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thanks James. To be honest, I always thought they used theremin. Not sure how the hell I missed it, but I had never heard of Tannerin before. So when I saw that on stage I was like – I’ve got to post out on this :^)
    Brian Wilson clearly got some issues, but still a genius. When he was about to start singing the verse during the Grammy’s I was a bit prepared for – well not great. When he started singing he blew me away. The hair on the back of my neck actually stood up. In general the Beach Boys dusted Levine and Foster the People.
    Speaking of the Grammy’s, I thought Bruno Mars was best performance. Talk about a well rehearsed band.


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