Any guitar related New Year’s resolutions? If one of them was to improve your tremolo technique, then this post is for you.
As we all know, tremolo is tricky. As I mentioned a while ago in the Tremolo, Part 1 post, the elements in place necessary for tremolo to achieve musical expressivity, and come across as fluid and natural, are rhythm precision, consistent intensity from note to note, uniform tone, and speed. Here are several tried and true ways of working on tremolo that always make my fingers feel more confident with tremolo.
Training for Finger Return and Speed
We can work on speed indirectly by changing the right hand pattern. This demands the return of each finger to prepare for its next stroke. Choose a large section of a tremolo piece you are working on and play it with the following fingerings:
- To develop the return of i practice pimi and piai.
- To develop the return of m practice pmim and pmam.
- To develop the return of a practice pama and paia. I would argue that pama is the most beneficial as a usually has a developmental deficiency.
After a masterclass at Antonio Lauro Festival in Venezuela 20+ years ago, phenomenal guitarist David Russell was fielding questions about technique. I think someone asked him how he did tremolo if he broke a nail. With his usual enthusiastic demeanor, he sat down and demonstrated, “If I break a, I play tremolo like this [pimi]. If I break m, I play tremolo like this [piai]. And, if I break i, I’m screwed!”
Training for Improved Rhythm
Another technique to improve pulse, rhythmic consistency, and control from note to note is a bit more difficult to master but well worth exploring. Set your metronome to a slow tempo at first and then practice a section of a piece or the tremolo pattern (pami) on open strings by setting the click to coincide with a.
Then apply the same technique by setting the click to coincide with m.
And, finally, apply the same technique by setting the click to coincide with i.
Here is a masterclass where David Russell demonstrates the technique with his foot instead of the metronome (15:41), and, incidentally, talks about a whole variety of relevant guitar issues – practicing technique, memorizing effectively, etc… You’re in luck if you speak Spanish.
Training for Improved Finger Placement
And, once you’ve practiced the techniques above, try playing expanded bits repeatedly focusing on planting the finger next in line after playing what’s in the brackets.
Play what is in the brackets. Plant a. Rest. Repeat 3x or more.
Proceed to the next group.
Continue with emphasis on the next finger for planting.
Play what is in the brackets. Plant m. Rest. Repeat 3x or more.
Proceed to apply the same to i.
Hope this helps!