How to Improve your Tremolo

Happy New Year! If your New Year’s resolution is to improve your tremolo, you are in luck!

The Bolton Guitar Series just posted its workshop on tremolo with David Russell. Before summarizing it for those of you who like to see the main points listed as a reference, I thought I’d repeat what I expressed in the recent post about David Russell’s ornamentation workshop: the generosity in sharing absolutely everything he knows about his journey with guitar in such an enthusiastic and articulate way is extremely inspiring. David Russell is a great teacher, even through zoom!

Here is the video of the tremolo workshop:

David Russell Tremolo Workshop Main Points

  1. Each finger/nail should feel and sound the same.
  2. Tremolo is a good diagnostic technique for other technical issues.
  3. Maintain a regular rhythm.
  4. Bass should be balanced. Gentle bass/medium or strong treble.
  5. Stiffness in the right hand fingers makes noise. Looseness in the right hand equals a less “clickly” sound. Straighter fingers also help with lessening the “clicky” sound of nails.
  6. The a finger introduces a new tremolo/melodic note and requires attention.
  7. Sympathetic motion between a and m can lead to rhythmic irregularities. Lengthen a finger duration to insure full value of note.
  8. Shift metronome beats to each finger when practicing to “think” with each finger and especially a.
  9. What you do musically with tremolo is at least as important as mechanical perfection.
  10. Practice contrasting Slow/fast, dark/bright, soft/loud practice.
  11. Certain pieces require slow tremolo, some require faster tremolo.

Tremolo pieces:

  1. Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Sueño (Francisco Tárrega)
  2. Zafra and Simancas from Castillos de España (Federico Moreno Torroba)
  3. Una limosna por el amor de Diós, Un sueño en la floresta, Contemplación, Canción de la Hilandera (Agustín Barrios Mangoré)
  4. Invocación y danza and Junto al Generalife (Joaquín Rodrigo)
  5. Reverie and Air Varié (Giulio Regondi)
  6. Now and Ever (Bejamin Verdery)
  7. Shenandoah (Robert Beaser)
  8. Capricho Diabolico (Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco)
  9. Variations on Las Folias (Manuel Maria Ponce)
  10. Campanas del Alba (Regino Sainz de la Maza)

Tips from Questions and Answers:

  1. Play with energy and the necessary tension but more than that is wasted energy and effort. Poise and posture to maximize energy.
  2. Practice tremolo with two fingers (pimi, pmim, pama, pmam, etc…)
  3. Do not bounce hand!
  4. Planting a stops the tremolo. Join all the notes for a better tremolo.
  5. Try playing paaa tremolo to assess tone, movement of a.
  6. Finger movement remains mostly within the span of string space (i.e for tremolo on string 2, a, m and i do not extend beyond strings 1 or 3).
  7. Raise your expectations of yourself. Do not accept bad playing!

For more learning resources:

Mastering Tremolo for Classical Guitar