Though there is no shortage of ways to practice and develop tremolo, every now and then I’ll bump across another exercise that is worthwhile or ask a colleague to share insight especially if it sounds like they figured it out. So here are two great ways to practice your tremolo when you are feel like you are not progressing.
This first one helps develop both the independence of the right hand fingers and the evenness of the attack. I like to mess around a bit with a simple left hand addition once everything feels comfortable.
This second exercise comes from the wonderful Vietnamese guitarist. Thu Le. It is a great way to sync up both hands once the right hand is warmed up. I’ve placed it on the fifth and second strings to develop accuracy. As you improve, work on minimizing squeaks. You can also use fingers 2 and 4 to mix it up.
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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
- Each finger/nail should feel and sound the same.
- Tremolo is a good diagnostic technique for other technical issues.
- Maintain a regular rhythm.
- Bass should be balanced. Gentle bass/medium or strong treble.
- 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.
- The a finger introduces a new tremolo/melodic note and requires attention.
- Sympathetic motion between a and m can lead to rhythmic irregularities. Lengthen a finger duration to insure full value of note.
- Shift metronome beats to each finger when practicing to “think” with each finger and especially a.
- What you do musically with tremolo is at least as important as mechanical perfection.
- Practice contrasting Slow/fast, dark/bright, soft/loud practice.
- Certain pieces require slow tremolo, some require faster tremolo.
- Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Sueño (Francisco Tárrega)
- Zafra and Simancas from Castillos de España (Federico Moreno Torroba)
- Una limosna por el amor de Diós, Un sueño en la floresta, Contemplación, Canción de la Hilandera (Agustín Barrios Mangoré)
- Invocación y danza and Junto al Generalife (Joaquín Rodrigo)
- Reverie and Air Varié (Giulio Regondi)
- Now and Ever (Bejamin Verdery)
- Shenandoah (Robert Beaser)
- Capricho Diabolico (Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco)
- Variations on Las Folias (Manuel Maria Ponce)
- Campanas del Alba (Regino Sainz de la Maza)
Tips from Questions and Answers:
- Play with energy and the necessary tension but more than that is wasted energy and effort. Poise and posture to maximize energy.
- Practice tremolo with two fingers (pimi, pmim, pama, pmam, etc…)
- Do not bounce hand!
- Planting a stops the tremolo. Join all the notes for a better tremolo.
- Try playing paaa tremolo to assess tone, movement of a.
- 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).
- Raise your expectations of yourself. Do not accept bad playing!
For more learning resources:
Here is a recent home recording I did at the end of a practice day last week. The songs I have been revisiting these last six months all have the theme of conjuring places far away – in both geography and time. The great Spanish guitarist, Francisco Tárrega’s (1852-1909) wonderful tremolo piece, Recuerdos de la Alhambra, is magical in so many ways. It conjures the great fortress overlooking Granada with the illusion of a sung melody and it reminds me of its infinite mosaics, fountains, streams, and trickles of water echoing everywhere throughout.
Spanish virtuoso Rafael Aguirre just shared five useful tips for improving your tremolo technique.
Rafael discusses and demonstrates these five key points:
- Study tremolo as if it were not tremolo.
- Work on retaining consistent tone and color from each note.
- Make your tremolo sing.
- Make sure each finger maintains equal proximity to the strings after plucking.
- Don’t let the thumb stroke displace your hand position.
Check out Rafael’s Six String Journal Interview for more brilliant insight from one of Spain’s finest guitarists.