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JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE 

Guys, I'm trying to master the tremolo technique but not having much luck. Apparently, my teacher says, it is something that just "clicks" maybe after a month, maybe after a year or two.
My problem is that I just can't build up enough speed. And when I do speed up, my plucks become unevenly timed, and my fingering starts to deteriorate. I find it easier to do the tremolo using Apoyando (or rest strokes), and can do it slightly faster with this method. I also find the double index pluck un-natural and wonder why it isn't played I-M-A-M instead.
The Graf Martinez book doesn't seem to mention tremolo at all. And whilst the Juan Serrano book has a couple of exercises, and says to use Tirando (or free strokes), it isn't that helpful either.
If anyone has any advice on what I can do to improve and speed up my technique, or exercises which will help, I would be very grateful. Thanks.



James
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2005 21:34:21
 
Ricardo

Posts: 13341
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to JBASHORUN

Ever hear this in solea?

E-0-0-0-0--0-------------------0-- repeat
B------------0------------------0--
G------------1------------------1--
D------------2-3-2-0-2-3-2-0-2---
A----------------------------------
E-----------------------------------

The open E string notes are played really fast like a grace note i,a,m,i, then the thumb spanks the E chord really hard. The notes on the D string are legato (hammer-pull). Anyway, this is a lot like the tremolo feeling. Think of the fingers leading into the thumb stroke, like a very fast grace note flourish. Once you can do it really fast, relax it and space out the notes more evenly, gradually closing the gap between the thumb and index finger strokes:

iamiP....iamiP... iamiP.. iamiP. iamiP iamiPiamiP etc.

Feels like you are "falling" into the heavy bass notes which land on the beat. Try to do a rest stroke w/ P when ever possible (most of the time.)

Ricardo
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2005 22:23:03
 
gerundino63

Posts: 1685
Joined: Jul. 11 2003
From: The Netherlands

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to Ricardo

Hi James!

Count in bigger time span here, it take you a lot of time ( I mean, more than a year )
To get a clean tremolo.

The thing that really help, but is not fun to practice, is to practice tremolo on the b ( second) string.
So you train yourself to make the movement as small as possible.

Also, practice it without a guitar, on the side of the table, the stearingwheel, the remote control, the bar, etc.

Peter

_____________________________

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2005 22:41:17
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to gerundino63

Peter,
I'd personally advise everybody playing tremelo to play as wide and and forceful as they can....the B string can come later!!
One thing I noticed in my studies that nobody plays "even" tremelo..not Paco de Lucia or Paco Peña.
"Even" tremelo sounds totally boring.
Paco Peña's famous "even" tremelos in fact go "1 2 3 4 5, 1 2 3 4 5"

Paco de Lucia's are different, emphasising on the thumb, and are not "even" ...as in this early recording recorded by myself off the TV loudspeaker onto a microphone into a tape recorder.
This is one of the best tremelos I've ever heard....

www.btinternet.com/~flamenco/PdL1969.mp3

Mind you, the young, 21 year old Paco's picado aint too bad either..

(Don't you wish you could play like that! LOL!)

cheers

Ron
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2005 23:18:49
 
gerundino63

Posts: 1685
Joined: Jul. 11 2003
From: The Netherlands

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to Ron.M

Hi Ron!

wonderfull piece! and indeed a splendid tremolo!

Ofcourse, everybody cooks his tortilla different, with clean tremolo, i mend to say, there is an even time between every note of the tremolo.

In my opinion, you have to learn that first, and play with it later, give it accents where you want, and even play with the even time between the notes. Like Gerrardo Nunez does.

You made me think though , it is very good possible, to learn it "big" with wide movement first, and after that, make the movements smaller.

In fact, uncontious, i learned it the same way.

Peter

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 0:00:35
 
gshaviv

Posts: 272
Joined: Mar. 22 2005
From: Israel

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to JBASHORUN

Tremolo is all about anticipating the movement, when you do the last i, your a should already be in position for the next round. Start very slowly and watch your hand, make sure you anticipate the motion.

Practice on the 2nd string, rather then 1st. Even better, practice with all fingers on the same string (including the p). Makes it much easier to detect un-evenness in the rythm.

An old teacher of mine had me practice the tremolo with a quarter between i and m and one between m and a. Place it on the second articulation. This really teaches you to make economical movements.

Lastly, I practice tremolo by playing the Recuordos de la Alhambra using flamenco style tremolo. The problem with most tremolos in flamenco is that they too short. Nothing like playing 4 minutes straight of tremolo.

_____________________________

Guy
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 0:28:01
 
Ricardo

Posts: 13341
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to Ron.M

quote:

Paco Peña's famous "even" tremelos in fact go "1 2 3 4 5, 1 2 3 4 5"


What does that mean Ron? Is there an emphasis on the "M" finger? piaMi? Pena plays a very steady 5 tuplet tremolo to my ear.

quote:

Mind you, the young, 21 year old Paco's picado aint too bad either..

(Don't you wish you could play like that! LOL!)


Off of the TV huh? You wouldn't happen to have that 21 year old PDL footage in VHS format, would you?

Ricardo
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 0:38:17
 
duende

Posts: 3051
Joined: Dec. 15 2003
From: Sweden

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to Ricardo

Paco´s not normal man!!! droooool!!! What a picado. I know what i´ll be working on today
Tremolo/picado/tremolo/picado

_____________________________

This is hard stuff!
Don't give up...
And don't make it a race.
Enjoy the ray of sunshine that comes with every new step in knowledge.

RON
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 5:10:11
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to Ricardo

Yeah Ricardo, thats Piami as normal.
If you slow these "even" tremelos down to half speed, you find that everybody has some kind of asymmetry going on.
I haven't done it for years, but on Paco Peña's early albums anyway, you could hear an accent on the m and a shorter gap between the m and i.
It's the same with rasgueados...slow them down and you'll find they are anything but even.
If you try "synthesizing" a really even rasgueado or tremelo by recording it really slow and even and then speeding it up on playback, it sounds crap...too "sterile".
It's these little uneven bits that give the sound "character" IMO.


quote:

Off of the TV huh? You wouldn't happen to have that 21 year old PDL footage in VHS format, would you?


Ricardo, man....They hadn't invented VHS in 1969! LOL!
...In fact we were still watching B&W TV!

I recorded it on a Philips reel to reel by holding the mic up to the loudspeaker.

That was the first time I'd ever seen or heard PdL....I was totally floored!!
He was really young and spotty like on the Fabulosa Guitarra album cover.
I couldn't believe anybody could play picado that fast!

cheers

Ron
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 10:31:38

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to Ron.M

Thanks for your advice so far everyone. I think I may have to practise quite a bit longer to get this technique mastered. But I will try and practise on a single string and see if it helps. I'll also try playing the Tarrega song, but it is sure to sound strange until I get the tremolo sounding better. Cheers.


James
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 12:00:09
 
Mark2

Posts: 1696
Joined: Jul. 12 2004
From: San Francisco

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to JBASHORUN

The b string idea really works. Another idea is to play all the notes on one string-like the b string :-) And another exercise is to play the bass note on a higher string than the other notes- play the bass note with thumb on the b string and then the tremelo notes on the g string. PdL has really nice trems that move the melody around on different parts of the treble notes-these trems are tough and really make doing normal ones easier. Like the one from paco's tarranta "Fuente y Caudal" Finally, stay with it. I kind of abandoned tremelo when I started playing for dance, and have paid the price for that mistake-I used to have decent tremelo and now it's a struggle.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 16:31:13
 
Mark2

Posts: 1696
Joined: Jul. 12 2004
From: San Francisco

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to JBASHORUN

Thansk for posting that Paco cut Ron-what a cool version! The trem was nice but the picado was insane.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 16:38:22
 
Miguel de Maria

Posts: 3527
Joined: Oct. 20 2003
From: Phoenix, AZ

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to JBASHORUN

James,
if you've only been working on tremolo for a month, I wouldn't worry. It does take time to "click."

Your problem is not speed. If you can type in a telephone number before the phone hangs up, you have enough speed to do a tremolo. Let me share a few thoughts with you.

People think of the action of the fingers in different ways, a) sequentially, as in you play one finger, then you play another finger, and then you play another... or b) sympathetically, that the motions of the fingers are connected. Sympathetic movement is a little less intuitive, but paradoxically, much more common in our daily life. Observe your fingers as you grasp a mug, and you will see that the fingers work in concert. Another, more closely related motion is the act of drumming your fingers on the table, as in impatience. You will see the fingers moving in concert here as well.

The focus of most guitar instruction is on getting your fingers to move independently. However, I feel this can be misguided. the fingers don't want to move independently, and don't need to. In fact, moving them independently introduces tension into the hand.

If you put your thumb on the fourth string, a on the 1st, m on the 2nd, i on the third, and play them all togther, this is a block chord. Used a lot in classical and brazilian music. Now do the same thing, but stagger them very slightly. pami with a tiny delay between the notes. It will be something like a strum. If you can do this, you can make the mental leap to understand that a block chord is pami at infinite speed, and by SLOWING down the other fingers, you can play a pami arpeggio VERY QUICKLY. If you can agree with this assessment, then you will see that extremely fast speeds are available to you.

Of course, this speed, which is based on sympathetic movement, is only usable, paradoxically, by finger independence.

What does this have to do with tremolo? Put the p on the fourth string, the ami on the 1st string, and do the same thing. Play a block chord. Yes, use the ami to pluck the string. Now stagger teh attack, and you will get a very fast ami tremolo on that string. Finger speed is not required, and has no place here. It is control. You have to keep the feeling of playing a block chord, slightly modifying it.

The flamenco tremolo is obtained by adding to this paradigm. It works if you play pi, then ami. It is a compound stroke, thus more complex than the pami classical tremolo. You probably won't have any problems playing pi as fast as you want.

A lot of people will dismiss this technique out of hand, because it goes against everything that is commonly taught to guitarists. It gives results so easily and quickly that it feels like "cheating." You can play the tremolo as fast as you want the first time you do it! Contrast this with the way of teaching you should play one note at a time, very slowly, and build up to speed. This is a kind of "penance" that everyone should go through before they can play what they want, right?

Play using sympathetic motion, and once you have the feeling down, use all the other techniques--slowing down, one finger at a time, stacatto, changing the accents, to refine your control and your touch. But the essential motion is the block chord, which is really the same feeling of grabbing a cup. If you can keep this model of movement in your head when you play, you will play easily and without tension.

I hope you try it! :) It helped me so much.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 17:36:19
 
frhout

 

Posts: 451
Joined: Apr. 28 2005
From: France

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to JBASHORUN

JBASHORUN

You'll need to do it very slowly, tremolo is probably one of the easier techniques in flamenco. It will just come naturally but you must have the patience. A few things to remember, the "ami" fingers must not be too straight, they should be curved on the second joints, almost although not quite at a right angle as against the third joint.

Exercises
1. Just do the tremolos "piami" starting with Em chord with the three bass strings slowly but with some controlled strength on the fingers. Keep doing that.
2. You could then practise "piami, pmami, pamia, pmima" in free strokes.
3. Then, "pimai, pimai ..." in rest strokes.
4. Finally, go back to exercise 2 and do the same in rest strokes.

Of course, that's not all. Once you've done that, you can carry on doing the same with the second and third strings.

You can then try to play the Recuerdos de la Alhambra in the flamenco way. the beginning of this piece is the hardest.

I hope this helps.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 20:29:17
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to Miguel de Maria

I would endorse much of what Mike has said myself.

I feel argegio/tremolo/rasgueado is a sort of "wave motion" and thinking of independant finger movements just complicates matters IMO.
(For example do you think of individual fingers when grabbing a chord with your left hand?)

I'd also like to go one step further though on this "even-ness" thing, though Ricardo probably will not agree! Anyway here's my theory....

Take a recording of any tremolo that you think you'd like to achieve.
Slow it down by one half...(this was easy in the days of 33&1/3 rpm and 16&2/3 rpm for LP's or 7&1/2 ips and 3&3/4 ips and 1 & 7/8 ips on tape, although you had to get used to thinking an octave above...these "slowdowner" things introduce a lot of hash and artefacts..but they are brand-new cool modern technology so they must be good LOL!)

Right...listen to the "rhythm" of the 4 finger strokes.
Yes...they actually do have a rhythm when played at slow speed, which proves they cannot be "even".
Even sounding beats have no rhythm...just timing.
You will find the sound is very different from playing 4 notes with the same finger or with a plectrum.
The tremolo has a distinctive "signature", which is counter-intuitive, since it sounds a bit uneven, but when played at full speed sounds the way you want it to sound.
Aim at reproducing this "flawed" signature and you will reproduce the same tremolo as the original.
It is also easier to do since you are now trying to copy the true human hand and not some pie-in-the-sky idea of what you think of as being "even" in an intellectual way.
Trying to aim at some sort of intangible "even-ness" will only complicate things IMO.

(By the way, like Mark, I too got fed up of the sound of tremolo so lost it, but it was very respectable once, using the above method.)

cheers

Ron
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 20:39:17
 
Ron.M

Posts: 7051
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Scotland

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to Mark2

quote:

the picado was insane


LOL Mark!
I had a feeling that the picado freaks would get a buzz out of that.
I love the way Paco lines up his phrasing before he unleashes that devastating picado.
You can almost feel him slowly "taking aim" like a hunter getting the target in his sights!

cheers

Ron
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 20:48:29

JBASHORUN

Posts: 1839
Joined: Jan. 23 2005
 

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to Ron.M

Thanks everyone... some great advice here!
Miguel, I found your post interesting. Firstly, I figured that grasping a mug and tapping in frustration on a table are unconscious (or subconscious) movements. yet my tremolo movements seem to be very conscious ones. perhaps this is because P-I-A-M-I is quite an uncommon finger movement and requires concentration to begin with.
But I think what you are proposing is that I break the tremolo up into 2 movements: firstly the P-I movement and secondly the A-M-I movement (that way the movements should be more natural and intuitive). Then I should apply a "sympathetic" motion to the movements to make them one continuous movement. Correct me if I have misinterpreted what you said.
Ron seems to agree that the technique is all about continuous movements rather than individual finger movements. But some people are advising me to practise the technique slowly at first. So when these "continuous movements" are slowed down, do they become individual movements, or is it still one continuous movement just performed at a slower pace? I'm guessing that perhaps the "continuous" aspect has to do with plucking the string and preparing the other fingers at the same time.
The tremolo sound I am trying to emulate is my teacher's. I have it on tape, but lack the facility to slow it down. The plucks do sound accented in some way, but it is hard to tell exactly how. I figured (as someone else said) that once I have the basic technique I can alter the accenting accordingly.




James

PS: Now if only my picado was as good as Paco's!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 21:35:34
 
Patrick

Posts: 1189
Joined: Jul. 7 2003
From: Portland, Oregon

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to JBASHORUN

Mike,

I have been meaning to comment about your prior post on this subject. I also saw your post on Eborneo along with the expected comments.

The reason this subject hits home with me, is I picked up on it a year or so ago on my own. I was in the process of improving my arpeggio’s with the typical "ultra slow", "one note at a time" method. For some reason I just held a cord and swept my fingers without thinking at all about each finger movement. As you say, it felt like cheating. How could it possibly be this simple? No toil. No pain. No struggle. I started doing the same thing you described by breaking a double arpeggio into only two movements.

Now, I am at a point that if I play a slow arpeggio you will see each finger move as a free stroke. But, (and the most important part) I only think in terms of two movements (one sweeping down and one up).

This has really brought a new element to my playing. Absolutely effortless, no stress movements. If anyone has read this far, don't be too quick to discount it.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 22:45:14
 
Miguel de Maria

Posts: 3527
Joined: Oct. 20 2003
From: Phoenix, AZ

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to JBASHORUN

Patrick,
right on! It feels like cheating, doesn't it? It takes a leap of consciousness to realize that guitar playing is effortless for the great players. Some of these people seemed to achieve this effortless, facile playing almost from the beginning. When we put two and two together, we realize that the reason it is effortless for them is because they are doing it in a different way from us. (Incidentally, Jamie of Guitar Principles said this same thing, but I don't think he understands sympathetic movement himself...)

To make something harder than it has to be is perverse. Of course, to make it sound right, to play it on a professional level, you are going to have to put in the painstaking, detail-oriented work that you will hear people like David Russell, Manuel Barrueco, RichardM or Todd will mention. But I feel that is the process of refining, not the true essence of the stroke. One thing to mention is that a facile, easy way of playing may be the DEFAULT way these guys play guitar. That is, they may naturally, due to whatever factor, choose the way to play that is the most effective. Well, we could talk about this forever...

John,
I think you have a pretty good perspective of the various "takes" on this technique. I think of the flamenco tremolo as a two part, compound action. It might be good to do this pami first. Then you can do piami, or pimami, or pamiami, or whatever you like. There are no rules in music, as much as people will try to tell you otherwise!

My advice runs counter to much of what you will read, so take it with a grain of salt. It is counterintuitive to boot. But if what the average person thinks is right, then the average person would be a lot better player, wouldn't he?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2005 23:58:21
 
Ricardo

Posts: 13341
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: MASTERING THE TREMOLO TECHNIQUE (in reply to JBASHORUN

I agree w/ the wave motion/sympathetic speed motion of the fingers moving together as a team. But in addition to the movement, one has to get each finger planted on the string good to make a strong clear, round tone. (Listen to Nunez, Sanlucar, Scott Tenant. They dig in, making a good plant w/ each finger). Regardless if you can move fast and w/ the correct speed or rhythm you want, it is good to practice slow too so you can feel your finger planting good on the string. Playing staccato tremolo for just a few minutes, half speed or slower, will get you feelng a good grip on the string before you need to speed it up. Check out Pumping Nylon. Also Nunez has some inspiring tremolos and excercises for it in his DVD.

As far as "even" tremolos, well, yeah alot of them are uneven. In flamenco, often the bass notes change tempo too. I thought Pena's were particularily even 5's compared to most. With both tremolo, and 5 note rasgueo, I often feel the 2nd 8th note pulse, which should be lost in even 5's. The rhythm is often 2 16ths, followed by 3 16th note triplets, per beat. This sounds like a lop sided or uneven rhythm, because it is! But it is a legit "steady" rhythm none the less. (daka digady, daka digady). To me the most important thing, no matter how you stretch the time, is to make the tremolo notes lead into the thumb bass. So if I were doing a very slow trem for dance say, it would sound more like: Tah, taka taka Tah, taka taka Tah (8th, then 4 32nd notes).

Ricardo
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 3 2005 3:52:36
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