"Tremolo - a tremulous or vibrating effect produced on certain instruments...as to express emotion..."
It must be said that this technique is probably one of the hardest things to master on guitar. Having said that, there's no reason to avoid doing tremolo as it brings with it great reward when mastered. Who amongst us hasn't at sometime imagined themselves playing to an enraptured audience (even if it is only family!) the beautiful strains of Recuerdos del Alhambra by Tarrega? Our well controlled tremolo punching out the famous melody to the sighs and admiration of everyone.
Well, to reach that lofty peak you've just "gotta do the work" as they say. Really, there's no getting around this technique you must be prepared. Heck! It's worth it! I remember many years ago watching my teacher play Recuerdos in a concert he gave, and being amazed at the control and beautiful sound he conjured up. I felt transported literally to another dimension such was the effect it had on my mind and emotions. I must say, even though I must have heard it a thousand times since I never tire of its magical and majestic beauty.
Here is what the first bar of Tarrega's Recuerdos (perhaps my favourite Tarrega piece) looks like...
Check out this great little video on YouTube of Sharon isbin playing Tarrega's Recuerdos del Alhambra...
O.K. 'Nuff said. Let's get on with the technique itself. Just how do you master such a difficult technique? I've stuck to the tried and true methods over the years, and that seems to have gotten me "over the hump" so to speak. Those methods, as mentioned in the books of Fred Noad and Scott Tennant, are simple, straight forward and basically common sense.
The first thing you need to do is practice SLOWLY at first - I cannot stress this more strongly! Your subconscious mind will basically do and accomplish anything you tell it to do, but you must give it the CORRECT instructions, or you're basically headed for problems. I always tell my students that speed is always the last ingredient to their playing. The actual technique is first learnt, absorbed and mastered before they can move on to playing it in pieces.
With that being said, you must make your thumb and fingers work as one "unit". This will make your technique sound smooth and continuous. You are, in fact, trying to "trick" the ears of your listeners as the guitar is not capable of sustaining notes for a very long period of time like a violin, cello or other bowed instruments.
Another good way to accomplish mastery of this technique is use staccato in your practice routine as it seems to help with the articulation of the notes when you return to free stroke and speed up the tempo. You can also use a metronome to allow you to master this technique in an incremental way.
If you seem to have the technique under control, you can "up the ante" a little. You must remember that if you seem to lose control of your tremolo at the higher speed you must bring it back, down to a slower tempo again. Practiced this way, it will become secure and well articulated, just as it should be.
It's also a good idea to see what others have to say on the subject as technical concepts on guitar are often multi-faceted.
For more instruction on tremolo click here...
Here are a few related pages in which you may be interested...
A Bit About Me...
Welcome to LCG! I'm Trevor Maurice, owner of this site. I hope you find inspiration in these pages to help you with your journey of learning to play the classical guitar. You can read more of my story here...
"Azabagic's playing is virtually flawless, and his technical facility is a joy to see as well as hear". -- Soundboard Magazine