May 5th, 2012

I’ve been playing the tremolo a lot lately – neglected it these past ten years. (In fact, come to think of it, I have neglected the guitar these past ten years.)

But I’ve been playing the tremolo a lot lately and it’s been an interesting exercise, revisiting it and observing it anew, from different angles.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m struck by how complex it can be if you want to analyze it. So many elements have to be in place before you can produce that seamless stream of notes.

Of course, if you just follow your instincts and play naturally, it can be the simplest thing to do. It’s like any human motion; if you break it down into its component parts, it can be incredibly complex. But if you just allow your body to do it naturally, it can be really simple too.

Back to the tremolo.

At the basic level, to make it work, the basic conditions I wrote about in the AOV have to be absolutely there. If you don’t have those conditions, forget it.

But there’re other factors involved, such as finding that sweet spot in your hand, where everything is working together and optimally — your hand, wrist, fingers all moving in perfect harmony.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I observed are the basic properties that are absolutely essential to the finger movements themselves.

The first is lightness. (This happens to be a key principle in the AOV.) Your movements have to be super light, not a hint of effort or tension anywhere, completely free and unfettered.

The second is efficiency. Your movements have to be super efficient, no waste of energy, focused only on doing what it needs to do. This is the principle of economy, another basic key principle in the AOV.

And the third is momentum, you have to create momentum in your actions and let it drive your actions.

Momentum is not one of the principles of the AOV. I did include it in earlier versions but decided to take it out as it has more to do with movement than a basic fundamental property of virtuosity.

It is however crucial to virtuoso movement

Think of momentum as a row of falling dominoes.

To knock down a row of dominoes, all you need to do it knock down the first one and the rest will automatically fall over.

It’s the same with virtuoso finger movements. To create a stream of effortless notes, just initiate the first one, and let momentum do the rest for you.

This is something I’ve written about extensively already, and is the principle behind the self-propelled engine. But it’s a principle that is never more crucial than in playing the tremolo.

When you harness the power of momentum to play for you, you’ll find you don’t have to do much, your fingers will do the rest for you. All you need to do it is relax them (and I mean relax them!) and get out of their way.

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