An addendum

July 9th, 2012

As an addendum to my previous article, here’s a guide to hunting for that perfect tremolo.

First, forget everything you’ve been told or taught about the tremolo. Forget all the theories and finger exercises. This is important. You must start with a blank slate.

Next, go to youtube and find the most perfect tremolo you can find there. (Here’s a hint, someone with the last name of Williams or Romero might be a good place to start.)

Listen to that tremolo, absorb it into your subconscious, know it so well you can hear it in your sleep.

Now, take up your guitar and try to recreate that tremolo in your fingers.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t sound quite like it yet. You’re just starting on your hunt, and you can’t expect to find your prey immediately.

Keep on doing it.

First thing in the morning, pick up your guitar and play the tremolo. Last thing at night, pick up that guitar and play the tremolo, and in between, whenever you get the chance, pick up the guitar and play the tremolo.

And keep on listening to that model on youtube.

And keep on playing.

The important thing is to have no preconceptions on how it’s supposed to be done. Rely totally on the sound model in your head, the one you’ve absorbed from youtube.

And be flexible. Be creative in your approach, dismiss nothing, everything is worth trying, give it some time to work, and if it doesn’t work, try another approach.

And all the time, keep the sound of that perfect tremolo in your mind, and let it guide you.

Every morning, before you start to practice, tell yourself this could be the day you get it. And don’t be discouraged if at the end of the day, it hasn’t happened yet.

Remember, nature doesn’t give up its abundance easily.

But somewhere out there, is that great tremolo of yours, waiting for you. And if you keep on doing it, playing the tremolo every day, trying to recreate that sound model in your fingers, you will find it one day.

It may take a year, it may take two, but if you keep on trying, you will get it.

That’s a guarantee.

Why am I so sure?

Because I have seen the process work many times.

Here’s how I think it works.

The tremolo is dependent on a combination of factors coming together.

The only way to arrive at this combination is through experiencing, through practice.

The strategy here is to have a sound model in your head and then rely on your body intelligence to show you how to produce that sound model in your fingers.

The critical factor here is to keep a totally open mind and have no preconceptions.

Only by opening your mind up to all the different possibilites in techniques, in positions, in approaches will you be able to find that magic combination that will produce that great tremolo for you.

The bottom line, of course, is practice—experiencing the sensation of fingers against strings, the tautness in the strings, learning how to play your fingertips against them, and generally becoming so familiar with the sensations, eventually you master every one of their nuances.

4 Responses to “An addendum”

  1. Peter Dutton Says:

    This is so true! My first experience with tremolo was hearing my friend play it. I was a new guitarist and had no training whatsoever, I picked up the guitar after he left and tried to imitate. Using the picture in my mind I did a pretty good job but after looking up the actual technique my tremolo turned into awkward mess. Later much later I decided to try again, I am by no means an expert but it always flows better when I hear it in my head first.

  2. Philip Hii Says:

    Hi Peter, thanks for dropping by. Yes, it always flows better when you hear it first. If you go on a journey, you must have a good idea where you want to go first, only then would you be able to find your way there. Same thing here, have a clear mental picture of what you want your tremolo to sound like first, and then let that picture guide you there.

  3. MdM Says:

    A friend, William Jennings, once told me to listen to the sound of a playing card stuck in a bicycle wheel (Philip, this is on old trick kids used to do on their bikes). The sound, you can imagine, is a regular, extremely rapid click. The idea is to get that sound image in your head so it can influence your playing.

  4. Philip Hii Says:

    I’ve used the same example. Spin a bicycle wheel and hold a stick against it and the sound you hear, a rapid flow of even clicks, is what you should get in a tremolo. Interestingly enough, I’ve also found verbalizing a quick ‘deet deet deet deet deet deet ..’ with your tongue also works. One of my students had a breakthrough when I suggested he verbalized the clicking effect.

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