Learning the tremolo technique

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zinc1024
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Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by zinc1024 » Mon Aug 15, 2011 4:25 pm

Interesting discussion. I've been working to develop a tremolo very hard over this summer. My approach:

- DAILY PRACTICE. The developing skill degrades extremely quickly. I find i must keep it up DAILY or forget it.
- One string practice, starting very slow, then when I get to where one string starts to fail, switch to separation of p string vs. ami string.
- Constant focus on evenness. I do this by playing at 1/2 speed for a bar or two, then full speed for a few bars, then back. This helps me keep me locked into the beat and keeps my ear and mind on "evenness". So at 80 BPM, I first play two notes per beat (darn slow!), then in time switch to four notes per beat, then back. I use this slow-fast back and forth technique across all speeds as I slowly increase speed (by clicking up the metronome by one or two notches).
- Full planting first, then as it's smooth and consistent at the 4 notes per beat, I back off the planting and strive to play without the staccato of planting. So I practice both techniques (full planting and no planting) at all speeds. I don't wait for high speeds to learn how to play "legato" tremolo.
- A general focus on a relaxed right hand. I use the incredible relaxation I've witnessed of Xui-Fei Yang as the model I'm striving for. I use lots of other right hand work for general accuracy and speed while staying extremely relaxed in the right hand (simple arpeggio work and scales). And I should perhaps mention: I warm up with simple i-m-a-m-i arpeggios at slow then faster and faster speeds while STAYING TOTALLY RELAXED, and then do scale practice while also striving to stay relaxed, BEFORE I start my tremolo work. A proper warm up.
- Switching of which finger is the "lead" finger in the pattern. Yes it's the same once playing...but you can't help but have some focus and stress (accent) on the first note that lands on the beat of the metronome (and I ALWAYS practice tremolo with a metronome obviously!), and it's valuable to start with p...then start with a...then m...then i. Ultimately the goal is to be able to accent any of these fingers at any speed.
- So these days I'm practicing between at starting speed of 80BPM playing 2 then 4 notes per beat, up to about 144 BPM at 2 then 4 notes per beat.
- Do the above on multiple strings, in particular work at the very slow speeds on both the 1st and 2nd string, as the 2nd string calls for even more accuracy.
- Vary the string that p is striking (once I've switched from single string work to separating p on it's own string).
- Vary the specific notes/finger of the left hand. In particular I frequently use the same note using the 3rd or 4th string as the high string (E or B), so all four strokes are the same note, which helps me hear lack of evenness.
- Finally, after all the above, work on a piece. I'm using the tremolo section from Sakura.
- One more thing: I ALWAYS have a mirror in front of me, positioned so I can clearly see my right hand. I'm looking to make sure I have nice relaxed wrist arch and generally a straight wrist (vs. bending it "down", flat are bent down are my issues I always fight). Also, I watch to see if my finger motions are nice and compact, one struggle has been "flailing fingers", the motion must be very compact for speed.

That's my approach, hope it helps. I'd say after 3 months or so I "have a basic tremolo", but I'm still working on playing a piece cleanly with it. By the way, I'm 53 (I think?), and in my opinion, this is the kind of complicated brain/finger thing that is probably much easier to program into your body at a younger age. Probably. For us old guys, it's just work, work work to get it programmed in. My instructor has a 16 y.o. student who "got it" in a week. Not so with me! (or most of us I suspect).

-Kevin
Baarslag SP/BR
Jaros Bluzman+
Gibson L4

Robert Phillips

Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by Robert Phillips » Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:31 pm

Richard Christie wrote:Phil, I have to add a rider, or further clarification, to my post in regard to relaxation. I wrote "appears totally driven by relaxation", but it is difficult to determine with absolute certainty as it relies on subjective self reporting. The recovery feels relaxed and I can discern no impulse 'command' to extend the fingers (in contrast to the attack/pluck impulse). However when I practice slowly I use the staccato approach which indeed does require active effort to recover and plant.
Somewhere in the transition from training to performance the active effort sublimates to real or apparent relaxation.
Relaxation seems to be a relative term. Your last 2 words, "apparent relaxation," are spot on. I remember reading something a number of years ago on piano technique. If memory serves, it was by Charles Rosen. My recollection of it is that he stated pretty clearly that a relaxed technique is only possible in a relative way, and that complete relaxation is impossible. Although piano technique is quite different from guitar technique, I believe that the point may apply to our instrument as well.

paulcroft

Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by paulcroft » Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:13 pm

PercyPenguin wrote:
The word "relaxed" which we all use is not quite accurate of course as it's a matter of relative relaxation, not total.

Paul.
Posted six days ago, just for the record.

Paul.

AsturiasFan

Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by AsturiasFan » Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:19 am

Douglas Niedt in his vault now has a lot of detailed video lessons on tremolo. You should be able to compare any theories you have with his. Relaxation starts the return movement but it still must be controlled. I’m sure thinking pure relaxation does it is a subconscious Ouija like phenomena. Even with changes in hand position such as increasing or decreasing the distance of the big knuckles from the fingertips, you will find you always “relax” into the correct neutral position. The always part is proof that the return is being controlled neurologically, even if subconciously.

Niedt says practicing tremolo thirty to sixty minutes daily for six months to a year will produce a proficient tremolo. For tremolo newbies, you should probably look at Niedts videos in depth to avoid going down unproductive paths. Even if you have a teacher you will probably pick up a lot of stuff from Niedt. Niedt's video on right hand position would be a good one to look at first.

paulcroft

Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by paulcroft » Wed Aug 17, 2011 7:09 am

AsturiasFan wrote: Even with changes in hand position such as increasing or decreasing the distance of the big knuckles from the fingertips, you will find you always “relax” into the correct neutral position.
Not clear what you mean by this. Many players seem to have a different idea to me as to what "correct" is - that's the whole problem. Robert, for one, seems to suggest that it involves keeping ami above the strings and then releasing them all together. I have suggested that this, by definition, must involve inhibiting the automatic relaxation you describe, which I believe should occur one finger after another. As with previous discussions on this I've still had no response as to why this block hold/release is considered necessary for tremolo but obviously wouldn't be used for amam alternation'

I looked at Niedt's site a while ago and would certainly recommend it both for content and clarity.

Paul.

AsturiasFan

Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by AsturiasFan » Wed Aug 17, 2011 7:46 am

PercyPenguin wrote:
AsturiasFan wrote: Even with changes in hand position such as increasing or decreasing the distance of the big knuckles from the fingertips, you will find you always “relax” into the correct neutral position.
Not clear what you mean by this. Many players seem to have a different idea to me as to what "correct" is - that's the whole problem. Robert, for one, seems to suggest that it involves keeping ami above the strings and then releasing them all together. I have suggested that this, by definition, must involve inhibiting the automatic relaxation you describe, which I believe should occur one finger after another. As with previous discussions on this I've still had no response as to why this block hold/release is considered necessary for tremolo but obviously wouldn't be used for amam alternation'
I looked at Niedt's site a while ago and would certainly recommend it both for content and clarity.
Paul.
Edit No. 1: I now realize my comment was pretty irrelevant.
Edit No. 2: Instructing someone to relax back into the ready position is fine.
Edit No. 3: Im just saying the subconcious takes care of the rest.
Edit No. 4:The fingers can't by magic just stop exactly where they need to stop with such great precision.
Edit No. 5: I don't do the block
Edit No. 6: technique.
Edit No. 7: I feel that my fingers are somewhat independent and each one relaxes immediately as you and Niedt suggest.
Edit No. 8: Even if I change my hand position,
Edit No. 9 : I have the sensation that relaxation is doing all the work to return the fingers.
Original Content: Speaking of chickens http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dPlkFPowCc I sort of think guitarists have the same feel for the ready position that chickens do for their head position -- some sort of fine and accurate subconcious control.
Edit No. 10: I inadvertantly learned how to vaporize subsequent posts. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha aah ha. Apologies to Richard.
Last edited by AsturiasFan on Wed Aug 17, 2011 12:50 pm, edited 10 times in total.

Richard Christie
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Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by Richard Christie » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:36 am

AsturiasFan, I suspect all your editing vaporized my subsequent post, :? or maybe it was my two finger typing.
and it was too long for me to consider rewriting :(
ah, that's life
The guitar, causes dreams to weep.
The sobs of lost souls, escape from its round mouth.
And like the tarantula, it weaves a great star
To snare the sighs,
Which float inside its dark wooden cistern
- Lorca

zinc1024
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Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by zinc1024 » Fri Aug 26, 2011 10:22 pm

A refinement my instructor has me working on as I continue trying to achieve a consistent and smooth tremolo is to vastly reduce the total amount of motion my RH fingers are engaging in.

If you watch and analyze it, your RH fingers are all doing a kind of oval shaped continuous motion in doing tremolo. My thumb in particular has been making a HUGE oval, coming easily 3/4" up off the strings at the height. Similarly my i, m and a fingers have been sweeping too large of an arc. So I'm working on getting those much more refined, to enable both more accuracy and ultimately more ability to play at speed.

-Kevin
Baarslag SP/BR
Jaros Bluzman+
Gibson L4

David Crooks
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Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by David Crooks » Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:10 pm

This has been a really interesting discussion. I think that part of the problem is that 'real-life' tremolo is quite different from slow-motion or slow practice, and this I think obscures our observation of what is going on in our hands. I'd be interested to know how Robert would describe his approach to pami played on 4123. Does he do the 'block release' with this arpeggio, played at tremolo speed, or are the fingers released individually, as Paul describes? For my tuppenceworth, Paul's approach is more likely to produce a more precise and sustainable tremolo. However, though I 'know' that this is what I'm doing, I in some way 'sense' that the fingers are moving in a unit in their return to the string.

Cookie

kechance

Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by kechance » Thu Sep 01, 2011 5:45 pm

Great discussion, and timely for me, as I've opened up Barrios' Limosna.

There is a study in Sagueras fifth book for tremolo that finally enabled me to play a piece in tremolo. Wish I could remember which one in book five, but if you flip through you'll find it. I'm doing the p-a-m-i configuration for tremolo. I didn't even know there were others. So these four and five note tremolos that some have spoken of seem intriguing - I'm finding I have enough to do just fitting three notes in between the thumb stokes. My poor hat is off to those who are squeezing in more than three notes.

Someone had advised me in pami to pluck p and a simultaneously, but I think this is not right, and creates a strong gallop as p and a stop their strings and then release together plosively. I pluck p then a then m then i. And why do the alternative fingerings on pami? I'm with Ramon - that just cuts down on practice time on what one actually will be using. As I practice on 4 and five note tremolos, I'll probably home in on a single configuration for each.

As for relaxation, I did for long find that my hand would tense, and I would feel this as hotness or even pain (lactic acid?) on the palm side of my wrist. I actually had to concentrate on relaxing the muscles in my hand (as I played a few months of crumby tremolo) to make this subside. Now, all the fingers operate independently, no blocking, in a rippling motion. They are as independent at common tendon sheathes and interconnected skin will allow, anyway.

Thanks for the recommendation on Niedts and on the pure exercize (one string pami, then p on multiple strings) described in an earlier post.

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Blondie
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Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by Blondie » Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:49 pm

kechance wrote: So these four and five note tremolos that some have spoken of seem intriguing - I'm finding I have enough to do just fitting three notes in between the thumb stokes. My poor hat is off to those who are squeezing in more than three notes.
Keep your hat on. Whilst extended tremolo patterns are good to practice, there is a relationship between the pattern used and the required tempo of the piece. Simply put, with a longer drawn out melody line and more space between the bass accompaniment you have more space to fill so you fill it with more treble notes, its that simple. Most of the tremolo pieces in the CG repertoire are written with a four note (PAMI or alternative) tremolo in mind. Flamenco - which others often allude too - is a different ball game. The idea that the flamenco tremolo is somehow superior is nonsense. Horses for courses.
kechance wrote:And why do the alternative fingerings on pami? I'm with Ramon - that just cuts down on practice time on what one actually will be using.
Its a very blinkered, and rather ignorant view of how the hand works and the requirements of cg technique - why bother practicing MA scales if you are only going to use IM? Answer - anyone who has worked on MA will testify how well it serves their ability to alternate IM.

Why did Vladimir Bobri's book devoted to developing tremolo and Tennant's Pumping Nylon, for example, contain a whole variety of RH fingering combinations?

The answer is to do with finger independence, and control. As Niedt recommends, PAMA, PMAM, PIMI, PMIM are all important building blocks, there are others too.

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Tomzooki
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Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by Tomzooki » Thu Sep 01, 2011 10:52 pm

cookie wrote: I think that part of the problem is that 'real-life' tremolo is quite different from slow-motion or slow practice, and this I think obscures our observation of what is going on in our hands.
You made a point :mrgreen:

I will try to describe what happens in my wright hand when I do tremolo. I speak for me because I had only me as an example to observe closely... My tremolo works well though. "a" strikes, then "m", then "i"; when "i" strikes "a" and "m" begin to come back, passively (or I feel it as a passive movement; it may be a little active, it would take a electronic monitor to see it at that level). When "p" strikes "a" and "m" resume their coming back, and "i" begins its own. "p" is always in motion when playing at high speed, but not on purpose. I think it relaxes when I strikes "a"; it is hard to say. I try to keep my RH as relaxed as possible, and do absolutely nothing in order to control the sequence of motions I described; it is just the final result, not something I worked onto to achieve.

The problem is I can't maintain that sequence of motions at slow speed without having to add some muscular work to keep the fingers where they would be at high speed. That would be nonsence to work that way. And to work tremolo in a relaxed way at slow speed induces a very different sequence of movements.
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kechance

Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by kechance » Fri Sep 02, 2011 4:28 pm

Well, I do admit to being blinkered, ignorant, benighted, etc. That is why I hang out on the board here, to remedy this.

I do definitely see the need and agree with practicing im, ma, and ia scales. They do improve 'finger consciousness, if I can coin this phrase, and finger independence. In tremolo, though, I've never know a piece needing a different pattern than pami. Maybe I just don't have enough exposure. So, I haven't seen the need to develop different patterns, and in trying out different patterns, I haven't seen that it helps my basic pami tremolo.

But I am only speaking for myself, as a novice who is just beginning to tackle this technique. What I do now is serviceable, but I still have the months of daily practice ahead of me for fluid execution.

jaradgiese

Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by jaradgiese » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:35 am

What was most useful for me in learning was slightly emphasizing the "m" finger which really smoothed out the playing of each four note action. For some reason when I would play all three of the finger notes the same it would have a galloping effect while emphasizing the "m" would counter-intuitively make the notes smoother.

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Blondie
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Re: Learning the tremolo technique

Post by Blondie » Sat Sep 03, 2011 8:31 am

kechance wrote:Well, I do admit to being blinkered, ignorant, benighted, etc. That is why I hang out on the board here, to remedy this.
I should stress my comment was not directed towards you but rather towards the poor advice you were getting elsewhere.

I don't get this:
kechance wrote:I do definitely see the need and agree with practicing im, ma, and ia scales. They do improve 'finger consciousness, if I can coin this phrase, and finger independence. In tremolo, though, I've never know a piece needing a different pattern than pami.
You see the value in practicing ma and ia scales - and presumably wouldn't use ma as your favoured formula - but cannot see the same principle in tremolo? It's not about a piece needing different patterns, its about developing a balanced hand, improving finger independence and control, by working on different combinations, inorder to improve the pattern you want to use. That's why Giuiliani wrote out 120 arpgeggios- you don't only practice the ones you think you're going to use, do you?

The fault here is seeing tremolo as something separate and distinct, it isn't (a point made elsewhere by Percy Penguin) - its not like playing tambora or artificial harmonics.

Tremolo is basically very fine free stroke/arpeggio motion control, and that is a consequence of several other things working well - MA independence & IM independence, for example.

If you are seeing fast progress praticing PAMI tremolo, of course don't worry. But I am assuming that's not the case (hence the question) and its important to se the bigger picture, or you could end up hammering away at PAMI tremolo and seeing very little progress.

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