Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it?

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
Forum rules
IV Laws governing the quotation/citation of music


For discussion of studies, scales, arpeggios and theory.
quin
Posts: 109
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 7:41 pm

Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it?

Postby quin » Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:11 am

I am wondering if there is a subset of the classical guitar community who finds tremolo so daunting as just to finally give up on ever attaining to it.
I ask this because I must be one of them. I have religiously done all of the exercises for months and years and can not get past 100 on the metronome and I think 120 is about the cut off point for tremolo to sound like a sustained noite (the tremolo effect). I have come to conclude that my nervous system, for whatever reason, has an upward limit of how fast my fingers will move. I know that the obvious feedback is that I probably have hand tension and perhaps my right must be improperly trained, but I assure you that I have been under the tutelage of a great, Shearer trained, teacher for more than a decade and have very good right hand technique. I really believe the "fast twitch" muscles that define great gymnasts, extends to the hands and, alas, my muscles don't twitch fast enough. As a result I am giving up on my quest for tremolo, grateful that it is, in the vast scheme of things, a rarely used technique in the literature.

Alan Green
Posts: 1246
Joined: Thu Dec 29, 2005 8:17 am
Location: Little Cambridge, Essex, UK

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby Alan Green » Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:28 am

Well, if you can achieve a reasonable tremelo at 100 on your metronome, I guess that's about the speed at which you'll be playing tremelo pieces for a while.

I'm a firm believer in the idea that sometimes you just have to drop the exercises and play some music.

My tremelo sounds like the Charge Of The Light Brigade; I'll get back to it at some stage and relearn RDLA.

User avatar
Denian Arcoleo
Composer
Posts: 4983
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2006 3:39 pm
Location: England

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby Denian Arcoleo » Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:57 am

tremelo = an electric guitar effect
tremolo = what classical guitarists do when they want to impress girls

:wink:
"Homer is new and fresh this morning, and nothing, perhaps, is so old and tired as today's newspaper."
Charles Péguy

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 939
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby Blondie » Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:10 pm

quin wrote:I am wondering if there is a subset of the classical guitar community who finds tremolo so daunting as just to finally give up on ever attaining to it.
I ask this because I must be one of them. I have religiously done all of the exercises for months and years and can not get past 100 on the metronome and I think 120 is about the cut off point for tremolo to sound like a sustained noite (the tremolo effect).


I don't want to depress you further but you need to hit 16ths at around 140 to play the classical tremolo at the necessary tempo. Most concert players (JW for example) take it comfortably past that.

Tremolo is a refined and very controlled free stroke, not something divorced from mainstream technique like a special effect (althought it achieves a special effect of course). I wouldn't expect a player to reach a high level and simply not be able to play a tremolo. If on the other hand if your question is 'are some people physically unlikely to play at an advanced level' (which might include tremolo, but also maybe rapid free stroke scales or rapid arpeggios, for example) then I'd say yes, in the same way that not all of us would be able to play football at a high level.
Nature/nurture is inescapable, ask Darwin :)

Of course, whether your nurturing is actually optimum is another matter. There was once a thread in RMCG about tremolo tips, the idea was to compile them and publish a booklet as there were so many strategies (I think there is a new thread on tremolo roughly every week at Delcamp). Understanding your own shortcomings and applying the right tools to fix them is the fastest way to progress, and often this does not mean endless generic exercises which might get you nowhere.

BTW in tremolo the individual fingers are not moving that fast at all - at 140 each finger flexes and releases just over twice per second - this is not a fast twitch muscle issue.

dcarlso3
Posts: 389
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 8:16 pm
Location: Wisconsin, US

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby dcarlso3 » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:40 pm

[quote="Blondie"I don't want to depress you further but you need to hit 16ths at around 140 to play the classical tremolo at the necessary tempo. Most concert players (JW for example) take it comfortably past that.[/quote]

Somewhat agree and somewhat disagree...I think this depends on the piece and on individual interpretation. The version of RLDA I have is marked andante, is 3/4 time, and the tremolo is 32nds with the underlying bass accompaniment in 8ths. To me any tempo over about 70 starts to sound less andante. The tempo of 70 means you are playing 2 tremolo groups each click, or 8ths at 140. RLDA, in my opinion, sounds better at a slower tempo (like right around 70 or even a bit less). At that tempo it sounds like 2 parts rather than a sustained note. On the flip side, at that tempo your tremolo needs to be spot on even, and the accompaniment also needs to be smooth and notes held for the maximum value. A few examples of this are Parkening's version, where he clocks in at 60-70, and the version that Owl had previously on this forum, right around 50. Other tremolo pieces may sound better played at a quicker tempo, but I haven't tried any other tremolo pieces other than 1 study by Sagreras (which sounds better at a much faster tempo btw) so I can't really say. But to get back to my point, this is just 1 persons interpretation of 1 piece, so I think that the minimum required tempo is dependent on the piece and on individual interpretation.

To the OP, if you can comfortably play tremolo at 100 per tremolo group then learn RLDA. Seriously, what have you got to lose? If nothing else then you have a new way to practice tremolo!

User avatar
Tomzooki
Posts: 1288
Joined: Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:12 am
Location: Quebec city, Canada

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby Tomzooki » Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:21 pm

Blondie wrote:Tremolo is a refined and very controlled free stroke, not something divorced from mainstream technique like a special effect (althought it achieves a special effect of course). I wouldn't expect a player to reach a high level and simply not be able to play a tremolo....


I can't agree more :D And one of the reasons so much people have difficulties with tremolo is that they consider it as a "special effect" as you said, and (1) they try to learn it when they are not ready (not ready = not having a good RH technique yet) and (2) they think they have to do something different from usual arpegios.

And I too wouldn't expect a player to reach a high level and simply not be able to play a tremolo, simply because being a high level player means to have an outstanding RH technique, and it implies automatically a good tremolo.

I would add one thing: we don't "learn" to play tremolo. It is a very simple arpegio. What makes it so special is that the tiniest flaw is more obvious than in any other arpegio. Somebody who would build a very good RH without never touching tremolo (that would be a great decision BTW) would, once his RH technique is mastered, have automatically a good tremolo without any further work :wink:
Benoît Raby, Engelmann sp/Ziricote
Yamaha GC-3A
11-strings alto guitar by Heikki Rousu, sp/indonesian RW

User avatar
Tomzooki
Posts: 1288
Joined: Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:12 am
Location: Quebec city, Canada

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby Tomzooki » Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:23 pm

Could you make a little video of your RH playing tremolo? Just some seconds of it. There are great chances some of us here could find some solutions for you :D
Benoît Raby, Engelmann sp/Ziricote
Yamaha GC-3A
11-strings alto guitar by Heikki Rousu, sp/indonesian RW

User avatar
Blondie
Posts: 939
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Devon, UK

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby Blondie » Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:13 pm

dcarlso3 wrote:The version of RLDA I have is marked andante, is 3/4 time, and the tremolo is 32nds with the underlying bass accompaniment in 8ths. To me any tempo over about 70 starts to sound less andante. The tempo of 70 means you are playing 2 tremolo groups each click, or 8ths at 140. RLDA, in my opinion, sounds better at a slower tempo (like right around 70 or even a bit less). At that tempo it sounds like 2 parts rather than a sustained note.


Surely the function of tremolo is precisely to give the illusion of a sustained line, and not to sound like two seperate parts? I agree that different pieces require different interpretation (and of course, tempo would fluctuate within a piece as a necessary part of the phrasing) but there is surely a threshold below which tremolo doesn't 'work' ?

On RDLA, my metronome has andante range 76 - 108. I just had a quick listen to JW (who I think has a great tremolo) and he's playing RDLA at around 84 (168 for 16ths).

User avatar
Tomzooki
Posts: 1288
Joined: Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:12 am
Location: Quebec city, Canada

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby Tomzooki » Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:42 pm

I insist: take whatever you have, the web cam of your laptop, the camera of your cell phone, anything, and give us some seconds of your tremolo. I am sure we could help
Benoît Raby, Engelmann sp/Ziricote
Yamaha GC-3A
11-strings alto guitar by Heikki Rousu, sp/indonesian RW

dcarlso3
Posts: 389
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 8:16 pm
Location: Wisconsin, US

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby dcarlso3 » Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:01 pm

Blondie wrote:
dcarlso3 wrote:The version of RLDA I have is marked andante, is 3/4 time, and the tremolo is 32nds with the underlying bass accompaniment in 8ths. To me any tempo over about 70 starts to sound less andante. The tempo of 70 means you are playing 2 tremolo groups each click, or 8ths at 140. RLDA, in my opinion, sounds better at a slower tempo (like right around 70 or even a bit less). At that tempo it sounds like 2 parts rather than a sustained note.


Surely the function of tremolo is precisely to give the illusion of a sustained line, and not to sound like two seperate parts? I agree that different pieces require different interpretation (and of course, tempo would fluctuate within a piece as a necessary part of the phrasing) but there is surely a threshold below which tremolo doesn't 'work' ?

On RDLA, my metronome has andante range 76 - 108. I just had a quick listen to JW (who I think has a great tremolo) and he's playing RDLA at around 84 (168 for 16ths).



By "2 seperate parts" I actually mean it sounds like a duet with one guy playing the melody by fast picking and one guy playing the underlying accompaniment, rather than a guitar trying to create the illusion of a single sustained note. And I agree that there is certainly a minimum tempo for tremolo to make it work, however I think that the bare minimum is below 140 per tremolo group. My main point, though, is that what "works" is subjective. It is my opinion that in the case of RLDA, what works is the slower end of the range, which requires perfectly even notes and tone. I referenced 2 versions of the piece played slower. I wish Owl's version was still available. I think that this version is as slow as you can play the piece (and good luck with the evenness at that tempo...) and Parkenings is just about right. And this is what I mentioned as part of individual interpretation, others may feel that the piece needs to be played faster in order to try to make the melodic line sound like is a single sustained note.

I also have a couple recordings of JW playing this and I think that you are exactly right about his tempo (except that on the version of the sheet music I have it would be ~168 for 8ths), as well as his technique. It seems most players play it right around that tempo. Yepes played it much, much faster. I think this faster tempo works well for limnosa and sueno en la floresta, but not for RLDA. This goes back to opinion.

I am not trying to make a case against a faster interpretation of the tremolo. I am only trying to offer an alternative point of view.

washburn

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby washburn » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:33 pm

I wonder if you've tried different fingerings for a tremolo. While pami is the most popular, there is also pima, pmim, and pimi.

washburn

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby washburn » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:35 pm

Also some obstacles take a while to overcome. My left hand fingers have "locking joints" that are a result of a certain type of work I did years ago. But I've learned to work around that.

Inky
Posts: 68
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:53 pm
Location: Corvallis, Oregon

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby Inky » Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:31 pm

This discussion is very encouraging to me. I have worked on the tremolo a fair bit and can play at about 130 to 135. But I sort of assumed I needed to get up to around 180 which is the speed that Liona Boyd plays the last part of her version of Spanish Romance. So I was a bit disheartened. But if some of you are suggesting in the 140, 150, 160 range will do, then maybe I've got a chance.

One thing that I've found very important is to have your nails filed just right. If they are too long they will want to grab just a little which really slows things down.

My $.02
Ken
Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't the fine line between sanity and madness gotten finer? -George Price

Inky
Posts: 68
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:53 pm
Location: Corvallis, Oregon

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby Inky » Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:45 pm

To the OP, if you can comfortably play tremolo at 100 per tremolo group then learn RLDA. Seriously, what have you got to lose? If nothing else then you have a new way to practice tremolo![/quote]

Sorry for my ignorance, but what's RLDA?

Ken
Last edited by Inky on Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't the fine line between sanity and madness gotten finer? -George Price

Scot Tremblay
Luthier
Posts: 3122
Joined: Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:18 pm
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

Re: Tremolo--are some people physically unable to achieve it

Postby Scot Tremblay » Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:05 pm

Years ago while studing guitar in Spain I was given an exercise that I found greatly improved my tremolo. It may help you. It started with learning to play the flamenco five note tremolo. Instead of the pami of the classical try piami. And then once that becomes smooth at a moderate tempo, (speed is not necessary as we are all born with sufficent speed, what we need to di is develope muscle control; smooth even tempo, uniform tone, finger seperation and dexterity are most important) try different combinations of five and six note tremolos: pmami, pamim, pimam. pmiami, pimami, pamima etc. You can keep adding more notes and combinations running frontwards and backwards.

This may not work for everyone but it worked well for me and came from a flamenco player that had by far the fasted tremolo I've ever heard. The only down side is that once you become proficient at the five and six note tremolo, the four note classical sounds pretty insipid.
Scot Tremblay Guitars

"I'm not crazy about reality but it's still the best place to get a decent meal."
-Groucho Marx-


Return to “Classical Guitar technique”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: CommonCrawl [Bot], Himanshu Agrawal, Renlab and 10 guests