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Thread: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

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    Default Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    In my search for tips on playing tremolos I'm often led to archived Mandolin Cafe threads. Some mention using one of the fatter edges of the pick. I've tried it and it works great! I'm just wondering if there's an advantage in using the pointy end for any reason.

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Since this is something you are just now working on, it will probably be a good idea to continue trying a variety of things while you work at it. But, many here will probably tell you that using a rounded tip will be best for tremolo, because there are many, many who practice that, especially in bluegrass playing, I think.

    In my own experience (which is very limited, I'm fairly new to mandolin), the rounder the pick and the more "tilt" you give to the pick, (1) the less distinct the notes, (2) the less the volume, (3) the "scratchier" the sound can be with some picks. These are general observations, and type of pick coupled with personal technique have to be accounted for, so there's no concrete rule.

    Using a pointy pick for tremolo is the generally accepted classical and Italian methods, as far as I can understand, and generally it's a bit more difficult to learn but tends to produce a more distinct sound to the pitches you're playing, IMO. So, I practice with a few different pick shapes from time to time, and am trying to find the best sound from each one. I am tending to prefer a pointier pick lately.

    There's nothing necessarily wrong with what you're doing. Just keep practicing, and try to make it sound as pretty as possible.
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    I play tremolo with my normal,thin,stiff,pointed pick,,but I wouldn't depend on a pick shape to develop a tremolo,,it's a mechanical,technical action that you should be able to do regardless of what pick,,I can get a great tremolo usING a matchbook cover,,,tone and volume is another story,,

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Playing with the rounded corner of the pick provides less resistance to the pick when playing tremolo, i.e not a "trick". When I first started playing trems, I used a little pointy Pettine pick that was very popular with the mandolin orchestra I was playing in.

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    I can't play pointy picks because I can't tremolo well with them. I find a rounded corner and a stiff, thick pick really help. I know there are plenty of classical players who have no problem with tremolo and aggressive points but find what works for you.

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Quote Originally Posted by apple View Post
    In my search for tips on playing tremolos I'm often led to archived Mandolin Cafe threads. Some mention using one of the fatter edges of the pick. I've tried it and it works great! I'm just wondering if there's an advantage in using the pointy end for any reason.
    Yes, some folks swear by rounded picks.

    I do not, as the Neapolitan Italian method is to use a pointed pick and it works great for me!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    many here will probably tell you that using a rounded tip will be best for tremolo, because there are many, many who practice that, especially in bluegrass playing, I think.

    In my own experience (which is very limited, I'm fairly new to mandolin), the rounder the pick and the more "tilt" you give to the pick, (1) the less distinct the notes, (2) the less the volume, (3) the "scratchier" the sound can be with some picks. These are general observations, and type of pick coupled with personal technique have to be accounted for, so there's no concrete rule.

    Using a pointy pick for tremolo is the generally accepted classical and Italian methods, as far as I can understand, and generally it's a bit more difficult to learn but tends to produce a more distinct sound to the pitches you're playing,
    Keep up with the pointed pick - and your reasons for using it are correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by dadsaster View Post
    I can't play pointy picks because I can't tremolo well with them. I find a rounded corner and a stiff, thick pick really help. I know there are plenty of classical players who have no problem with tremolo and aggressive points but find what works for you.
    It's called "practice".

    When you practice with a round pick you "glide" over the strings.

    It makes a tremolo seem easier, but in reality you are not getting the full effect of "plucking" the strings.

    A pointed tip allows you to get the right tone and control need for classical, Italian, and many other styles of music. when you practice out of the traditional method books you will learn to use a pointed pick well.

    It has been very fashionable in the mandolin world to use a round pick and get that "gliding" sound tremolo.

    It is now perhaps the preferred sound in some styles of playing - but not in my mandolin world.

    Of course I also prefer Italian style instruments, with shorter scales and light string tension, not the archtop long scale high tension mandolin designs.

    Anyway, there is a reason the people that invented the mandolin and have some of the highest technical standards - Italians - use a pointed pick.

    Check out all the old method books, European and American. None of them to my knowledge, before the 1960's or so, suggest using anything other than a pointed pick.

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    I play tremolo with my normal,thin,stiff,pointed pick,,but I wouldn't depend on a pick shape to develop a tremolo,,it's a mechanical,technical action that you should be able to do regardless of what pick,,I can get a great tremolo usING a matchbook cover,,,tone and volume is another story,,
    Good point - including the one on the end of your plectrum.

    Seriously, though, what T.D. says is very true - once you learn the technique for a good, fast, even, expressive tremolo, you can use almost anything.

    However some things, as in pick designs, work better than others.

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    I think it very important (my own opinion) to practice going into and out of tremolo without losing the tune or the timing or the tone. To that extent, I think it is crucial to use and hold the pick for tremolo the same way you would for a single note melody.

    I routinely and unless otherwise advised, tremolo everything longer than a quarter note. That means I have to end the tremolo and get those following eighth notes without falling down. No time to switch pick hold or even worse switch picks.

    When i practice tremolo I try and put some eighth notes ahead of it and some following. I pick a kind of rhythmic phrase, like didi dahhhh didit. Or di dahhhh dit. (Yes i know morse code LOL.) I play the phrase on every note in a scale. But one can do anything. The point is to practice those transitions.
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    I agree with Jeff. You need to be able to play tremolo with the same pick you use for everything else because tremolo is not a thing unto itself, but a technique to be blended with other styles of play. Practice, practice, practice tremolo and transitioning in and out of tremolo with your favorite pick. You'll get there in time. Most importantly, though, have fun with it and don't stress over it. It will come in time.
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Here is a good tutorial on tremolo technique that some of you might find useful.

    The instructor uses a metronome to define the division of the pick strokes to prevent the tremolo from becoming a blur of notes.

    https://youtu.be/XxvD41asKCY
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    I think your technique is more important than the pick point and you should practice with the pick and point you use for rest of the song.
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    I had the same experience when I first started learning tremolo. But I never produced the tone and volume I wanted for single note picking with a rounded point. It wasn’t til I got it hammered into me to hold the pick loose, don’t dig in, and keep the hand and wrist nice and relaxed that I began to be able to tremolo with a pointier pick. I’d recommend trying that. It will take practice and time. But it’s worth it to be able to get good tone with the same pick.

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    +1 to using whatever pick you generally prefer to pick and strum with on your tremolo. But for some of us, that means more than one style of pick. I use different picks sometimes, they're all large triangles but they differ in thickness and in "pointiness". Play tremolo when called for with whatever pick I'm playing with. Still prefer the sound of tremolo from a pointy pick more than a roundy one. For me, the thicker picks with a bit rounder tips yield a "darker" sound preferable for some tunes, but the tremolo sound suffers a bit with those picks IMO.
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    I agree with Mark Gunter. I've always found that thicker,more 'rounded' picks kill any 'bite' that a mandolin has.The sound becomes less clear & IMHO,the ''projection'' drops off. Pointed picks seem to deliver more clarity & 'punch' than rounded picks,of which i've only tried the 'Dawg' & 'Golden Gate' brands - but they kill the overall tone of my mandolins dead !.

    If you have a favourite pick that you use,do as most of us do,practice using it for normal picking & tremolo as well. It doesn't take long to be able to use it for both styles, & the ''clarity'' of your tremolo will be much better. Rounded,thicker picks simply slide over the strings & don't 'push' them enough.

    I use a 1.5mm thick Dunlop ''Primetone'' teardrop shaped (pointed) pick. Last year,i tried a 2mm thick pick of the same brand / style. It did what i'd expected,gave me a bit more volume,but after a few days of using it,i was hearing 'pick click' for the first time in 13 years,& i wondered where the dickens all my treble had gone to !. So - even pointed picks can reach their limit in the 'clarity stakes' = back to the 1.5mm ones,
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkELynch View Post
    Here is a good tutorial on tremolo technique that some of you might find useful.

    The instructor uses a metronome to define the division of the pick strokes to prevent the tremolo from becoming a blur of notes.

    https://youtu.be/XxvD41asKCY
    There ought to be a permanent link to this video on the Cafe main page! Still one of the best videos out there for beginner mandolinists. Here it is embedded:



    You should check out this one too:

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    I agree with Mark Gunter. I've always found that thicker,more 'rounded' picks kill any 'bite' that a mandolin has.The sound becomes less clear & IMHO,the ''projection'' drops off. Pointed picks seem to deliver more clarity & 'punch' than rounded picks


    .....Rounded,thicker picks simply slide over the strings & don't 'push' them enough.
    Exactly.

    Using the round edge may seem like a easy way to get a tremolo and indeed many like the sound of that Dawg pick tremolo, but to my Italianate ears it just sounds wrong.

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Having done as 'maybe' most of us have done,i'd advise all mandolin players to test drive different picks / string brands / gauge combos.

    I was totally satisfied with the sound of both my Weber & Lebeda mandolins until i tried out firstly,DR strings & then the Primetone' picks as a combo. The overall 'sound' (tone / volume) went from good to awesome (to my ears) in no time flat !!. On my Weber,i've come to realise,that it's the pick that made the most difference. I've gone back to the ''easier to buy in the UK'' D'Addario EJ74's. Using a Primetone pick is now all i need. My Lebeda however,being a tad larger than standard,still need the added punch of the DRs.

    As maybe most of us know,& have maybe discovered for ourselves,no one string brand / gauge & pick type suits all. I've discovered what ''works for mine'' & maybe we should all try to find ''what works best'' on our mandolins. As has been said many times on here - the cheapest up-grades are strings & picks,
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Many years ago , I managed to get a detour out here in Frank Wakefields tour of the west coast..
    to this somewhat old, small town..

    Before the show he was warming up his Right elbow motion, to get the tremolo
    & fast picking action, started..




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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkELynch View Post
    Here is a good tutorial on tremolo technique that some of you might find useful.

    The instructor uses a metronome to define the division of the pick strokes to prevent the tremolo from becoming a blur of notes.

    Ah, love the blur of notes!
    Last edited by August Watters; Jul-19-2018 at 11:15am.
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    What happened to the comment about 'not the best way to learn tremolo'? I wanted to ask what that was, but the comment was edited before I could get to reply.

    So August, what is the best way to learn tremolo in your experience?

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    So August, what is the best way to learn tremolo in your experience?

    Surely there's plenty of value in breaking down the beat into smaller and smaller note groupings (as in this video), but I think a more direct way is to begin with trying to capture the sensation of using the entire arm mechanism -- rather than just the wrist -- to generate a sustained, focused motion. Whether it's expressed fast or slow, measured or unmeasured, tremolo comes from that sensation. Tremolo doesn't have to be fast, or in exact time.

    BTW, if you're working through the method described in the video (four-to-a-beat going to eight), I'd stop midway at six-to-a-beat. That's a standard Monroe-ism!
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    I learned tremolo like I have learned all mandolin special techniques. It is a bit different from what others describe, just because of my temperament and the way I learn. I found a tune, I can't remember which one, but I am sure it was something by Curtis Buckhannon, my mandolin mentor and teacher. It required tremolo. It was integral to the arrangement. It was tune I really, really wanted to get down and tremolo was the only thing I had yet to master about it.

    I just kept trying to mimic the sound. I wanted exactly that sound, not just an approximation of it that would have probably been more or less OK. I let my ears guide my brain to guide my arms and hands. I just wanted to make that sound. It was really clumsy at first, but I kept working at it and finally, my nervous system figured it out. One day I could just do it. Then when I got it down on that one tune, I could do it on any tune. I did the same for cross picking.

    I find I have to work on it a bit each day, sleep on it and repeat as necessary. I read somewhere that tasks that involve coordination have to be built up that way. Your brain processes that stuff during sleep. I've found that to be true.

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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    When i was trying to learn Tremolo in the first instance,i made up my own little tune in 3:4 time - a Waltz. I just went through a lot of chords,found some that worked nicely together & came up with a nice little tune using all double stops - which, being the way i am,i've now mostly forgotten !. You could do worse than work on the tune ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'',playing it all the way through using double stops - i did that as well,figuring out the double stops at the same time.

    Mostly,it's simply a matter of finding a technique that works for us as individuals,
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    I don't use any forearm for tremolo, I don't think it is necessary and it is limiting in speed. Unless you are driving a chord you don't need a forearm. Speed and precision come from small movements not larger ones. Force comes from larger muscles and movements.
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    Default Re: Working on tremelos. Good trick or am I cheating myself?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I don't use any forearm for tremolo, I don't think it is necessary and it is limiting in speed. Unless you are driving a chord you don't need a forearm. Speed and precision come from small movements not larger ones. Force comes from larger muscles and movements.
    I agree for the most part, particularly about small movements used in picking and tremolo. However, there is some slight forearm movement involved.

    And like you , my tremolo comes from wrist and fingers too - but as for an all forearm tremolo slowing one down, have you seen how some of the Eastern European domra players can get accurate fast tremolos from the forearm?

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