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Thread: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

  1. #1

    Default Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Tremolo to many people seems to be the sound that's closest associated with the mandolin. But for my part, I started practicing tremolo only two or three years ago, when I got into classical mandolin. In method books like the Ranierei method, tremolo seems to be the rule and non-tremolo the exception. But it's not explained how to practice tremolo systematically. That's what I want to discuss in this thread, ways to practice a kind of tremolo, that's not just a special effect, but part of the melodic playing.
    The main difficulty for me is to get out of the tremolo in time for the next note without playing the tremolo too short. What helps me is measured tremolo.
    An example: In John Playford's Gathering Pescods I play the half notes D-U-D-U-D-U-D
    The tempo of the tune is fast enough to make this sixteenth note group sound like a tremolo.

    Here's the sheet music, mando tabs and chords
    Click image for larger version. 

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    This is no real tremolo but a good preliminary exercise.
    I prepared some easy tunes with a recording and sheet music (plus tabs), so everybody who wants to work on their tremolo is invited to join in.
    I'd be curious to know, how others approach this subject, especially how to continue after a tremolo and play the following note in time.
    It would be especially nice, if the trem-pros would share their knowledge!

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    Registered User Carl23's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    I am currently working on this:

    (numbers = scale degree)

    16th notes - 1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 | 1 (tremolo at 32nd notes for 2 beats)
    So 2 beats of 16th notes and 2 beats of tremolo.
    If this does not make sense I'll make a PDF.

    Play in any and all keys and modes, starting with any finger (position on neck is important)

    the 1-5-1 pattern is one I use a lot, keeps me on two strings instead of just the one. Also, starting with the 3rd or 4th finger ups the challenge.

    Getting from the last 16th note to the tremolo is not bad... however getting back in when the downbeat is not on the first finger is a bit crazy making.

    Some variations would be to use sextuplets instead of the 32nd notes. Also "unmeasured" tremolos... but whoa there... not so fast!

    :-)
    Carl

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    from another thread

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...e-and-Dynamics

    ToyonPete said:

    "I was in the same [ tremolo ] workshop with Takumi! He is an amazing player. First time in the US. To go a bit off the pick topic, he covered six different tremolo techniques.

    1. Grip - hard or soft
    2. Position - ranging from picking near the bridge to the 12th fret and everywhere in between
    3. Pick angle - from perpendicular to a diagonal attack
    4. Depth - from barely touching the tip of the pick to the string, to a deeper bite
    5. Speed - slow tremolo to fast tremolo
    6. Flexibility of wrist - hard or soft"

    That seems pretty systematic to me.

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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    @david - that's a great list of things to consider. Do you know if they are recommended to work on in order? Or just all things to be watched?

    I think the OP was more about a systematic way of practicing tremolo.
    As a percussionist, I equate tremolo to rolls. (not a perfect comparison, but good enough for me)

    I have a ton of roll exercises that I try modifying for Mandolin, some work out, others... not so much.

    The largest problem with translation is that percussionist use two strikes with each hand to make the roll. Generally I translate handing to up and down strokes... so you can see the problem there. rrllrrll becomes dduudduu... rather difficult to play quickly.

    ;-)
    C

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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl23 View Post
    @david - that's a great list of things to consider. Do you know if they are recommended to work on in order? Or just all things to be watched?

    I think the OP was more about a systematic way of practicing tremolo.

    The largest problem with translation is that percussionist use two strikes with each hand to make the roll. Generally I translate handing to up and down strokes... so you can see the problem there. rrllrrll becomes dduudduu... rather difficult to play quickly.

    ;-)
    C
    The use of double r (down ) and double l (up ) strokes works better on drums!

    As for the list, ToyonPete just listed them in the order Mamiya presented them in the class.

    As for the OP's question, there was a system the Japanese used that began with slow measured tremolo, and moved to faster measured tremolo, and then in most cases to also using varied speed and unmeasured tremolo.

    Also see:

    Calace method part 1, the opening section has tremolo exercises

    Schick mandolinschule page 16 and on

    Bickford vol 1 page 32 and on

    Christofaro page 4

    Munier method, varios exercises

    Odell page 24

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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    For what it’s worth, I have found my tremolo improving in all those aspects as a result of working on repertoire, tone, and performing as a test and reinforcer of successful technique. I’ve never worked on it as a technique on its own, but one piece in particular was helpful for me—-Recuerdos de la Alhambra. It is duo-style, but written in measured 16ths. Because the tune is pleasing to hear I enjoy practicing it, and it is always improving.

    I have used the firm-grip stiff-arm approach, good for getting started. Recuerdos forced me to a lighter grip and smoother tone.
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    Joe B mandopops's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    I have worked on Tremolo on it's own and like Tom, developed my Tremolo by playing pieces I like that require Tremolo. I love the sound & the feel of playing the Tremolo.
    I have played Tremolo & Duo studies from various methods, some are on David's list. I became more conscience of it during my time with Giovanni Vicari. Even though I had been playing for a while before I started with him, my first couple of lessons, he was very attentive to my wrist motion, holding my pick etc. Even when we would play a piece that was not a Tremolo study per se, he would be attentive to my Tremoloing. No substitute for being under the watchful eye of a master.
    I, like David, was at Takumi's workshop at CMSA. Very interesting perspective. Down through the years, I have been attended a number of workshops where Tremolo was addressed, often helpful, sometimes not.
    Joe B
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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Quote Originally Posted by mandopops View Post
    I became more conscience of it during my time with Giovanni Vicari. Even though I had been playing for a while before I started with him, my first couple of lessons, he was very attentive to my wrist motion, holding my pick etc. Even when we would play a piece that was not a Tremolo study per se, he would be attentive to my Tremoloing. No substitute for being under the watchful eye of a master.

    ...
    Joe B
    Whatever he learned from the master, I can tell you first hand Joe has a sweet tremolo!

    "developed my Tremolo by playing pieces I like that require Tremolo. I love the sound & the feel of playing the Tremolo. "

    And there's also the additional practice. Let's face it, even with a great teacher (or two) you still need to practice to get a decent tremolo.

    I thought I had a good tremolo - until I saw that there were also even more shadings of dynamics and phrasing that master players had under control.

    Back to the practice room!

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    Joe B mandopops's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Thanx for the compliment, David, especially meanful coming from a player of your caliber. Yes, what ever we have been taught we must continue to be diligent about our practice routines on our own.
    One thing I found helpful, as I have gathered various method books, handouts, articles over the years, is to make copies of specific technique lessons from different sources and put them in a binder & tab it. An example is Tremolo. I went through various materials then copied the pages of Tremolo lessons and grouped them together. It saves me flipping though different books, when there is something I need/want to work on. I’ve done this with other techniques, as well.
    Now, back to my practice corner,
    Joe B
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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Quote Originally Posted by mandopops View Post
    I went through various materials then copied the pages of Tremolo lessons and grouped them together. It saves me flipping though different books, when there is something I need/want to work on. I’ve done this with other techniques, as well.
    That sounds like a good idea, having all the various materials from diverse authors in one place.

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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Ok, here's a newb tremolo question...

    Is it normal to start a tremolo on a upstroke? I can see it being beneficial on some measured tremolos; under certain circumstances. For example a 16th triplet leading to a downbeat.

    thoughts?

    C

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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl23 View Post
    Ok, here's a newb tremolo question...

    Is it normal to start a tremolo on a upstroke? I can see it being beneficial on some measured tremolos; under certain circumstances. For example a 16th triplet leading to a downbeat.

    thoughts?

    C
    Mostly I begin with downstrokes, but in certain situations an upstroke may be better, it depends on the musical phrase.

    As for the 16th triplet pick-up note, that also depends; if the 16th is alone, in which case it may be an upstroke leading to a downstroke on the downbeat of one.

    If it is part of a group, that will depend on how I pick the triplets - DDU, DUU, DUD, UDU, etc.

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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    David,

    good stuff. still working on straight alternating... DDU/DUU etc are on a list for me to work on... a very long list.

    :-)

    carl

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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    After trying to grasp the fine hairs of tremolo I decided it's best left to feel and try not to over think the technical bits. It's like rhythm to me - I'm probably better off letting it happen. I like reading about it tho

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  27. #15

    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Thanks to all who participated in this discussion about tremolo, especially thanks to David, who recommended some method books, which devote a chapter or two to the explanation of tremolo and in which tremolo is the basic mandolin technique.
    But neither Calace nor de Cristofaro give a hint on how to approach the tremolo rhythmically. There's a method book by Charles de Sifry, where there are some examples of rhythmic subdivisions of a note played tremolo.(Sextuplets or sixteenth notes).
    Anyway, for today's tremolo practise tune, I chose the beautiful Romanian waltz Valurile Dunării (Waves of the Danube) by Ion Ivanovici. I play the quarter notes non-tremolo and I tremolo only the notes that have 2 or more beats. The tempo is quite fast, so sixteenth notes give a reasonable tremolo effect.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Quote Originally Posted by crisscross View Post
    But neither Calace nor de Cristofaro give a hint on how to approach the tremolo rhythmically. There's a method book by Charles de Sifry, where there are some examples of rhythmic subdivisions of a note played tremolo.(Sextuplets or sixteenth notes).
    Click image for larger version. 

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    That's the rub - the most typical way ( as per my not-quite-scientific study) is to use a measured tremolo as a means to an end - control over measure and unmeasured tremolo.

    Now, to me, less as a mandolinist than a composer/arranger, a measured tremolo is just a way of writing 16th notes , 16th triplets, 32nds, etc.

    In many musical situations, this is the desired result.

    However, it may be that the use of a fast measured tremolo is a means to an end - the ability to produce a measured tremolo (on a single note), rapid scalar * or other sort of melodic passages, and ultimately to unmeasured tremolo.

    So as I see it it is a combination of measured and unmeasured tremolo that makes for mastery of this technical issue. I ain't there yet! I just heard some of the best tremolo players at the CMSA convention.

    * if you can play a measured tremolo evenly on a single pitch, the next step is to play the tremolo on moving pitches, left and right hand co-ordination!

  30. #17

    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    However, it may be that the use of a fast measured tremolo is a means to an end - the ability to produce a measured tremolo (on a single note), rapid scalar * or other sort of melodic passages, and ultimately to unmeasured tremolo.
    That's about my approach to tremolo playing. In the last example, longer tremoloed notes alternated with quarter notes picked non-tremolo, which I could do just by feeling. But when there are quarter notes played tremolo, and they have to be divided, I've got to practise this slowly and with a rhytmical concept. For a medium tempo, I generally use sextuplets for a tremolo and leave out the last upstroke for a short intermission between the quarter notes.
    On page 16 of the deCristofaro method, you can read:
    All the quarter notes must be played tremolo. The tremolo must cease an instant before passing to the next note.

    Here are two songs to practice playing quarter notes in tremolo and dividing them a tiny bit.( I still have to practice this a lot...)

    Aura Lee
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    Careless Love
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    In these two examples, all the notes are played tremolo, except for an eighth note at the end of Aura Lee. But you can replace that by a quarter note and play a quarter note instead of the dotted quarter preceeding it.

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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Quote Originally Posted by crisscross View Post

    In these two examples, all the notes are played tremolo, except for an eighth note at the end of Aura Lee. But you can replace that by a quarter note and play a quarter note instead of the dotted quarter preceeding it.
    Good progress and nice playing - but I somehow want some of the tremolos to be faster and less measured. Still, this is all personal taste and another player may think your version to be just the thing. It's very subjective.

  33. #19

    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Good progress and nice playing - but I somehow want some of the tremolos to be faster and less measured.
    I work on my tremolo speed constantly and an unmeasured tremolo is possible for me to play with longer notes at the end of a phrase for example. If I try this on quarter notes, I loose rhythm.

    The next step would be to include eighth notes. As far as I can see, there are two ways of playing eighth notes in tremoloed phrases:
    1. to interrupt the tremolo and play the eighth notes non-tremolo
    2. in legato phrases to play a continuous tremolo and let the left hand do the work.

    A good practice tune for the first way is Home on the Range
    Every note represents another syllable, so the eighth notes are not played legato
    Attachment 173465
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Home_on_the_Range.pdf  

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  35. #20

    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Tuesday again, the holidays are over, no reason not to work on our tremolo!
    In the last instalment, we tried a tremoloed dotted quarter note, complemented by an eight note played non-tremolo.
    In instrumental versions of vocal songs, this variant is used when each note is a new sylalbe.
    But when one sylalbe is sung with diferent notes, these notes are usually played legato.
    When playing tremolo, you can continue the tremolo and play the different notes with your left hand.
    Example? In the song Streets of Laredo, the first measure is: "I-I walked", two sylalbes, three notes, hence I try to play a legato tremolo for the first two notes.
    In measure nine, the same rhythm goes: "Spied-a-young", three syllalbes, three notes, hence I try to play the eight note non-tremolo:

    Do you hear the difference?
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Hello,

    Thanks Crisscross for sharing this!
    Very interesting.
    I find your playing just delicate and sweat, very nice to ear.
    And I wish I could play like this.
    I will use your videos for practice with fun.

    I have some issues with tremolo.
    I can use unmeasure tremolos, but sometimes it drives me out out the beat or is unprecise.
    Especially on musics with drums or percussions.
    So I try to use measured tremolos but I have problems because some tempo dont seem to match with tremolos.

    I'll try to explain how I manage with it:
    As tremolo is a succession of D and u strokes, I focus only on D strokes.
    I say that if I can play D-D-D-D- in one beat I can naturally play DuDuDuDu in the beat.
    I've found that my max speed to play for D-D-D-D- (or DuDuDuDu) in one beat is 94 bpm.
    I wont struggle to increase this, that's not the purpose.
    Below 70 bpm, my DuDuDuDu doesn't sound like a tremolo, it's to slow.
    So I can say I can play 1/32 notes** tremolo within 70 and 94 bpm.
    So, without changing the speed, I can play the same within 140 and 188bpm.
    I will just play 1/16 notes instead of 1/32 but my playing speed will be the same.
    Ok, now I know that I can play tremolos within that two ranges of tempo.
    But... what about within 94 and 140 bpm?
    1/16 notes will be too slow and 1/32 notes too fast.

    So I tried the same with triplets.
    If I play DuDuDu in one beat I have a new range of tempo: 90 to 126 bpm.
    This extends the range and nearly cover the gap.
    It will work for swinged music.
    But on a strong binar rythm, it is not very convenient to think triplets.
    Alas, this is the only way I've founded.

    I know some might say I could just don't care about measured tremolos and play it unmeasured and they should be right.
    This works good in situations where tempo is not very marked and can move a little.
    But when playing with a drummer or percs or even a drum machine, unmeasured things drive me a little out of the beat.
    As an old bass player I can ear well when I'm out of the beat and can't stand it.
    And if a tune goes 130 bpm I'm lost if I try tremolo.

    I still don't know the answers to improve tremolos at any tempo.
    And still have to practice a lot.
    But at least my modest little research on tempos helped me to know what works and don't works for a given tempo. (and for me!)
    May be it will help some others.
    Thanks for reading and have a good day

    (** Sorry, I don't know the english for ♪ ♫ etc... so I will say 1/16 or 1/32...)
    My english is not perfect.
    Nor my french anyway...

  38. #22

    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Thanks Phil, I have about the same problem with 32th notes as you, so I play DuDuDu in medium tempo songs.
    But I don't think of this as triplets, I try to just let it flow. With quarter notes or half notes, this works fine, but I really have a hard time when playing a dotted quarter with an ensuing eighth note played non-tremolo. Somehow, I do not succeed in playing the tremolo long enough, so there's a little pause. Got to work on this!
    For example Molly Malone: In bars 5 and 6, there's a dotted quarter note and an eighth note, in my version, the dotted eighth notes are a little on the short side. Any ideas?

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  40. #23

    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Another nice tune to practice the difference between legato tremolo and non-legato eights is Morning has broken.
    In measure 5, a dotted quarter followed by an eighth note and a quarter note is played with continuous tremolo because it's one sylalbe: Mo-o-orn/ning.
    In measure 10, the same rhythmic figure is played with a tremolo for the dotted quarter followed by a non-tremolo eighth-note:
    like-the -first/ Bird

    Click image for larger version. 

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  42. #24

    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    Today's tremolo-practice-tune is pretty straight forward.
    It is fast enough to play quarter notes non-tremolo and use sixteenth notes to suggest a tremolo for 2-beat or 4-beat-notes.
    Moscow Nights also known as Midnight in Moscow shouldn't prove too difficult and is a nice practice tune for tremolo-novices.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  44. #25

    Default Re: Tremolo Tuesdays-Let's work on our tremability!

    In the previous examples, all the notes of the same value were played in the same fashion.
    But it is possible to play a quarter note tremoloed in one place and non-tremolo in another.
    In my version of Santa Lucia, I play the first quarter note of measures 1,3 and 5 non-tremolo and the other quarter notes tremolo.
    To indicate tremolo in the notation, there are different signs being used.
    I use the way it is notated in older method books such as L'Art de la Mandoline by Silvio Ranieri.
    All the notes are played tremolo except for the ones that have a staccato sign above them.
    This sign doesn't necessarily mean, that the note is shortened, it just means Non-tremolo

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