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Thread: Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

  1. #1
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    Default Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

    When playing tremolo I tend to rest my right wrist somewhere but it is always irritated by rubbing against the bridge or the strings. I can't seem to find anywhere suitable.

    If I just rest my arm against the edge of the mandolin only, it solves the problem, but then I find it difficult to control the tremolo, without any wrist support.

    I tried youtube watching but none seems to address this exact problem.
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    Registered User Doug Edwards's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

    I use a light grip and loose wrist. My fingers brush the top of my pickguard aka finger rest. Some guys plant their finger(s) on the pickguard or top of the instrument. I applaud the guys guys that do neither.

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  4. #3
    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

    The shape of the mandolin plays an important part. A flat-top instrument may use a different approach to an arch-top. DIstances and heights and angles vary between instruments. As for irritation from contact with the instrument, make sure everything is smooth. I found I could play an old instrument easily, but a newer one caused some discomfort. In my case I found the cause was sharp edges to the corners of the bridge, which had already worn smooth and shiny on the old one.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

    My right hand usually rests on the north end of the bridge. Loose is for guitar. Anchored is for mando.

    But I'm no pro.

  6. #5
    Registered User dylanferris's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

    I personally plant my pinky finger on the top of my mandolin, and use a stiff wrist. I use forearm movement anchored at the pinky for my tremolo. It's going to be a personal preference thing, as you can tell by the varied answers thus far. Try different things out and see what feels best!

  7. #6
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

    Rest your arm lightly on the edge of the mandolin , (or get an arm rest), have your hand be free and fingers curled gently.
    Practice, practice, practice.
    Practice slowly being sure your up stroke sounds the same as your down stroke. Practice slowly so your first pic isn’t louder than the following pics. You want everything to be smooth as butter and it ain’t easy.
    Practice, practice…
    Practice more, that’s the only way you’ll get it.

    IMO The guy playing the Glen mandolin currently in the Café classifieds has real nice right hand technique. Copy that and practice more!

    I have spent many hours focusing on right hand technique. Study Chris Thile‘s videos, he’s got it wired.
    Last edited by Billy Packard; Nov-01-2020 at 5:21pm.
    Billy Packard
    Gilchrist A3, 1993
    Stiver Fern, 1990
    Weber Fern, 2007
    Gibson F4 Hybrid #1, D. Harvey 2009
    Gibson 1923 A2
    Numerous wonderful guitars

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  9. #7

    Default Re: Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

    I'll throw my hat in- here's how I was taught. For reference, I have a flat-top.

    My forearm rests on the edge of the instrument, and my wrist is arched and doesn't touch the mandolin at all. (For reference on how this looks, rest your pick on a string near the 15th fret or so and slide it down to the middle of the sound hole just by bending your wrist, not moving your forearm at all.) The tremolo comes from tiny rotations of the arched wrist. Seems weird but it works for me and doesn't take a ton of energy once you get used to it. Because I'm not moving my hand a ton, it's easier to stay in the same place instead of bouncing out of control. It also helps sometimes to let my tremolo downstrokes bounce off the string above-- so if I'm doing a tremolo on the A string, my downstrokes can silently bounce against the E and back.

    My ring and pinky fingers rest on the pick guard area, curled in slightly so my fingernails touch the surface, not the fingertips. (My mandolin doesn't have a pick guard, so I taped a piece of acetate-- aka a thin sheet of plastic--where a pick guard would be). When my wrist moves, my ring and pinky fingernails glide silently back and forth over the surface of the instrument. My index and middle knuckles also tend to brush whatever strings are above the strings I'm picking, but I've never had problems with irritation there.

    TL;DR: my wrist doesn't touch the instrument, but my forearm, ring finger and pinky finger do.

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  11. #8

    Default Re: Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

    Oh, P.S.: the other thing that helps me a lot with tremolo control-- pick control! I use a pick with a sharp, narrow tip, I use only the very tip of it, and it's the edge of the pick that makes contact with the string, not the flat of it. (So the pick more or less perpendicular, not parallel, to the string.)

    Good luck!!

  12. #9
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    Default Re: Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

    I think tremolo can be achieved however it is comfortable for each person to do. I use mostly wrist, not bent. Think the most important part is your pick should be at an angle. The more angle the less volume, the less resistance and the more control. It will help those working on their tremolo to angle the pick more than they normally would. When you start it usually is with more force and this also makes the volume less and the sound more smooth.

    And as Billy says Practice Practice Practice.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  14. #10
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to hold right wrist/arm when playing tremolo?

    Good words Pops.

    Over time I have found a range of tone is available by altering the pick angle from about 45% to full-on parallel. It has become 2nd nature but not after lots of experimenting and....(wait for it...!) TONS of practice! It's a good thing I like to practice. A very high level S.F. composer/conductor/educator told me, "practice is not playing. We practice so we can play."

    I did a workshop some years ago for the S.F. Festival of Mandolins on right hand technique. I'm happy to share the written handout, pm me and I'll send it along.

    ps remember the effects of practice are cumulative. The 2nd day will be slightly better but by the 5th day you will be able to observe the improvement.
    Billy Packard
    Gilchrist A3, 1993
    Stiver Fern, 1990
    Weber Fern, 2007
    Gibson F4 Hybrid #1, D. Harvey 2009
    Gibson 1923 A2
    Numerous wonderful guitars

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