Lessons and info for the nylon string guitarist

Tremolo mastery – part 1

Tremolo Mastery Part 1
Classical guitar tremolo – 3 stroke (P a m i)

Video Details

Tremolo Mastery Part 1
Classical guitar tremolo – 3 stroke (P a m i)

Playing time: 0.28
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3 stroke tremolo

This is the Classical style tremolo.

The right hand fingers used are P a m i.

This style of tremolo was all the rage with flamenco players in the fifties and sixties (it’s so last century). I feel it was a little overused by Manitas de Plata and Carlos Montoya. To my ears it sounds dated now. But that’s only my opinion. I can’t think of a single flamenco artist today who uses a 3 stroke tremolo. Like I said, it just sounds old fashioned. The 4 stroke is much more expressive and dynamic. I just feel that using 3 stroke tremolo in the middle of an Alegrías or whatever makes it sound too wishy washy and overly romantic. You can say goodbye to whatever Duende was floating around when you throw in a passage of 3 stroke tremolo in a flamenco piece.

But that’s not to say it’s not worth learning. Despite what I just said about it’s non-use in flamenco, it is an excellent technique to try and master. I originally learned it because I wanted to play Recuerdos (that’s all I use it for really), but later I found that learning the flamenco 4 stroke was very easy BECAUSE I already knew the classical 3 stroke. Therefore, I strongly recommend you learn how to play a 3 stoke tremolo first before you jump into the 4 stroke.

Tips for playing classical tremolo
Learning the notes shouldn’t take long. That’s just a matter of mindless repetition and rote learning. But learning the piece is only half the story. That’s the easy part. The trick is in how you practice it.

  1. It’s a good idea not to put all your focus on the actual piece. The issue is not really about playing Recuredos. This piece is just the end product of something more important. The focus should be on developing the tremolo technique itself. Once you master the technique, you can play ANY tremolo piece with equal ease.
  2. Don’t try to practice at your full target speed. Playing good tremolo is not an accidental byproduct of just “going for it” without training the fingers first. That’s the Gung Ho reflex approach where all you’re doing is practicing bad habits.
  3. Use a metronome set to the speed of the bass notes. Play at a controlled speed where you have full muscle control. No floppy reflex actions. Every stroke must be strong and deliberate. If you lose conscious feeling of each individual stroke, you are going too fast.
  4. If you are still learning the notes, don’t just play the piece as tremolo. Only play a one finger stokes for the “tremolo” part until you learn the actual notes. P i, P i, etc, not the full P i m a . Also run through the piece using only P m and P a.
  5. Practice accenting one of the tremolo finger, E.G., run through the piece and accent the a finger P a m i. The next time you play it accent the M finger P a M i. Then do the same with the i. P a m i.
  6. Practice the whole piece using the flamenco 4 stroke tremolo Pmaim. This will really test the muscles in the right hand. When you have finished this, go back and play it with the classical Pami. It’s like magic. Suddenly, playing Pami feels effortless.
  7. This will all be too much for one sitting, so organize your practice methods in a daily routine where you focus on different methods every day. Write out a schedule to include different practice techniques every day and spread the whole lot over 7 days.
  8. How NOT to get a clear sound
    Don’t settle for the fairy touch style of plucking the strings. When you play the a m i part of the 3 stroke tremolo, don’t do what some classical guitar players do and simply wave your fingers across the strings in a sweeping motion and hope they make contact. We are not practicing our “Chaio bella” finger wave to an old friend at the airport.

The video shows:
A demonstration of the technique that I use to play tremolo.
The staccato sound produced by the fact there is always one finger on the strings. This is a key element to getting a good sound.

Video example:
Recuerdos de la Alhambra
(Classical guitar solo using 3 stroke tremolo)

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Tremolo Mastery Part 2

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