There are 20 to 30 guitar techniques that will greatly improve your ability to solo over any chord progression. I grouped the majority of all the techniques into a few categories: percussive and single, double, and multiple note techniques. In this article, I cover the single note guitar technique known as tremolo. I describe the technique and give some exercise tips for incorporating it into your playing.
In my Guitar Techniques article I list of all the guitar techniques that I think are worth learning which I broke into different categories. But first, let’s go over the tremolo technique.
The tremolo guitar technique
The standard tremolo involves a single note but I’ve seen it taught with multiple notes as well. This is not an easy guitar technique to master so it’s best to practice the single note tremolo in the beginning.
The word “tremolo” comes from the same word in Italian and “tremulus in Latin and both mean ‘trembling’. It also means ‘shaking’ and ‘quivering’, so those meanings should give you some insight into the technique.
Here are some definitions of tremolo from Dolmetsch Online:
“…the regular and rapid repetition of a single note, sometimes notated by a wavy line, or …the repeated use of a plectrum…”
“…in music, tremolo is the rapid repetition of one note in music or a rapid alternation between two or more notes.”
“Tremolo picking: or double picking, a technique of picking on the guitar. The plectrum, or pick, is moved up and down rapidly, using the wrist, to hit the intended string of the guitar evenly. This gives a drone-like sound to a guitar, and more of a muddled hum than a clear and distinctive note.”
Tremolo is an extremely rapid up and down strokes of a single note. The bottom line is you want to play a note as fast as possible to produce a speed effect (easier said than done).
Suggested tremolo exercises
It is difficult when you first try this guitar technique. My advice is to go slow and use a metronome. If you do not own a metronome, I’ll include some links below of online metronomes that I like.
Follow these steps to learn the guitar tremolo technique:
- Start slowly so you can get your right-hand picking to be consistent
- Use a metronome set to 60 bpm.
- Remember to use alternate picking, down and up, for each note played.
- You must hit each note on the beat! Don’t get sloppy. The timing is more important than speed – the speed will come in time.
- Start out with a single fretted note on the high E string.
- Try and keep your pick movements small. You speed will suffer if the pick strays too far from the string. Keep your movements tight.
- Finally, make sure it is your wrist moving the pick, not your arm/elbow.
Here are the FREE metronome websites I found that have a decent metronome app:
The tremolo is a single-note guitar technique but it is not the easiest technique to master. Techniques such as hammer-ons and slides are easy, but this one will take some time to develop. Give it a try for a few months and I’m sure you will master it and improve your overall musicianship.
The tremolo guitar technique may seem simple being that it is only a single note repeated many times at a fast speed. But don’t let the apparent simplistic description fool you into thinking the technique is easy – it’s not. I describe the technique and offer some simple guidelines on how to practice and master the tremolo.