Problem to Solve - Tremolo Study

Dear Selina

Please can you give me your opinion.

I have been practising Recuerdos ( Tarrega Tremelo ) for many years. I know I can play it at a reasonable speed. Infact I can get up to 130 bpm and more but will tire. I‘ve picked it up again recently.

I was wondering how you would practise the piece.

Would you use a metronome and keep it a reasonable speed say 80 – 100 just keep at a good tempo for example to make sure all the parts fit together, then speed it up ?

Would you use a metronome at all?

Would you practise it on alternate days to rest the fingers?

Woud you speed up and slow down in parts in a performance to stop the fingers from getting to tight in the right hand?

A lot of different ideas above I know and they have been collected over time.

It would be great to hear your opinions.

Thank you for your time.


Dear Tony

A good question and one that has been asked by many students over the life time of the classical guitar.

Reading through a variety of guitar technique books and various web sites on the internet one finds a multitude of methods, exercises, formulas for improving ones tremolo technique and to a degree they all work and yet we are all generally disappointed with our Tremolo even after many months of practice this is because there is one point that is missed and it is this:-

Tremolo is the one technique that will highlight problems, deficiencies in ones right hand technique.

Let me explain:-

The fingers of our hands do not have equal strength or dexterity, for example the 3rd and 4th finger of our hands are designed to grip in conjunction with the thumb and therefore have a good level of strength however they do not have as good a sense of touch as the 1st and 2nd fingers which are more for sensory work rather than strength, add to this the way the hand is designed, we have all noticed that the ability to move finger 3 is far less than fingers 1 and 2 then add into the mix the question, who uses their 4th finger when playing the guitar.

As you can see we are really up against it when attempting to carry out finger movements which attempt to deliver a smooth run of evenly projected notes.

The question you now need to ask yourself is "Do I wish to improve my right hand control and eventually not just my Tremolo technique but my playing as a whole" or "Do I wish to improve my Tremolo accepting the way my hand currently works".

Here I will answer the second of these two questions as the first is a little more difficult in a written reply.

Basic Rules for Practice of Tremolo-

1. Practice slowly.

2. Practice for the fingers must be on the 2nd string.

3. Practice using a method called Prepare & Play.

4. Learn to feel your finger relax.

5. Practice only on open strings do not bring the left hand into play until you have control of the technique.

Five rules, not to difficult to remember, break any of them and you will pay the price.

Rule one - In the initial stages if you cannot feel your fingers relax you are playing to fast.

Rule two - By playing on the 2nd string your fingers learn to be more precise as they have to negotiate the 1st string, if you practice on the 1st string ones fingers tens to flap as you increase speed.

Rule three - Prepare and play is a method where by we play one finger and then with our next finger instantly find the string it has to play for example -

5th string - Play with the thumb then instantly find the 2nd string with the 'a' finger, play the 'a' finger and instantly find the 2nd string with the 'm' finger, play the 'm' finger and instantly find the 2nd string with the 'i' finger, play the 'i' finger and instantly find the 5th string with the thumb.

Rule four - Each time a finger touches a string it must relax yet stay in touch with that string, when you feel the finger relax you may then play the string. By performing this technique you build up the dexterity and strength of each finger and more importantly tension in the hand does not increase with speed.

Once the above has been mastered then the use of a metronome helps to challenge you - make sure you can still maintain a sense of relaxation in each finger.

As life becomes easier allow the thumb to move between the 6th, 5th, 4th & 3rd strings.

The above should be practiced every day however once you become mentally tired stop and do something else, it is our brain that are learning the technique the fingers just do as they are told. Should you find yourself thinking about something completely different you are no longer learning but have just engaged autopilot.

Good luck!