Jonathan Lewis posted a great video on his Facebook page a few weeks back of himself playing a beautiful song using tremolo picking.
I got in touch with Jonathan and he very kindly provided the following lesson to help you get to grips with tremolo. Over to you Jonathan…
What Is Tremolo Picking?
Tremolo picking is a rapid, one-string accompaniment to notes played with the thumb on the other strings. It involves plucking the same string (usual the first string) with the ring, middle and index, like this:
The objective is to play the notes very fast so they almost blend together to make a continuous sound. In order to do this, your fingers need to glide over the strings rather than dig in and pluck hard. Most players use fingernails, you won’t get such a crisp sound if you’re plucking with the pads of your fingers.
If that’s too hard too all in one go, you can always try adding one finger at a time. Practice playing these arpeggios with your thumb, Dm and A. They give a nice Spanish guitar feel:
Add One Finger At A Time
Now add just your index finger, plucking the first string between all the notes played with the thumb:
Add your middle finger and it should sound much richer:
And when you can do that, add the ring finger:
Tremolo Study Tab
Theoretically, tremolo could be used to play a melody, like Italian mandolin, but it’s rarely done on a uke. In the video above, I play the first few bars of a popular bluegrass tune this way, with the thumb playing the accompaniment.
It’s a very simple tune but even here it’s hard to distinguish where one note ends and another begins, so you need to vary the dynamics to make some of the tremolo notes sound louder than others.