Starting a tremolo

Tip 1. Starting a tremolo

I was asked by a player in my mandolin ensemble “How do I get a good start to a tremolo?” She said “Once I get going I’m fine but I can’t get a smooth start”.

I suggested she imagine she was already ‘in the flow’ of a good tremolo. Then imagining the hand was already moving, to drop the plectrum onto the string ‘on the fly’ as it were. So instead of starting with a stationary plectrum start with a moving plectrum, dropping in to the first down stroke as if it was the twenty first in a long tremolo.

A ragged start is often experienced because the player is ‘thinking’ of getting going instead of thinking as if they are already going. In other words start as if you are already straight into the flow.

To practice this start a tremolo and wait until it is flowing smoothly. What does this feel like? How are you achieving this regular motion? Is it now easy and relaxed? Now imagine this is how it will be right from the start. Now stop. One cause of a ragged start to a tremolo is an increase in tension due to anticipating the start. So relax and breath gently. Now hold the plectrum above the string, bring back to your consciousness what you felt when you were in the flow. Lift the wrist first then drop into the string with a light and relaxed flick. Continue practising this until you can go straight into the flow.

A week after I suggested this approach another of my ensemble players said he’d been practising this and it had made a huge difference, he was now getting a really smooth start.

Have fun practising.