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What is tremolo?
Tremolo on a bowed stringed instrument just means that you are creating a “trembling effect”. You will want to repeat the same note very quickly with very short bow strokes.
The concept of tremolo is not very hard to grasp. However, being able to move the bow as quickly as you’d like and being able to maintain the tremolo for longer periods of time can be much more difficult.
So are the biggest challenges of tremolo?
1. Being able to move your bow fast enough.
2. Being able to maintain tremolo for long periods of time.
The key to overcoming the biggest challenges of tremolo is to be RELAXED. Follow these 2 rules to be relaxed.
1. Do not use your whole arm. Only use the wrist when trembling. The less large muscles and joints you activate the better. Resist the urge to tighten up your elbow or bicep. As soon as you tighten your elbow or bicep, your whole arm will tighten up.
2. Only use three fingers: Thumb, 1st and 2nd finger. Your ring finger and pinky should be completely relaxed. Your ring finger will barely lay on the bow and your pinky will not even be contacting the bow. Focus on moving just the TIPS of your fingers. This will help you focus on the right muscle groups.
How to practice?
When practicing tremolo, isolate your entire arm by resting it on your knee. This will help you only use your wrist and train your mind to incorporate the only muscles you should be using.
When playing in an orchestra, you can rest your arm on your right knee for long tremolo sections. Obviously, this only works on the upper strings and it may be seen as “bad form”, so don’t get caught. But it works….