Arts & Entertainment, Music

The Magic of Tremolo

Jake Shimabukuro

Lesson time 15:06 min

Learn more advanced strumming techniques and how to achieve tremolo picking.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Achieving Tremolo · Three-Finger Roll Pattern · Tremolo Case Study: Performing “Ave Maria”


[00:00:00.99] ['UKULELE PLAYING TREMOLO] [00:00:19.37] JAKE SHIMABUKURO: All right. So let's get into tremolo picking. So my definition of tremolo picking playing the 'ukulele has always been, you know, when you're playing a note or a string very fast using a down and up stroke with one of your fingers to create almost a sustained sound. So it's, like, if I'm holding this note here, and I'm just taking my thumb and moving it up and down the string. [00:00:45.19] [PLAYING TREMOLO] [00:00:50.79] You know, I can get a sustained tone. And it's very useful, especially, because the 'ukulele doesn't have a lot of sustain. And when you pluck a note, you play it, and it immediately decays. Right? So sometimes utilizing a tremolo technique can give you that illusion of the note sustaining over a chord or for a duration of time. [00:01:18.18] [PLAYING TREMOLO] [00:01:23.51] The way that I go about my tremolo picking is I like to use my thumb. And what I do is I grow my thumb nail out just a little longer than my other finger nails. I just like it to stick out just a little over the top of the fleshy part of my thumb. [00:01:43.88] And what I'm doing as I'm anchoring my fingers on the soundboard, which is kind of a no no in the classical guitar world. And I use it almost like a little rocking point for myself, like this, going back and forth. And then, that way, I lightly angle my thumb so that I can barely touch the string, just like that. [00:02:09.51] [PLAYING TREMOLO] [00:02:16.43] Just very quietly. And then you can put more weight into it. [00:02:23.49] [PLAYING MORE LOUDLY] [00:02:27.15] And then you can back away. [00:02:28.81] [PLAYING GETS QUIETER] [00:02:32.96] And the idea is just to exercise that control. And let's do this over the sound hole. Because you can dig deeper into the string there. So let's try that. [00:02:42.53] We're going to put our thumb into the string like this. And we're just going to move it down. And then we're going to come up. Down up, down, up, down up. [00:02:53.23] [PLAYING TREMOLO] [00:02:54.21] It can be a very difficult technique here. But when you do it right and you can get a very consistent sound going up and down, you just want to be able to start very soft. Build that control. [00:03:13.15] Dig in a little harder. And basically, bring it down to almost nothing. So practicing that, I think, is very important. Because it will help to smooth out of the sound of your tremolo. [00:03:32.40] And for me, what helps me a lot is when I don't try to make really big movements, but I start with a very, very small back and forth motion, like this. [00:03:43.83] [PLAYING TREMOLO SOFTLY] [00:03:45.72] And then, as you dig in, the motion can get-- [00:03:49.88] [PLAYING TREMOLO MORE LOUDLY] [00:04:15.20] Now you can use other fingers for your tremolo technique. For example, you can use your index finger and use that to go back and forth. That's very common, too. [00:04:25.85] You could also use a pick. For...

About the Instructor

Called the “Jimi Hendrix of the ʻukulele,” Jake Shimabukuro won worldwide acclaim for his fresh and fearless musical interpretations. Now he’s sharing his approach so anyone can experience the joys of the ʻukulele, from the simple chords that make up hundreds of songs to more complex fingerings and compositions. Learn how to adapt songs you love for ʻukulele or write your own. Stop worrying and start strumming.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro teaches you how to take your ʻukulele from the shelf to center stage, with techniques for beginners and seasoned players alike.

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