In the third of our exclusive classical masterclass video series, Carlos Bonell demonstrates his tremolo technique to Bridget Mermikides.
The amazing Carlos Bonell presents his third video on classical-guitar technique.
Tremolo really is a great effect, and although you do often hear a similar sound coming from other stringed instruments - mandolin in particular - the way it’s performed on the classical guitar is unique. Tremolo is a way of creating a melodic line by repeating the same note in quick succession. On classical guitar this is done using three fingers of the picking hand and is combined with a bass line played by the thumb.
This month Carlos takes us through the steps of playing an arpeggio using ‘pami’ across different strings and gradually bringing in the fingers to repeat on the same string (Ex 1 and 2). The idea is to achieve fluency in the technique by using the same reflex action as with a repeated downwards arpeggio.
Next Carlos talks about the positioning of the fretting hand. A classical guitar has a wide neck and wide spaces between the strings and, unlike electric guitar technique where the thumb reaches around and ‘grips’ the neck, a classical guitarist needs to keep the thumb lower down behind the neck to enable the fingers to reach all of the strings more easily. Also to accommodate the larger fret board size, Carlos demonstrates how ‘pivoting’ the arm from the shoulder rather than fishing with the fingers individually, can help to reach different chords shapes (see Exercises 3 and 4).
The rest stroke, being a heavier stroke, is perfect for playing single-line melodies and also for producing the accent and the rhythmic shape.
Continuing with the fretting hand, Carlos now shows us some useful hammer-on and pull-off exercises. These short exercises use all the combinations between the four fingers and first of all separate the hammer ons and pull offs, before then combining the two. These are very much stamina building exercises and Carlos warns not to push the speed if you feel pain or aching in the arm. It’s a question of gradually increasing what you can manage and being aware and careful when increasing a speed and duration.
These exercises are for building technique and stamina, and need to be practiced with care and attention to how you feel. Carlos warns that if you experience pain you must stop and rest. Little and often is the best way to build up strength in the fretting hand.
Carlos Bonell: demonstrates tremolo picking