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Example of a Tremolo Arm
Example of a Tremolo Arm

Tremolo is a word used in music in quit some different ways. It's a part on the some guitars, but it's also a way of picking and a way of changing a note's pitch. Tremolo an be used on many instruments, including mandolins, electric organs and guitars. This wiki page will manely focus on the use of tremolo in the world of guitars.

Tremolo Bar

The tremolo arm, or whammy bar, is located on the bridge of some guitars. When someone pushes the bar down, the back end of the bridge comes up and the string tension lowers. This causes a drop of pitch. This can also be done the other way around, raising the bar and the pitch. There are several types of tremolo arms, which can be attached on different types of bridges. The most common bridges are bridges with no tremolo at all (stop tail bridge or string-through bridge), vintage style bridges (the arm can only pres them down) and floating or locking bridges, which have the ability to raise and lower the pitch. A example of the latter is the Floyd Rose tremolo/bridge system.

Tremolo in Music

Tremolo in musical notation
Tremolo in musical notation

Tremolo is the very fast repetition of notes or an electronic effect that varies the volume of the guitar in a regular pulsating manner. Often confused with vibrato which varies the pitch not the volume.

In music, tremolo can mean several things, the most important two are pitch bending (although that is actually vibrato) and very fast repetation of notes. Eddie Van Halen is one of the most famous users of tremolo picking. In this way of picking, the notes are picked at a high speed and all repeated several times. So instead of playing a note and holding it for a second, you rapidly play the note a bunch of times for a second. The second meaning of tremolo, the bending of pitch is very different from tremolo picking. With a bend of pitch, we mean changing the pitch up or down. E.g. on the guitar, the tremolo can be used to raise or lower pitch, as described above. This is why the bar (or arm) is named the tremolo bar. In musical notation, tremolo is mainly seen as horizontal stripes. The number of stripes depends on the speed of the tremolo.

Related GMC Lessons

Toni Suominen - Ultra Tremolo Pickin
Marcus Lavendell - Whammy Vibrato

By Kaznie