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Classical Mandolin Lesson: An Introduction to Tremolo


Instruments are designed, for the most part, to emulate the sonic capabilities of the human voice. What’s beautiful about the human voice, particularly in the context of music, is its ability to convey a vast array of complex emotions by using subtle inflections and intricate nuances within a musical passage. These nuances can be as simple as slightly wavering the volume of a single note or chord—a technique referred to as tremolo—which can completely alter the emotional character of a performance.


Skilled musicians often utilize tremolo techniques on their instruments to capture this emotive quality of the human voice. Stringed instruments in particular can replicate the tremolo effect of the human voice very easily, simply by altering the velocity and speed of the attack of their picking or bowing hand. The mandolin is no exception to this rule.


In this online mandolin lesson, world-renowned classical mandolinist, professor at the Music Conservatory in Cologne, Germany, and ArtistWorks classical mandolin instructor, Caterina Lichtenberg, teaches how to utilize tremolo techniques on the mandolin and provides detailed insights to help you begin incorporating tremolo effects into your own playing.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play classical mandolin from a master musician like Caterina Lichtenberg? Try some free online mandolin lessons now!


What is tremolo and what is tremolo picking?

Tremolo is the musical effect produced by the rapid modulation of volume. As a single note rapidly warbles from loud to soft to loud, it produces a dynamic sonic characteristic that isn’t possible when a note sustains at a fixed volume.


When playing a stringed instrument like the mandolin, the tremolo effect is created by using a technique called tremolo picking. Players utilize tremolo picking by rapidly striking the string to produce a constant resonance. As a result, the volume will spike each time you strike the string, and it will briefly drop between strikes.


“The sound that the tremolo effect produces is often the sound that most people think of when they imagine the mandolin,” Caterina explains. “The technique is synonymous with the instrument, which is why it’s so critical to focus on this aspect of your playing.”


Executing tremolo picking techniques with a proper feel can be difficult at first. Since the methods are all about subtle adjustments to the picking hand, it can be tough to produce a tremolo effect that oscillates smoothly between louder and softer volumes when you’re first beginning to implement the method. So, make sure to cut yourself some slack as you work toward mastering your approach to tremolo. These small picking-hand movements will quickly become second nature, muscle memory will take over, and you’ll be able to execute your tremolo playing with precision.


To learn more about tremolo techniques on the mandolin and how to incorporate tremolo picking into your playing, dive into this online mandolin lesson from Caterina Lichtenberg:


An Introduction to Tremolo with Caterina Lichtenberg:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play the classical mandolin? Through our comprehensive mandolin lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Caterina Lichtenberg, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Caterina’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner mandolin to advanced performance techniques, iconic classical pieces, études, music theory, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as mandolinists and musicians.


Sample some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



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