Mandolin tremolo is the subject of this 3rd lesson in the Mandolin Lessons for beginners concept I conceived almost one year ago targeting to teach my kids how to play mandolin and have fun, while at the same time help others learn mandolin as well, by recording here a detailed transcript of each lesson, together with videos and tabs.

The first lesson proved popular and I received nice comments motivating me to continue. The second lesson introduced mandolin tremolo, hoping that Alexandra and Panos (my kids) will continue having fun while learning how to play. I am trying my best to make these lessons interesting, as I want my kids to enjoy them and for this reason I am using a mixture of theory, practice with videos and recordings for these lessons.

In this third lesson, I will continue to teach tremolo, probably the most important technique for mandolinists.

So, here is the third mandolin lesson, grab your mandolin and follow Panos footsteps!

Mandolin Tremolo – Setting the stage

We start this 3rd lesson by settling in again at the same nice spot, near the Christmas tree and in front of a large window to have nice physical light.

Mandolin Tremolo -

Here is the spot.

Mandolin Tremolo - the student Panos

And here is the student – my 11-year old son, Panos, ready to start (really dad?).

Mandolin Tremolo – Starting with what we learned in the previous lesson

We begin remembering what we did during the previous lesson, a part of which was theory and the rest was practice.

I ask Panos what he learned and he gives me the highlights, i.e. what is tremolo and how we use it. He also adds that I gave him exercises to practice.

I begin asking questions, to see how much he actually remembers (try to answer them on your own, before revealing the answer):

Panos remembers that it is a right-hand technique where we rapidly repeat a single note with the pick. Well done Panos!

You play the same note many times in a series of down-up, down-up strokes. The faster you become with this movement, the better sound you produce.

Free and measured tremolo

Panos misses the important point. He remembers that you are free to use it whenever you like.  To help him remember it , I mention it is a tremolo that can speed up and slow down in order to help express feelings while playing! Really dad?

That’s easy so Panos remembers it is timed (e.g. four strokes each time) in order to follow the music or to produce a desired effect.

Panos remembers that. We may have four strokes per beat, for fast tempos, six strokes per beat for medium tempos and eight or even twelve strokes per beat for songs with slow tempos

Panos remembers we use the word staccato, to describe the technique when he hit a note just once!

Tremolo is mainly used to play notes of long values (duration), as when done properly it produces a sound that is like the note becoming one long sustained constant note. Panos remembers the cello…

by using hash marks on the stem of the note or under the number in the tab

Free tremolo is sometimes indicated with slurs over the notes

The piece has slow tempo and notes with long values, so the only way to achieve the sustained sound required is to play these notes with tremolo. In this case the composer does not need to add any indication.

I ask Panos to play the lesson 2 homework exercises slowly, three times. To make each note last enough to practice tremolo, I ask him to count to four before moving to the next note.

Here is a link to the lesson 2 exercises in PDF format for you to print: Lesson 2 practice exercises

Here is Panos trying the exercises.

I tell him he needs to continue practicing this exercise, as homework, for the next lesson.

Now, that we are sure that the previous lesson is well understood, it’s time to move on to new stuff!

Mandolin Tremolo-  Real Piece of Music

I now give Panos his first real music score. This is a piece of music from Fernando Sor, so I start with a short biography of the composer and some trivial facts for this particular piece of music.

Mandolin Tremolo - Fernardo Sor

Josep Ferran Sorts i Muntades (baptized 14 February 1778 – died 10 July 1839) was a Spanish classical guitarist and composer. While he is best known for his guitar compositions, he also composed music for a wide range of genres, including opera, orchestra, string quartet, piano, voice, and ballet. His ballet score Cendrillon (Cinderella) received over one hundred performances. Sor’s works for guitar range from pieces for beginning players to advanced players such as Variations on a Theme of Mozart. Sor’s contemporaries considered him to be the best guitarist in the world,and his works for guitar have been widely played and reprinted since his death.

I describe to Panos, that this particular piece of Sor music that I give him is identified as Op.35 No.22 and is really an inspiring piece of music, although very simple. It is an exercise for guitarists (that is why it does not have a proper name), but it so beautiful that some of the greatest guitarists in the world have performed i at concerts. Julian Bream for example, probably the greatest classical guitarist of all times, plays this piece in his DVD while explaining that it is the first piece of music that he ever played in front of an audience when he was very young (if I remember correct he was eleven years old), so he is very fond of it, like me.

So, here it is, Fernando Sor’s Op.35 No.22 arranged for mandolin and guitar:

Mandolin Tab and score

I now give Panos the mandolin score and mandolin tab.

Mandolin Tremolo - Fernando Sor Op35 Mandolin tab page 1
Mandolin Tremolo - Fernando Sor Op35 Mandolin tab page 2

If you want to print it, here is a pdf (adobe Acrobat file type) that is more convenient to print:

Fernando Sor Op35, No22

The Guitar Part for practice

I ask Panos to play along with me while I play the guitar. It is not easy, but he likes it! Here is a recording of the guitar part for you to play along:

I hope you like it, as much as I (and Panos) do.

Mandolin Tremolo Lesson is over!

That’s it! I cross my fingers and hope that this third lesson was easy enough for Panos to follow and it will not scare him off!

He looks happy and continues trying to play the music by Sor after I leave him alone. Success!!!! I am a happy dad…

Motivate me to create the Next Lesson

What do you think my chances are for Alexandra and Panos wanting to continue the mandolin lessons and do a fourth one? Please leave a comment to give me motivation to continue!

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