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Notation and possible execution of (a) bow and (b) finger tremolo

Tremolo (Italian; from tremare "to tremble", "quake", or Latin, tremolare "to tremble") denotes two different ornaments in music :

  1. The rapid repetition of a single tone. To do this, write down oblique bars above or below the note to be repeated. It is known as a bow tremolo on string instruments .
  2. The rapid alternation (change) between two tones or chords, which in contrast to the trill at least one third embraced . You note oblique bars between the two alternating notes, which do not touch the stems of the notes. With string instruments it is also called finger tremolo .

In electronic music , tremolo is understood to be an electronically or mechanically generated sound effect in which the dynamics (volume) of the musical signal are continuously modulated at short intervals .

To be distinguished from tremolo is vibrato , in which the pitch is continuously changed.

General information on notation and rhythm

Quite often, a tremolo means playing without considering the measure or the repetition of a note in an indefinite amount of time; for this purpose, 3 small lines are drawn on the neck of the note, similar to a 32nd note (even if, strictly speaking, 32nd notes are asked these notes are usually performed in a completely free time measure - if the composer does not wish this, he should make an additional note above the notes). Sometimes, however, tremolos that are precisely timed are also required by the player. For this, 2 lines (like a 16th note) or 1 line (like an 8th note) are noted on the neck.

The notation for the above-mentioned trill-like figures, which also belong to the tremoli due to the larger ambitus, is handled similarly.

A trill sign is also used less frequently for the notation of an ordinary tremolis (which remains on the same note), mainly for percussion instruments such as the timpani, triangle or cymbal. This tremolo is carried out exactly as in the above form. So it is just an alternative notation.

Tremolo on acoustic musical instruments

  • Brass instruments: continuous flow of air with a rapid change between two valve combinations that produce the same tone (alternative, auxiliary or special fingerings, false fingerings ). This mostly results in microtonal deviations, which is why this technique is also known as bisbigliando or timbre trill on wind instruments. In the case of the trombone, for example, the deviations arise from the fact that different tones of the overtone series are used. Microtonal deviations are only noticeable at a slow pace. As soon as a tremolo is played at maximum speed, you no longer hear microtonal differences.
  • Woodwind instruments: continuous flow of air with a rapid change between two key combinations that produce the same tone (alternative, auxiliary or special fingerings, false fingerings ). It should be noted for this is the difference between German and Böhm system of fingering for the clarinet , but not with saxophone , flute , oboe , English horn , Heckelphone and bassoon
  • Strings: A distinction is made between two types of playing or tremolos in string instruments. 1. Bow tremolo: rapid change of bow (from downstroke and upstroke) over a very short distance (within a few centimeters) at the same pitch. 2. Finger tremolo: Rapid change of two sides on the fingerboard with simultaneous striking of the bow.
  • Percussion instruments: the same stop point is repeated as quickly as possible. With a snare drum, a kettledrum or a cymbal, this would be a so-called vortex
  • Keyboard instruments: similar to string instruments, there are two different types; 1. the same key is played either with two fingers of one hand or with several fingers of the same hand (repetition mechanism on the grand piano), depending on the musical passage, 2. similar to the finger tremolo of the strings, two different keys are played with a minor third or a higher ambitus apart (because a small or a large second is a trill) played in rapid alternation.
  • Plucked instruments: the same tapped string tone by alternate picking repeats, either with a plectrum (characteristic of mandolin , Balalaika and Bouzouki ), or with the fingers (in particular in the classical and Flamenco - guitar ).

Notation peculiarities in wind instruments

In wind instruments, the tremolo must be clearly distinguished from the flutter tongue in terms of playing technique and notation. The tremolo is always performed by the hands and the game mechanics, the flutter tongue with the tongue and not with the game mechanics. Since the tremolo, sometimes also called the French timbre trill , is a comparatively new achievement in written music (= notes), although the playing practice is decades older, there is still no separate symbol for the tremolo in wind instruments. The naturalized sign, which is also common on all other instruments (three short slashes on the stem of the note in the oblique position of the verbalization or over entire notes), has traditionally established itself on wind instruments as a flutter tongue and not as a tremolo sign. So if you want a tremolo compositionally or need it in transcriptions of solos and want to record it in writing, you have to add the addition tremolo in verbal language to make the difference clear. There is the possibility for saxophones to indicate the tone change with these alternating characters above the notes, if the number of notes is manageable (slow tremolo): o + o + o + o + o. However, this does not stipulate fingering, but leaves the players to which handles you want to choose. This notation is not established for brass instruments with valves. You are on the safe side here if you explicitly know the two required grips and write about the tone changes with the addition "tremolo".

Grip problem

The choice of handles for keys or valves must be left to the musician, unless the composer has mastered the instrument himself. It is important to know that on all wind instruments a large number of tones are excluded from a tremolo for technical reasons, so that composers who do not master the instrument must ask professionals whether a tremolo is even possible on a certain tone. Technically excluded means: Either there are no alternative grips at all, or there are so-called "fork grips" that lie in the same hand and cannot be alternated at high speed, as required by a tremolo.

This way of playing, which is seldom found in writing, has not yet been established in instrument books or schools for wind instruments. Written instructions or fingering tables for performing a tremolo on wind instruments can therefore only be found in exceptional cases in special publications.

Tremolo in electronic music

An amplitude vibrato is in the language of musicians a frequent aptly, but not physically accurate, synonymous with tremolo term. The combination of the words "amplitude" and "vibrato" to "amplitude vibrato" means that the amplitude of the signal is modulated sinusoidally. The sound pressure or the analog electrical quantity of a sound fluctuates with the vibrato or, better, tremolo frequency between a minimum and a maximum value, with the envelope representing a low-frequency sinusoidal oscillation . Tremolo frequencies are usually around 5 to 8 Hz, slower fluctuations are perceived as "whimpering", while higher tremolo frequencies lead to a roughness of the sound impression.

  • Example of a tremolo ("amplitude vibrato") through amplitude modulation

In the case of sounds from natural musical instruments, a fluctuation in the amplitude is almost always associated with a fluctuation in the frequency, the two modulation frequencies in most cases being in phase, ie an increase in frequency is associated with an increase in amplitude. The strength of the tremolo or amplitude vibrato (amplitude deviation) is given in percent of the output amplitude, while the frequency deviation of the vibrato is given in cents .

The waveform of the vibrato signal is seldom sinusoidal in the sounds of mechanical musical instruments, rather it depends on the type of sound generation and the shape of the resonance curve of the instrument.

The extreme version of a tremolo is a rhythmic gater effect (e.g. used in trance and techno music on synth pads).


  • Robert Dick : New sound through new technology. (Tone development through extended techniques). Explanations and exercises for new ways of playing the flute. Zimmermann, Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-921729-58-0 .
  • Gerhard Krassnitzer: Multiphonics. For clarinet with the German system and other contemporary playing techniques. Edition Ebenos, Aachen 2002, ISBN 3-9808379-0-4 .
  • Carin Levine , Christina Mitropoulos-Bott: The techniques of flute playing. = The playing technique of the flute. Bärenreiter, Kassel and others
  • Jürgen Meyer: Acoustics and musical performance practice. Guide for acousticians, sound engineers, musicians, instrument makers and architects. ( Reference book series “Das Musikinstrument”. 24; Edition Bochinsky ). 5th updated edition. PPVMedien, Bergkirchen 2004, ISBN 3-932275-95-0 .
  • Peter Veale, Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf: The techniques of oboe playing. A compendium with additional remarks on the oboe d'amore and the cor anglais. = The playing technique of the oboe. Bärenreiter, Kassel et al. 1994, ISBN 3-7618-1210-8 . (German English French)

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Tremolo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Vienna Symphonic Library. In: Retrieved April 17, 2016 .