I've spent several years working up Paganini's Capriccio #6 for the violin on the guitar and I wonder if the idea already exists and has a name.

For the violin, the piece is a coninuous double-stop trill (tremolo) in 64th-note dodecatuplets (12-lets of three 4-note figures). But the scale of the guitar is such that the two notes of the trill line are too spread out to do a hammer-on/pull-off series with any expectation of grace or style.

So I split the trill across two strings and do a p-i-p-m right-hand pattern where the second thumb is more like tonguing a clarinet reed than a real pluck. This allows me to perform the 4-note figure as a single motion (after much practice). The melody I play with a or p (if it's on a lower string - paying respect to the double-stops in the original).

In the Dover edition, adagio is in parentheses. I've been able to get it up to 50 bpm. If I can get to larghetto, I'll be happy.

So to repeat, the question is: is there a name for this technique of compressing a figure with a "tonguing" or "ghost" stroke in order to build a counted tremolo? And by the by, suggestions for alternate techniques will also be entertained.

Here's an image of the theme from http://www.everynote.com/violin.show/3828.music Image of the theme.

Edit: Finally made a crappy video.
Better video.

Edit: imslp scores.

  • 1
    Is this helpful to you? Here also is an...[ehm]... attempt. Maybe it helps.
    – user1306
    Oct 6, 2011 at 8:36
  • Oh, how embarrssing... I've only got eighth-notes to 50bpm, so a quarter=25, and I'm playing fewer than 12 notes-per-second. That's less than half of my q=60 target! Oct 19, 2011 at 10:03

4 Answers 4


tremolo (It.). Shaking, trembling. In playing of str. instr., the rapid reiteration of a note or chord by back‐and‐forth strokes of the bow; also, on other instr. as well as str., the very rapid alternation between 2 notes. Note that tremolo is the rapid iteration or alternation of notes, whereas vibrato is fluctuation of pitch.

From: "tremolo" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. Michael Kennedy and Joyce Kennedy. Oxford University Press, 2007. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of New England. 16 November 2011 http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t76.e9240

I would use just p i and make it as smooth as possible, with some expression via portamento and dynamic changes, but overall not emphatically projected — it's musical function is an harmonic decoration, not an extended ornament. Keep in mind that the pulse is indicated to reflect Adagio, which is quite slow, so no need to play the tremolo like a bat out of hell.

  • I appreciate the thoughts, but the question is really about nomenclature. ... I tried using just p-i- (among others, see my answer to this question ) but I just couldn't get the tempo anywhere close (ie. not even up to the slowest setting on the metronome). My real breakthrough came from honoring the rhythmic subdivisions in the text; that means four-note figures. Nov 16, 2011 at 14:46

Have you tried two handed tapping? In going for that section with the high top note, I would either tap with my first finger on my right hand (or the pick, if I needed a sharper attack)

Have a look at Joe Satriani or Eddie Van Halen examples of two handed tapping on youtube.

An example

  • I have tried. But I don't have the right strings for that. I use Thomastik Nickel Flat 13s. You have to hit 'em hard but they sustain for days! Oct 6, 2011 at 9:14
  • @luserdroog Yep - they'll still work just fine - maybe try using the edge of the pick if you aren't getting the power from a fingertip.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Oct 6, 2011 at 9:16
  • I'll give it a go. But it's a little late for that now... neighbors :( Oct 6, 2011 at 9:26
  • Well, I tried. Some issues are solveable (my nails are too long, I haven't practiced tapping lately). Some would require adjustment (lower action, shallower frets, round-wound-strings). But I fear even then, tapping isn't going to give me the speed I need. A very slow adagio is 60bpm. That's 2 eighth-notes, or 24 notes of the tremolo. With the "four-stroke ricochet" I can work the entire arm like a locomotive crankshaft. It's my shoulder that gets sore! Can you tap 24-notes-per-second? Oct 6, 2011 at 20:16
  • I confess I did't try it with a pick. I'm a little protective of my strings. Nickel is a soft metal and the strings are 5-years-old. If I start dinging them up, I fear it'll add higher harmonics and dirty the sweet tone. Oct 6, 2011 at 20:20

The only way you can play it in real tempo is to use this pattern: p,a,i,m Its even not that hard.. I studied with Eliot Fisk, learned it from him. Listen to it!

  • Yes. I've heard this. Thanks for sharing the pattern. Annoying that searching for anything written on this only leads to spamsites. Jan 21, 2013 at 9:54
  • One critique I have of this, and all violin versions I've heard is: Why would the internal metre of the tremolo be so precisely described if it weren't meant to be strictly metric? Does that make sense? My way (which I can't quite get up to tempo) at least follows the original notation as strictly as possible. Jan 21, 2013 at 9:57
  • My bad! According to the original manuscript, they are 12-lets but not subdivided. Must've been added for a later edition. Jan 21, 2013 at 18:30

Unless someone's got something better, I'm going to call it a "four-stroke ricochet" tremolo.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.