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I'm trying to develop a faster tremolo. I'm playing an oud with a risha pick. I'd (hopefully) like to get to this speed of tremolo. My tremolos aren't as fast as I want and become inconsistent at higher speeds. I'm wondering if it's just because the muscles in my wrist haven't fully developed? I haven't been trying for too long only a few weeks about an hour a day. Is it because I need more time to develop more muscle in the wrist, and how long does this typically take to get good at tremolos?

I think this question could be answered by mandolin players as well. As both have strings that are doubled and tremolos are generally done with a pick. Or maybe this could also apply to electric guitarists.

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No, it's almost never about muscles, it's about technique and relaxation. You do want to actually practice it slowly, try to use as little of the pick as possible, find a pick angle that works, and keep things as loose as possible while still having an even up and down motion.

I would search YouTube for tremolo picking lessons and watch several until you see something that makes sense and clicks for you. They should definitely talk about picking angle and keeping your wrist fairly still and relaxed.

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    I'm not sure this is applicable to oud though. The one oud player I've played with had an incredibly forceful tremolo – looked almost cramp-like, and it always seemed to me that this couldn't really be the “right” technique. But boy, did it sound amazing... At any rate oud is different from mandolin, and the pick is a completely different shape. – leftaroundabout Aug 1 '19 at 8:08
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In addition to Todd's answer, it's worth noting that some people prefer playing tremolo from the forearm rather than the wrist (which you might want a stiffer wrist for - though not a tense one). This definitely requires some degree of muscle strength, but not nearly as much are you'd expect.

The main things about tremolo picking are relaxation (not being super tense when you're trying to do it) and stamina. These both come from developing good technique and practising. You'll get there in the end!

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  • from research I've done in both oud and mandolin forums many say only the wrist should move and the arm shouldn't move at all. – user34288 Aug 1 '19 at 11:05
  • I guess I should've prefaced my answer with "I'm answering predominantly as a guitarist"... it's honestly about personal preference. If you're not tense, you could play from the forearm with no trouble. I suppose with a smaller instrument like a mandolin it might make sense to play from the wrist though. Having said this, there's nothing stopping you from developing a safe and sustainable technique from the forearm. – James Whiteley Aug 1 '19 at 12:17
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    Good to point out that "best practices technique" and what works for some exceptional players don't always align. IIRC, John Petrucci tremelo picks from the elbow; it is a good way to get some exercise while you practice! – ex nihilo Aug 1 '19 at 18:32
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I play the oud and I make the tremolos with the wrist. You shouldn't move your whole arm since the movement would become stiff. Besides that, it's good to avoid the wrist movement to become stiff, and the hand to become stiff. The hand should be relaxed and the faster you play, the looser you hold the risha. Also, don't make the risha stick out too much, just about 1 cm. Find an angle that works best (you'll know). Also, try different types of rishas to figure out which one works best for the kind of playing you're after. Some thick or stiff rishas make require more work to get them sound right on tremolos (too thin or light rishas are also tricky). It's about technique and time. Try to practice slow first to get the movement right and relaxed. Then increase speed slowly, then slow down again to rest. Don't overdo it since tiring your hands is also not beneficial for studying (and if you feel any pain, as minimal as it could be, stop! Technique should be revised).

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  • thanks for your answer, good tips here. how long did it take you to be good at tremolos? – user34288 Aug 1 '19 at 17:05
  • I'm still not good at tremolos :) But I can also say that I play Turkish oud and music, which barely uses tremolos if any at all (you may find tremolos outside the classical context maybe), so it's something I don't focus on. – Alejandro García Iglesias Aug 1 '19 at 17:12
  • I have a Turkish oud as well. I'm surprised you said they're barely used. Tremolos are the defining sound of an oud. It's the most important element (aside from vibrato). youtube.com/watch?v=eDqlObjpEtY – user34288 Aug 3 '19 at 17:28
  • I cannot see how it's one of the most important elements in the video you shared in which is used as an effect only in the first 25 seconds of the whole 3:25 taksim. Also, I barely find it used in my music collection which is mostly classical music of Istanbul. I might be wrong and I'm also aware that the new generations of players are using it more (and I'm not too much into the new-gen style of oud playing), but in my opinion, it doesn't represent the majority of the Turkish style to categorize the technique as the defining sound of a Turkish oud in the classical context. – Alejandro García Iglesias Aug 27 '19 at 15:57

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