Questions about Rotation

Question: "What's this forearm rotation thing? I must confess I've never heard of this."

Answer: I may be the first to use the term for guitar - maybe not, it doesn't matter at all. As far back as the early 20c Tobias Matthay used the concept in print in regard to piano playing.

Rasgueado is a right hand guitar technique involving rotation of the forearm. Rasgueado is a right hand guitar technique involving rotation of the forearm. Rasgueado is a right hand guitar technique involving rotation of the forearm.

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The tremolo is a way of playing rapidly repeated notes to energise a melody.

It is basically a very easy right hand fingering which takes advantage of the connections between the forearm - hand and fingers.

The rotation of the forearm is allowed to be transmitted to the strings via the fingertips, resulting in an effortless flow of notes.

Many folks make the technique difficult for themselves by focussing their attention on the individual fingers rather than the forearm rotation.

Practicing the tremelo.

  • Integrate the p - a - m - i into one flowing movement (not 4 separate movements!)
  • Develop your ability to hear and thus control the pulses by practicing variations.

Tremelo step by step on the guitar Tremelo step by step on the guitar Tremelo step by step on the guitar Tremelo step by step on the guitar

Practice Patterns

How to practice the tremelo

Take your time - practice these patterns musically and not just on one string! Then you will see improvement.

As in practicing any technique, the fact that it "seems to get worse at times" indicates that you have played it well on occasion, and more importantly that you are able to tell the difference.

Don't practice any of the variations to the point where they get 'stale' or boring, or you lose interest, you mind wanders etc. In my case that doesn't take long!

So what you do is change from one pattern to another ON THE FLY i.e. without stopping.

Also on the fly , vary the timbre and volume - even articulation!

Then - vary the figuration - don't just practice Recuerdos de la Alhambra type accompaniment patterns - do a scale with upper pedal so you are moving from open hand to closed (on one string) - then tremelo on 2 strings - and of course apply it to scales.

Don't get bored while you are practising, there's no benefit at all in practising like that!

Violin section effects on the guitar

Here's my "string section when you can't afford one" effect !

I like strings - often the gig won't pay for them though! With this simple device you can fool the audience into hearing the entire Sydney Symphony Orchestra string section... or maybe the Australian Chamber Orchestra anyway... no offense guys!

It's my impression of the effect where a violin section plays notes with a rapid tremelo on each note and moving voices happening between the two parts.

The doubling of parts in a string section creates a "chorus pedal" effect in itself, and the tremelo adds energy and more to the sound. It wasn't till I started looking at scores of classical and romantic symphonies that I even realised they were doing this.

Often they will play a long fast passage in eighth notes but bow in 16ths, for example. The effect is so well integrated in an orchestra that you just hear the melody or passage and somehow it sounds more "energetic" than usual.

I first heard Kazuhito Yamashita using a wide palette of tremelo effects on his arrangement of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition". I would think that a lot of people do it now.

The Right Hand - Rapid strumming with the side of the index finger. Notice that my index finger doesn't do much of the work - it's a rapid rotation of the forearm that provides the movement. One advantage of using the forearm movement is that you can play it much longer without tiring.

The thumb is anchored on a lower string, then the forearm rotation causes the index finger to move.

Question: "It seems like it would require some nail to be effective."
Answer: No - I have almost NO nail on that side of the 1st finger.
Question: "I have found that rasgueado techniques are difficult to accomplish without nails. I wonder if anyone has ever gotten good at nail-less flamenco strums."
Answer: I don't know about flamenco but all the rasgueado and strumming effects on my guitar videos are done with very short nails.


The basic right hand position is the same whether using fingers or a plectrum to pluck the strings.

The plectrum is not actually "held", but rests on the side of the index finger.


The thumb rests on top of the plectrum with just enough weight to stop the plectrum bouncing out when the strings are contacted.

Teacher's notes.

  • Most students will use far too much pressure on the plectrum.
  • Also, an inflexible plectrum (e.g. agate or any semi-precious stone) is generally preferable to a flexible plectrum.
  • Flexibilty should be cultivated in the wrist, and a floppy plectrum only renders the interace between body and strings more imprecise.
  • After all it is the release of the string (direction, distance and angle of plucking) which determines the tone production.
  • If more "give" is required, for exanple in fast rhythm playing then the thumb merely allows more play in the grip.