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There's a Freight Train Comin', p.4

Phrase 2: Tremolo

After a brief breather, Mike attacks the fretboard with a barrage of repeated notes and another impressive multi-octave scale run:

Phrase 2   –   listen (136.31KB MP3)


                      m.6                       m.7
---------------------|-------18-18-18----------|-18-18-23-
---------------------|-18-20----------20-18-20-|----------
---------------------|-------------------------|----------
---------------------|-------------------------|----------
---------------------|-------------------------|----------
---------------------|-------------------------|----------
                       d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u    d  u  d


                             m.8
-18-20-18-18-18-18----------|-18-18-18-20-23-20-18-18-18--
-------------------20-18-20-|-----------------------------
----------------------------|-----------------------------
----------------------------|-----------------------------
----------------------------|-----------------------------
----------------------------|-----------------------------
 u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u    d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d


           m.9                                m.10
----------|-18-18-18-20-23-20-18-18-18-------|------------
-20-18-20-|----------------------------22-20-|-18-20-22---
----------|----------------------------------|------------
----------|----------------------------------|------------
----------|----------------------------------|------------
----------|----------------------------------|------------
 u  d  u    d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d    u  d  u


                         m.11
-18-20-22-20-18----------|--------------------------------
----------------22-20-18-|--------------------------------
-------------------------|-19-17-15----------------15-17--
-------------------------|----------19-17-15-17-19--------
-------------------------|--------------------------------
-------------------------|--------------------------------
 d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u    d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u


                    m.12
-------------------|----------------------------------|---
-------------------|----------------------------------|---
-19-17-15----------|----------------------------------|---
----------19-17-15-|----------------------------------|--
-------------------|-17-15-13----------------13-15-17-|---
-------------------|----------17-15-13-15-17----------|---
 d  u  d  u  d  u    d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d


m.13
----------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
----------14-15-17-/\/\/\---------------------------------
-14-15-17-------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
 d  u  d  u  d  u

The opening statement of this phrase is something of an anomaly in shred. Not quite metal, not quite blues, a series of pedal tones on the E string are held against notes from the blues and Dorian scales to create an almost amplified bluegrass feel:

Bluegrass-Style Tremolo   –   listen (61.31KB MP3)


                      m.6                       m.7
---------------------|-------18-18-18----------|-18-18-23-
---------------------|-18-20----------20-18-20-|----------
---------------------|-------------------------|----------
---------------------|-------------------------|----------
---------------------|-------------------------|----------
---------------------|-------------------------|----------
                       d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u    d  u  d


                             m.8
-18-20-18-18-18-18----------|-18-18-18-20-23-20-18-18-18--
-------------------20-18-20-|-----------------------------
----------------------------|-----------------------------
----------------------------|-----------------------------
----------------------------|-----------------------------
----------------------------|-----------------------------
 u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u    d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d


           m.9
----------|-18-18-18-20-23-20--|-18-----------------------
-20-18-20-|--------------------|--------------------------
----------|--------------------|--------------------------
----------|--------------------|--------------------------
----------|--------------------|--------------------------
----------|--------------------|--------------------------
 u  d  u    d  u  d  u  d  u     d

The practice of juxtaposing fast right hand picking with a generally stationary left hand is called tremolo picking. It is commonly employed by players of various acoustic stringed instruments (mandolin and bouzouki, for example) where it is used to create a kind of faux sustain. In shred, the tremolo is often regarded as an entry-level technique designed to build picking speed. When it is used in solos, it most often appears a simple dramatic device wherein the left hand gradually ascends the notes of a particular scale as the right hand hammers away. Eddie Van Halen is probably the single greatest innovator of pure tremolo licks, and the following E minor run from Feel Your Love Tonight, off Van Halen’s eponymous first album, is an Eddie trademark:

Tremolo from Van Halen’s Feel Your Love Tonight   –   listen (56.72KB MP3)


-12-///-14-///-15-///-17-///-20-///-22-///--22-(24)--\----
----------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------

It is relatively uncommon, however, to juxtapose repeated notes with individually fretted notes in a repeating structure as Mike does in the solo’s second phrase. This also turns out to be surprisingly difficult to do. The trouble is that repeated notes tend to blur together at high speed, making it tough to hear exactly how many of them you’ve played. This, in turn, makes it difficult to hit the individually-fretted notes with the proper pickstrokes. The best way to practice this is to break the tremolo lick into its three components and practice them separately:

Tremolo Fragment 1   –   listen (60.8KB MP3)



-18-18-18----------|--------------------------------------
----------20-18-20-|--------------------------------------
-------------------|---etc.-------------------------------
-------------------|--------------------------------------
-------------------|--------------------------------------
-------------------|--------------------------------------
 d  u  d  u  d  u

Tremolo Fragment 2   –   listen (63.35KB MP3)



-18-18-23-18-20-18-|-18-18-18----------|------------------
-------------------|----------20-18-20-|------------------
-------------------|-------------------|-etc.-------------
-------------------|-------------------|------------------
-------------------|-------------------|------------------
-------------------|-------------------|------------------
 d  u  d  u  d  u    d  u  d  u  d  u


Tremolo Fragment 3   –   listen (60.29KB MP3)



-18-18-18-20-23-20-|-18-18-18----------|------------------
-------------------|----------20-18-20-|------------------
-------------------|-------------------|-etc.-------------
-------------------|-------------------|------------------
-------------------|-------------------|------------------
-------------------|-------------------|------------------
 d  u  d  u  d  u    d  u  d  u  d  u


The advantage of breaking the lick apart this way is that each of the subunits can be practiced as a repeating pattern. Starting out slowly and accenting the first note of the pattern will help you feel its repeating structure despite the harmonic monotony. Once you’ve nailed the patterns individually, reconstituting them into the original phrase is relatively trivial.

Phrase 2 ends with the same two-string shape that we used to complete phrase 1. In this case, however, it’s extended across a full three octaves — all six strings of the guitar:

Three-Octave Run   –   listen (87.85KB MP3)

                                              m.10
----------------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------22-20-18-20-22-
----------------------------------------------------------
---------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
                                           u  d  u  d  u



                          m.11
-18-20-22-20-18----------|--------------------------------
----------------22-20-18-|--------------------------------
-------------------------|-19-17-15----------------15-17--
-------------------------|----------19-17-15-17-19--------
-------------------------|--------------------------------
-------------------------|--------------------------------
 d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u    d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u



                    m.12
-------------------|----------------------------------|---
-------------------|----------------------------------|---
-19-17-15----------|----------------------------------|---
----------19-17-15-|----------------------------------|--
-------------------|-17-15-13----------------13-15-17-|---
-------------------|----------17-15-13-15-17----------|---
 d  u  d  u  d  u    d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d



m.13
----------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
----------14-15-17-/\/\/\---------------------------------
-14-15-17-------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------
 d  u  d  u  d  u


Again, the advantage of such a phrase is that of economy. Once you’ve memorized the fingering for the original two-string shape, moving it to another octave is a simple matter of sliding the hand down or up a few frets. Sonically this creates an illusion of grand complexity that belies the simplicity of the actual pattern.

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