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Tremolo, or tremolando, is a musical term that describes various trembling effects, falling roughly into two types. The first is a rapid reiteration

A second type of tremolo is a variation in amplitude,

  • as produced on organs by tremulants;
  • using electronic effects in guitar amplifiers and effects pedals which rapidly turn the volume of a signal up and down, creating a "shuddering" effect;
  • an imitation of the same by strings in which pulsations are taken in the same bow direction;
  • a vocal technique involving a wide or slow vibrato, not to be confused with the trillo or "Monteverdi trill".

Some electric guitars use a device called a "tremolo arm", "vibrato bar", or "whammy bar" that allows a performer to lower or raise the pitch of a note or chord or apply a vibrato. This non-standard use of the term "tremolo" refers to pitch rather than amplitude.



Tremolo was invented by the late 16th century composer Claudio Monteverdi[1][2] and, written as repeated semiquavers (sixteenth notes), used for the stile concitato effects in Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. The measured tremolo, presumably played with rhythmic regularity, was invented to add dramatic intensity to string accompaniment and contrast with regular tenuto strokes.[2] However, it was not till the time of Gluck that the real tremolo became an accepted method of tone production.[3] Four other types of historical tremolos include the obsolete undulating tremolo, the bowed tremolo, the fingered tremolo (or slurred tremolo), and the bowed-and-fingered tremolo.[4]

The undulating tremolo was produced through the fingers of the right hand alternately exerting and relaxing pressure upon the bow to create a "very uncertain–undulating effect ... But it must be said that, unless violinists have wholly lost the art of this particular stroke, the result is disappointing and futile in the extreme," though it has been suggested that rather than as a legato stroke it was done as a series of jetés.[2]

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