Using a tremolo bar while playing guitar

One overlooked way of developing as an electric guitarist is using the tremolo, or "whammy," bar, which can expand the range of sounds.  Guitarists can make greater progress with some technique.

Using a tremolo bar while playing guitar

Deepen Vibrato

  • When taking a solo, some held notes can call for a greater amount of emphasis by playing them with vibrato. An electric guitarist can find an individual style simply by playing with vibrato with their own degree of intonation. Wiggling the left hand's fingers on the fret board achieves some degree of vibrato, but using the tremolo bar is much more effective for individualizing sounds.
  • Once a held note has been sounded by using a plectrum in the right hand, extend the hand movement down in an exaggerated way so that the tip of the tremolo arm can be caught in the palm of the hand. There is no need to hold on to it by the fingers.
  • As the right hand is raised up to a string-striking position again, gently wobble the tremolo arm in a rhythmic way. The result should be a deepened and more satisfying vibrato sound, often favoured by blues guitarists who want a distinctive quality to their licks.

Bending Notes

  • With a tremolo bar, it is possible to bend the note that is being sounded down to the next note. To ensure that guitarists don't do this and play a note that is off key, it is essential to know if the next note down is either a semitone or a whole tone away. This is because the amount of downward bend is dependent on how hard the tremolo bar is pressed.
  • For example, when playing the note C in the key of G major, a guitarist would only want to bend down a semitone to a B. On the other hand, when playing the note of B in the key of B minor, more pressure will be on the tremolo to bend the note all the way to an A.
  • The great thing about bending notes down with this technique is to then slowly release the tremolo bar so that they return to the original note, something that particularly works well with rock-edged amp settings which have good deal of sustain. Alternatively, it is possible to use the tremolo bar positioned so that it puts the strings under more tension, not less, causing the notes played to go sharp. This is a superb alternative way of bending strings on the fretboard which has a more distinctive sound.
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