|Tremolo or tremelo?
First of all, let's get one thing
straight: It's tremolo. It isn't tremelo. There's no such word.
In spite of the fact that this isn't in the dictionary, it can be found
in relative abundance on eBay. A quick search turned up 464 hits
under the guitar category for "tremolo" vs. 119 hits for "tremelo."
And I couldn't spell check this page without it giving me a heads-up that
this was a nonsense word. So there you go.
The odd thing about this term is that is
has come to have three distinct and almost completely different, non-overlapping
Hardware. Primarily for most
of us guitarists, it's the hardware that invariably involves springs and
allows you to supply vibrato to your strings by mechanically tightening
and/or loosening them around the original pitch. A lot of people
talk in terms of the "whammy bar," although this only works when it's attached
to a tremolo.
Effects. It's also a guitar effect.
Rather than altering the pitch of the note, the tremolo effect on amplifiers
and guitar effects pedals/processors alternately raises and lowers the
volume of the output. Guitarists like Duane Eddy frequently used
this effect to give his guitar a menacing tone from a paradoxically "trembling"
sound. This is common on many country and western recordings.
Hopefully this will be the first page that
comes up when you search for the word "tremelo," whatever that is!
Picking. Finally, it's also a
style of picking. Rather than altering either the pitch or the volume,
tremelo picking is picking a guitar string very rapidly, perhaps on the
order of 64th notes, much like that employed in playing a mandolin.
Eddie Van Halen used this approach quite a bit in his early days.
Rather than holding the pick as most of us do between his index finger
and thumb, he instead uses his thumb and middle finger. This changes
the center of mass for this hand, and thus makes it easier to rotate rapidly.
Hence we get Eruption.