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What The!! Wednesdays: What's Tremolo?

Hey Blue Rodeo Fans,

NEWS FLASH!! Be sure to watch last night's last minute bonus post of Glenn Milchem doing an overview AND track by track run down of the album Tremolo!!


Our second What The!! Wednesday is related to yesterdays' post, Tremolo Tuesday: Tremolo, the Album. It's actually a bit of a tangent, but that's what What The!! Wednesdays are all about. Want the answer in one sentence? Jump to the * at the end. The rest of you, you're my people, so here goes...



What's Tremolo?

You may have thought when you first bought Blue Rodeo's Tremolo, "What the hell is tremolo anyway?" Tremolo is often times a misunderstood term in the music world, the guitar world in particular. Legendary guitar designer and builder Leo Fender called the floating bridge and arm mechanism on his iconic Stratocaster guitar a tremolo system, or trem system (and tremolo or trem arm), but in reality the system should have been named a vibrato system. To this day Fender's mislabelling still persists. Vibrato is the subtle and quick changing of pitch of notes in succession, which is what Fender's system actually does. (BTW, vibrato can also be achieved using various hand/finger techniques) Here's a demonstration of vibrato technique, and even the demonstration is mislabelled as tremolo! And no, you don't have to watch the whole thing - a few seconds will more than do...really...


"You still haven't answered my question, Dave, what the hell is Tremolo?"

Tremolo is the rapid repetition of a musical tone or of alternating tones at different volumes to produce a rapid wavering sound. Check it out in Crash Vegas' hit song Inside Out...Why a Crash Vegas video in a Blue Rodeo blog? Because that's a certain Blue Rodeo member playing guitar and mandolin...

And since this whole post is a tangent, check out this still from the video of Crash Vegas' song, Sky, from the album Red Earth...

Yep that's Blue Rodeo's very own lead guitarist and backup vocalist, a very young and dashing Colin Cripps on guitar, sporting a Gibson Les Paul (maybe a Jr.?) and brimming with rock 'n' roll rebellious intensity! With bandmates Ambrose Pottie on drums, Michelle McAdorey on lead vocals, and Jocelyne Lanois on bass. I bought the CD of Red Earth when it came out in 1989! I still listen to it, such a great album! Think Cowboy Junkies meet 10,000 Maniacs. and throw in a bit of Six Pence None the Richer. Ok, don't let that description make it sound like Crash Vegas was derivative!!! They were a wonderful Canadian indie band with a darkly romantic and slightly psychedelic sound!! Wish they were still around...


After The Rain

And here's our favourite band sporting some tremolo of their own in After the Rain. Tremolo starts at time index 1:20...


And your favourite Blue Rodeo tribute band's take on After The Rain, filmed at the 2022 Wasaga Beach Ontario's Canada Day celebrations on my sister's iPad!! It was a beautiful warm, and windy summer night!



Hey! What Were We Talking About? Oh Yah! Tremolo!

Tremolo is most widely achieved either by an effect that is built into a guitar amplifier, like on the back of the Tremolo CD picture at the top of the post, or in a separate effects pedal, like the super cool and surprisingly affordable Joyo tremolo pedal that I play in True Rodeo. Start at time index 1:04...


So tremolo can create a wide variety of wavering effects from mellow to frantic and most everything in between. There are literally hundreds of different tremolo pedals on the market, from the elegant simplicity of the Joyo to the complexity of pedals like the Empress Tremolo 2.


And for the gear heads in the crowd, here's a picture of my surprisingly simple and compact pedal board, including my Joyo tremolo pedal, from which I can run an acoustic and two electrics and a bluetooth linked iPad. You may also notice that my Fender Mustang III Mk 1 modelling amp four switch pedal has customizable modes, one of which is tremolo, but the Joyo is the go to. It sounds so damn great! That big black pedal on the right is a wah pedal. "What's wah, Dave?" Don't get me started...



So Endeth the Lesson

Now you're well versed in the world of tremolo vs vibrato and you have just enough tasty tidbits to drop at your next cocktail, tailgate, or Tupperware party to appear intellectual, cool, snobbish, or just plain odd, depending on the company and your delivery. We're hoping for cool...


And be sure to say hello at the next True Rodeo gig that you come out to!


Thanks for dropping by. As Greg says, "We'll see you down the road" (in this case, tomorrow).


-Dave Brinton, True Rodeo


*Tremelo is variations in volume, vibrato is variations in pitch, both achieve different types of wavering effects. One sentence...BAM!



Click on the underlined text link for more information throughout the post...No, that one isn't a link.

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