Tremoloa Documents Archive

An archive devoted to propagating a better understanding and appreciation of the tremoloa.

Edouard Brooks


Original Documents


Terms and Conditions

Please realize I, Edouard Brooks, am scanning these in the hopes of allowing others to enjoy the tremoloa's original documents, future research, and methods. My goal is to expand the repertoire and reputation of the instrument; I do not mean to infringe on any Copyrights. If I have violated any, please contact me immediately and I will take them down as soon as possible. Thank you!


Pronunciation

  1. tremoloa (plural tremoloas) IPA: /ˈtreɪmoʊloʊwə/
  2. tremolist (performer) IPA: /ˈtreɪmoʊlɪst/
Explanation
A minor issue that I've encountered is how exactly to pronounce the instrument's name. Acknowledging the fact it was made to emulate the Hawaiian steel guitar sounds, I turn towards its Italian root "tremolo" and Hawaiian phonology: [ˈtreːmolo] and Hawaiian "oa" [owə] (as in Loa). (Note: as this is in English, I will use [oʊ] instead of [o]. Similarly, [eː] becomes [eɪ]) Hence, tremoloa would be pronounced as [ˈtreɪmoʊloʊwə] with plural [ˈtreɪmoʊloʊwəs] (tremoloas). Further, I propose adopting the conventions of violist and cellist: a tremoloa performer would be a tremolist [ˈtreɪmoʊlɪst].
Note: the tremoloa is not a Hawaiian instrument.


Repertoire

As I continue to practice the instrument, I will be expanding my repertoire and posting PDF copies of pieces I either played on or arranged for the tremoloa. Current repertoire:
  1. Camille Saint-Saëns's "The Swan", arranged for tremoloa.
  2. Joseph Bodin de Boismortier's "Rondeau Gracieusement" (1st voice), for épinette des vosges.
Please pardon errors in my copies or arrangements of scores; I'd appreciate any comments and suggestions!

Notes


Playing

Unlike the original playing method where the right thumb is in the roller's pick and the left hand strums accompaniment, I prefer the method illustrated below (Fig. 1). Here, I hold the roller's pick with my thumb and pointer finger (to be much more accurate). The left pointer and middle fingers are left to rest on the arm to tame the tremoloa's tremolo, which lets me phrase for voluntarily; the remaining fingers on my left hand are then used to pluck or strum accompanying notes on the sympathetic strings.

Fig. 1 - Hand position for playing.

Tuning

You can usually find individual strings on Just Strings.

Group Tune to String spec.
Melody string C4 0.013
C major 1 C3 0.066 wound
1. G3 0.038 wound
C4 0.029 wound
E4 0.018
G major 2 G2 0.082 wound
2. G3 0.038 wound
B4 0.031 wound
D4 0.018
F major 3 F2 0.088 wound
3. A3 0.036 wound
C4 0.029 wound
F4 0.018
D major 4 D3 0.064 wound
4. A3 0.036 wound
D4 0.024 wound
#F4 0.018
Tab. 1 - Tuning chart (inside to outside instrument).


Buying

As the tremoloa is not in production anymore, the best option to buy a tremoloa is online or at your local antique store (surprisingly may have one hidden in its depths). Personally, I've bought all three of my tremoloas on eBay; simply search "tremoloa". Additionally, Goodwill's auction site is another fantastic resource (and often cheaper).

That said, I would be careful of both the pricing and what they offer. First, be suspicious of any tremoloa over $100; even though I see them as worth a lot, you can easily find one for $10-$50 in good state (even with original documents and, if you're lucky, an original case). Second, check it for missing parts or cracks. If it's missing strings, tuning pins, or nails, then it's a quick fix. However, if the bridges, arm, arm rests, or arm guard are missing do not buy it. There are no music stores that repair the arm, so be especially weary of this. At this point, the tremoloa is useless unless you want to buy a second to retrieve an arm. (Note: I saw one listed at ~$150 for months, missing almost every essential part, notably the arm.) On the other hand, if there's a crack, I'd look at the pictures closely; sometimes the cracks are small, thus not a problem (tremoloas are sturdy, just tune it properly).


Acknowledgments

Jon Natchez for a correction on the tuning chart.
[1] Alex Belskis for 3 additional documents.
The University of Chicago for providing hosting for this page.



Edouard B Brooks, last edited on 2016-12-12.
University of Chicago
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