The tremolo picking style (also called scratch guitar) is nothing else, but alternate picking the string really, really fast. Heavy metal guitarists use it often, since it has a rather aggressive, harsh sound and feel to it.

Even though it looks and sounds fairly simple, it’s not. Tremolo picking requires great accuracy, pluck control, timing, rhythm, so the works.

How to Tremolo Pick the Guitar

  • Your best bet is to start off by using a thin plectrum, since it will flex over the string easily and thereby move smoother. Thicker picks might get caught in the string ruining the rhythm, and will wear out, even break your string. It’s a good idea to have just a small part of the pick protruding from your fingers as well, since it’ll be more stable and have less of a chance of getting caught on a string.
  • Tremolo picking is best on electric guitars, with a medium-high level of distortion to get a rock sound.
  • You’ll need to rest the edge of your palm on something, since once you get to a certain speed (fairly fast), you’ll need to anchor your hand during those really fast plucks. The bridge is your best bet, just make sure you don’t get used to placing your palm onto the bridge all the time, since the sweat from your hand will corrode the metal much faster.
  • Practice alternate picking on the open low E string at first.
  • Start out with a slow 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 rhythm, and gradually increase its speed, but keep each pluck rhythmic. If you loose the rhythm, of your plectrum gets caught in the string, start over. Its a good idea to use a metronome to keep on beat.
  • Make sure your plucks are constant, accurate, smooth and in rhythm.

Once you get it up to speed, try fretting a scale along that single string, but add a couple of plucks at the open string in between each fretted note. Experiment with this, mix up the notes of the scale and see what it sounds like.