Green Day is one of the most popular bands to ever hit the stage. Their popularity continues today with music fans and beginner guitar players who find their songs easy to play. Most Green Day songs use only power chords so they’re easy to get a handle on.
However, many of their tracks use sophisticated arrangements and effects in addition to great songwriting which explains why the band has been as successful as they are. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is a great example of this, especially the tremolo guitar riff.
To play the introduction to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” you need a distorted guitar with a tremolo pedal with the rate set to 1/16″ notes, the depth (also called the intensity) close to maximum, and the sinewave setting set to square-wave. This will give you the staccato distorted guitar effect.
There are a few other things worth exploring in more detail to get your tone closer to what Billie Joe Armstong has on that iconic song, including the distortion, which we’ll also talk about in the next section. This article will be a general overview of how to get the sound.
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What Gear You Need For The “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” Guitar Tone
What’s nice is that you don’t need to spend much to replicate the tremolo tone. To get the sound for the introductory guitar riff in “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” all you really need is a tremolo pedal, a distortion pedal, and of course, your guitar and amplifier.
Generally speaking, modern guitar amplifiers already have distortion or drive options right on them, so you should be ok in that regard.
Additionally, if you have a DAW like GarageBand on your computer, you can just use a guitar amp simulator. Many of these effects are available in tools like Blue Cat Audio’s Axiom whose free trial you get from their website.
My article on connecting your guitar to GarageBand and the best guitar plugins for GarageBand will help you get a handle on all that if you don’t actually have an amplifier or you would rather just use your computer.
If you don’t have a Mac computer, Bandlab will work just fine and Blue Cat Audio’s Axiom will work for it as well. Let’s talk about the tremolo pedal that you need first because it’s the most important thing.
1) Tremolo Pedal – Behringer UT300
The UT300 is a basic tremolo pedal that works great for getting the sounds that you’re looking for. However, if you wanted a better and more reliable tremolo pedal, the BOSS TR-2 (on Amazon/Thomann/zZounds) would be a superior choice.
As I explained in my guide to tremolo pedals, they all usually have at least 3 functions. And those are the rate (speed of the tremolo effect), wave (the shape of the waveform), and depth (the intensity of the effect).
Some of them just have different names for these parameters. For that reason, almost any tremolo pedal will work just fine to get the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” sound you’re looking for. The next thing you need is distortion.
2) Distortion/Drive – Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeler
I got the Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeler from the same auction where I got the Behringer UT300 and it’s a pretty nifty little unit.
It has all kinds of modulation, time-based, distortion, and other pedal effects, including tremolo. I’ll be using it for the distortion though for this tutorial. When paired with an expression pedal like the M-Audio EX-P, it winds up being a pretty useful tool.
The Guitar Tremolo Setting for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” has a tempo of approximately 84BPM so if you want to get the tremolo sound, I think you should aim for 1/16 notes. If you want to know what 1/16th notes sound like at 84BPM, check out this YouTube video.
Compare and contrast that setting to the actual song which you can find on YouTube down here. You’ll notice that the 1/16th notes sound just about right.
However, I find it’s actually fairly difficult to dial in a 1/16th note setting exactly with the UT300 Tremolo pedal. If you can find one that actually has a note division setting, rather than just a vague dial, you’d probably be better off.
Another way of getting a tremolo sound, and a more accurate rate for that tremolo sound, is to use the tremolo in GarageBand or Logic Pro X.
Most DAWs will have their own tremolo, but I know the one in GarageBand has a rate setting that you can adjust either with a slider or in exact time divisions.
This will remove the guessing game that’s a common problem with tremolo pedals. On the other hand, there are some tremolo pedals that have a tap-tempo button where you can set the rate manually. That’s another possible solution.
As I said to your earlier, the depth adjusts how strong the tremolo effect is. And the tremolo effect on “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is really strong and abrupt. It’s probably best to just crank the depth to the maximum or at least very close to it.
And finally, you have the waveform. As I explained in my guide to the “Gimme Shelter” tremolo setting, a square wave is going to sound a lot more abrupt, with more peaks and valleys, more starts and stops, than a sine-wave tremolo.
A sine-wave tremolo tends to sound much smoother and more syrupy, so it fits “Gimme Shelter” from Rolling Stones, for example, a lot better. Square-wave is the best choice for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”
Where to Put The Tremolo In Your Signal Chain
In other words, you want your signal chain to go as follows:
Amp > Tremolo Pedal > Distortion Pedal > Guitar
If you try putting the distortion pedal after the tremolo pedal with the guitar as the starting point, it won’t sound the way you want it to.
It’ll fail to get that abrupt square-wave tremolo sound that Billie has on the song. It might even sound a bit messy.
The Distortion Pedal Setting of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
What settings you use depends on whether you’re using a distortion pedal, an overdrive pedal, or the drive that comes on your amp. The truth is that you can get a tone that’s pretty close regardless of which one you use.
1/4 to Max
You don’t want too much distortion, gain, or drive in your tone. Because it’s not like it’s a metal song. You want just enough drive so that you get the gritty guitar sound, but without making it so messy that the tremolo pedal makes a mess of it.
1/2 to Max
Set the treble setting to around halfway on your device and see how that sounds.
2/3 to Max
Give the pedal enough bass, around 2/3 to the max, so you don’t get a tinny-guitar sound that’s thin and weak.
And that’s it for getting the tremolo setting that’s heard throughout “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” Because of the song’s popularity, you can find all kinds of YouTube videos on how to play it. I think this one from GuitarZero2Hero is probably the best.
Other Articles You May Be Interested In
- How to Use A Volume Pedal As An Expression Pedal [SIMPLE]
- How to Use A Vibrato Pedal [An Illustrated Tutorial]
- How to Use A Noise Gate/Suppressor Pedal [Dead Simple]
- The Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide to Guitar Pedals [EASY]
- Batteries in Guitar Pedals vs Power Supply – Which Is Better
Important Things to Note About “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
1) The Settings Will Vary Based On Your Gear
What settings you use on your device, particularly the distortion will vary. It’ll also depend on the guitar and amplifier that you use. Different guitars have different sounds because they’re heavier or lighter in certain frequencies.
And the same thing goes for amps. With the tremolo pedal, however, the settings should be fairly similar in principle regardless of the kind of tremolo device you’re using.
1) Behringer UT300 Tremolo (on Thomann)
2) BOSS TR-2 (on Amazon/Thomann/zZounds)
3) Line 6 M5 Stomp Box Modeler (on Amazon/Thomann/zZounds)
Where should tremolo go in signal chain? ›
In general, the tremolo should go last in all the modulation effects, after chorus, phaser, or flanger. By placing the tremolo before both the delay and reverb pedal, it will only affect the dry part of your sound, leaving the delay and reverb to sound even wilder.How do I set tremolo rate? ›
Adjust the speed of the tremolo effect with the rate control, the depth for intensity, and then the wave to change the LFO waveform from triangle to square. Most tremolo pedals will have approximately 3-4 knobs on them, and each one will control the speed, intensity, LFO waveform, and a volume or mix knob.Does tremolo go before or after overdrive? ›
Though some would argue that tremolo and vibrato pedals are their own effects category, we'd place them in the modulation category. This would dictate that they be positioned after gain effects (distortion, overdrive, etc.) but before ambient effects (delay and reverb).How high should my tremolo be? ›
For a vintage-style tremolo bridge, a great way to enhance its performance is to pull the bridge back flush with the body using the tremolo arm. Then loosen all six screws located at the front edge of the bridge plate, raising them so that they all measure approximately 1/16" (1.6 mm) above the top of the bridge plate.Why does Eric Clapton block his tremolo? ›
Eric Clapton is famous for disliking, among other things, wobbly bridges on his Strat. So he has them blocked. What's involved in stopping the wobble? Well, on some guitars, you can just jam in some more springs and tighten the tremolo claw way up.How many beats is a tremolo? ›
It's so fast that the notes aren't measured, and it's shown in the music as a note that has three slashes through its stem (or over the note if it's a whole note). Keep the tremolo going for the length of a note's value: a whole note would get four beats of tremolo.How long does it take to master tremolo? ›
A guitarist should be able to develop an excellent tremolo in six months to one year if they practice at it for thirty to sixty minutes every day. Here are some tips to help you learn to play a good tremolo once and for all.What is the best way to practice tremolo? ›
When practicing tremolo, try using a metronome as a guide and practicing one tremolo for each number between 3 and 8. If the metronome is set to 80, first you would play 3 notes per beat, then 4 notes per beat, 5 notes per beat, and so on. This is a good way to push your picking speed.What is the best tremolo system for guitar? ›
- Wilkinson VSVG 6-Point / Callaham 6-Point Vintage Trem. ...
- Hipshot 2-Point Roller Bearing. ...
- Floyd Rose FRX. ...
- Bigsby. ...
- Kahler 2200, 2300. ...
- Strandberg – EGS Tremolo. ...
- Schaller 3801.
Every time you press the tremolo arm, the strings gain a little slack, and if they are wound sloppily to the tuning pegs, you'll eventually sound funky. The same goes for when you pull on the vibrato, as it will increase pitch in the strings.
Why do people block their tremolo? ›
A: Blocking a tremolo means to set it up so that it can only go down in pitch, not up. Doing so provides a number of advantages: It can add sustain to your tone. It can help keep the guitar in tune after “dive-bombing”What are the two types of tremolo? ›
Bowed tremolo involves using the bow to repeat notes at a fast speed whereas fingered tremolo involves using the fingers to alternate rapidly between two notes.Is tremolo a pitch or volume? ›
In short: Vibrato deals with change in pitch. Tremolo deals with change in volume.How high should Strat strings be at 12th fret? ›
The 12-fret Rule For Guitar String Height
Strings on most guitars should be at least 1.5 millimeters (4/64 inches) high at the 12th fret. The strings should be high enough to be buzzy up the neck but not so high that they are difficult to play in positions near the nut.
Measuring at the 12th fret (as in the photo), the action height should be 2.6 mm for Steel String Acoustic guitar, 1.8 for electric, 2.0mm for bass and 3mm for a Classical.Should I block the trem on my Strat? ›
While the design is great and they can be set up to play in tune, often that maintenance falls by the wayside and the tuning becomes unreliable. And if you never use the tremolo, blocking it off can get you some great results. You'll get much better tuning stability and, when it's done properly, greater sustain too!What famous songs use tremolo? ›
- Otis Redding – “A Change is Gonna Come”
- Radiohead – “Bones”
- Rage Against the Machine – Guerilla Radio.
Since strings go through it, the tremolo block does impact the tone. Of course, it doesn't impact it as much as using strings or pickups. But it has its purpose. Although steel is more common, brass is also sometimes used particularly in vintage-style Strats.What speed is tremolo? ›
168 is a generic speed for a fast tremolo. Although I demonstrate passages from "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" in the videos, I prefer to play that piece slower, around 144-152. Again, 168 is for demonstration purposes. Before we begin, warm up the right-hand fingers.What is 4 beats in a bar called? ›
Time signature – 4 quarter time
A piece of music that has 4 quarter notes per measure is called a piece in 4 quarter time. Or, you can also say: the time signature is 4 quarter. In sheet music, in the beginning of a piece, we write this as follows (after the treble or bass clef):
What is 4 beats per bar called? ›
Quadruple time is where we have four main beats in a bar. An example of this would be 4/4 which has four crotchet beats in a bar or 4/2 which has four minim beats in a bar.How tight should the whammy bar be? ›
How Tight Should My Whammy Bar Be? The whammy bar should be tight enough to stay on the bridge while playing it. It should also be loose enough to grab and move around without any resistance. You will have to experiment with this setting to get it right for you.Is whammy and tremolo the same? ›
A “tremolo arm” (aka a whammy bar) is a vibrato effect. It does not change volume; it change pitch. Remember this the next time you see the “Bigsby Tremolo System” or “Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo” being advertised.What BPM is tremolo picking? ›
Yes… In musical terms it's in the Allegro range (120–168 bpm), so not as fast as Presto (168–200) or Prestissimo (200 and over). Is it possible to do a tremolo with a pick? Tremolo picking on guitar is nowadays more common with a pick than without a pick.WHAT IS THE BEST Trem? ›
|Name of Product||Description||Price Range|
|1. Strymon Flint (Best Overall)||Type: Analog Effect: Tremolo||$300|
|2. Source Audio Vertigo (Editor's Choice)||Type: Digital Effect: Tremolo||$150|
|3. TC Electronic Pipeline (Best Value)||Type: Digital Effect: Tremolo||$130|
Tremolo picking, though appearing hard at first, is actually quite easy. It is merely alternate picking at a faster speed.How do you increase tremolo tuning stability? ›
If your trem is more stable without the trees, try cleaning and polishing their underside. When replacing make sure you use the proper height-spacers. Don't screw them right down to the face of the headstock. This can actually give too much break angle over the nut and add kinks and friction-points into the system.How high should the tremolo be on a Stratocaster? ›
The Fender spec for most Stratocasters says to set the bridge so that its back is 1/8″ off the top.Which is better tremolo or vibrato? ›
So the next time you're looking for the perfect effect to create a sense of undulating rhythm and motion, if you want a more warbly, “underwater” pitchy sound, go for vibrato. If you want a more staccato stuttering or pulsating effect, go for tremolo!What kind of tremolo did Van Halen use? ›
Charvel introduced a signature-model Eddie Van Halen guitar, the Charvel EVH Art Series Guitar equipped with a single custom-wound pickup and a Floyd Rose locking tremolo, in three colors: white with black stripes, black with yellow stripes and red with black-and-white stripes.
What is Floyd Rose vs normal Trem? ›
A Floyd Rose tremolo allows you to push a whammy bar down or pull it up. Normal tremolo bridges only allow you to push it down to lower the pitch. What is this? While guitarists don't tend to pull up on the whammy bar very often, a Floyd Rose gives you far more freedom with how you use the whammy bar.Does Eric Clapton use whammy bar? ›
Eric doesn't use a whammy bar. Instead he has the vibrato blocked behind the bridge and has the vibrato springs tightened to keep the sound solid. He would refer to this guitar as “a hybrid, a mongrel,” but more often than not he called it Blackie.Why did Eddie Van Halen use thin picks? ›
Because Van Halen kept his brass and copper picks in his mouth to avoid contracting tongue cancer, his picks were made from brass and copper. Furthermore, he's been recording in an environment where electromagnetic energy is constantly present for years, so thin picks were the best option for him.How did Eddie Van Halen pick so fast? ›
Eddie likes to take a fingering pattern and hammer on the notes on one string, then alternate pick the same pattern on an adjacent string. This creates the illusion that he's picking every note, when he's really not. It allows him to rip up and down the neck with minimal effort from his picking hand.What gauge pick did Eddie Van Halen use? ›
The graphic artwork on these picks is sourced from arguably the most widely recognized guitar in the world, Eddie Van Halen's "Frankenstein." This is the exact pick that Eddie used, a Dunlop Max-Grip . 60mm gauge pick.How long should a guitar stay in tune? ›
It depends on quite a few factors but generally a good quality guitar should stay in tune for a few days at least. But there's atmospheric conditions, humidity, age of strings and more that all affect how well it holds tune.Why does my tremolo bridge not return to pitch? ›
Make sure the saddle intonation screws are tight. If these things have been done correctly and your bridge still does not come back to the proper pitch when using the tremolo, the knife-edges may be damaged. To check this you must remove the bridge.How long does a tremolo last? ›
In musical notation, tremolo is usually notated as regular repeated demisemiquavers (thirty-second notes), using strokes through the stems of the notes.Should tremolo go before or after delay? ›
In general, the tremolo should go last in all the modulation effects, after chorus, phaser, or flanger. By placing the tremolo before both the delay and reverb pedal, it will only affect the dry part of your sound, leaving the delay and reverb to sound even wilder.How do I increase my tremolo speed? ›
To make your guitar picking tremolo technique insanely fast, you need to increase the frequency at which your pick strikes the string. (This is NOT at all the same as moving your hand “faster” - more on this below). Doing this increases the number of times your pick comes into contact with the string every second.
What is the best way to block tremolo? ›
An easier but very effective method for blocking your tremolo is to tighten the two spring claw plate screws until they are flush against the body (make sure you detune before you do this) Then, make sure that you have all five springs attached to your spring claw and tremolo block.What is the most common tremolo? ›
To this day, the Bigsby is one of the most popular tremolo systems on the market. It's a factory option on guitars by Gretsch, Gibson, PRS, and others.What is tremolo depth and rate? ›
Whenever you see tremolo in an amp or a pedal, you will normally have at least two controls; "Rate" (or "Speed") and "Depth". Rate lets us sync the effect to the tempo of our song, while Depth sets the limit of volume loss of the effect, from subtle variation to completely deadening the signal.Is a whammy bar tremolo or vibrato? ›
You may have heard whammy bars referred to as vibrato bars and tremolo bars interchangeably. Technically, tremolo is an oscillation of volume, and vibrato is an oscillation of the pitch itself. The terms are used synonymously, but the correct definition for the mechanism we're talking about here is vibrato.What is the correct order of a signal chain? ›
A common convention for how to order and effects chain is: Dynamics: Compressors, gates, and certain modulation/gain effects like wah. Gain: Distortion, overdrive, fuzz. Modulation: Phasers, chorus, flanger.What goes first chorus or tremolo? ›
Chorus is a modulation effect, and as such, it should be placed fairly late in your pedal chain. It should come after a wah pedal, compression pedal, overdrive pedal, and distortion pedal, but before your delay pedal, tremolo pedal, or reverb pedal.How do you indicate a tremolo? ›
Tremolo is notated with three slash marks on the stem of a note, or located directly over the note.Where should a whammy bar be? ›
Take a look at the bridge of your guitar. The bridge is near the bottom of the body and is where the strings' ends are held. You should see a small hole, if your guitar is able to hold a whammy bar. Some guitars come with a permanent whammy bar that cannot be removed.Does compression go before or after overdrive? ›
Another one that's practically set in concrete is to put the compressor before any overdrive, distortion, or fuzz pedal. This is why most guitarists place the compressor first, in order to send a stronger, better signal to the other effects.Does compression go before or after fuzz? ›
The Official Textbook of Pedal Placement™ states that, apart from vintage fuzz and wah, compression should always be first in the chain. For typical guitar use – that is to say, using your compressor as an obvious effect – we certainly agree.
How many notes are in a tremolo? ›
Notation. In musical notation, tremolo is usually notated as regular repeated demisemiquavers (thirty-second notes), using strokes through the stems of the notes.How tight should my whammy bar be? ›
How Tight Should My Whammy Bar Be? The whammy bar should be tight enough to stay on the bridge while playing it. It should also be loose enough to grab and move around without any resistance. You will have to experiment with this setting to get it right for you.Did Eric Clapton use a whammy bar? ›
Eric doesn't use a whammy bar. Instead he has the vibrato blocked behind the bridge and has the vibrato springs tightened to keep the sound solid. He would refer to this guitar as “a hybrid, a mongrel,” but more often than not he called it Blackie.