Comparing Types of Vibrato, Part One
April 11, 2012 at 8:17 PMI am still in the integration phase with my newly acquired wrist vibrato, which may take a few more months to fully establish, and a year or two to become fully automatic, but I'm willing to wait :-)
The good news is that it is getting easier every day. One point I'd recommend is to go overboard on the wrist motion when going from arm to wrist vibrato. Arm vibrato takes almost no wrist movement so it feels really strange to then be waving your wrist around on every pitch (really, this is normal?) So err on the side of overdoing it. Your oscillations will be more pronounced and make you happier.
Below is the first part of a letter from my father-in-law Michael Heifetz, sent to me March 30th, 2012, which compares the different types of vibratos (arm, wrist, and finger). I am still in the integration phase, which needs a whole letter or diary of it's own, but I thought this may also be informative.
There are three basic types of vibrato: wrist (more properly “hand vibrato”), arm, and finger. There is also a fourth type: a "simulated" vibrato called fingertip vibrato. There is no consensus agreement on which type of vibrato is “the best,” and there are excellent violinists who rely on one or another as their primary type of vibrato.
Each type, however, can be particularly useful for certain expressive effects and technical challenges. Because of this, a violinist may wish to develop all types of vibrato to have as part of his/her technical arsenal. Ideally, a player would be able to vary the speed, width and intensity of various types of vibrato to suit the music and personal preference. You could vary your vibrato (including the type of vibrato) to suit the period, composer, piece, movement, or specific phrase. For example, when playing Haydn or Mozart, you might choose a narrower vibrato. For romantic composers such as Brahms, you might typically choose a wider, slower vibrato.
Wrist and arm vibrato are the two most basic and commonly used types. They both allow considerable variation in speed, width and intensity. Finger vibrato relies on quick impulses from the finger. It is inherently a quick, shaking, narrow movement. You cannot attain as wide a movement with finger vibrato, as with wrist or arm vibrato.
It is also helpful to have several types of vibrato "on call" to overcome various technical challenges. Examples:
Next Time: Part Two: Developing Various Types of Vibrato Vs. Playing Music
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