Arm Vibrato and First Position

Edited: September 4, 2017, 8:32 AM · I'm learning some more traditional American folk songs that are played entirely in the first position. My trouble is I'm also relatively new to the arm vibrato. I can do it in higher positions, but when I get to the first position, I don't have the stability to quickly find notes with only my thumb and finger tip(s) on the fingerboard providing support. Is this a problem for others and do you/should I switch to a finger/wrist vibrato or just practice, practice, practice?

Edit: I noticed Jay Ungar, the composer of Ashokan Farewell, uses what only appears to be a finger vibrato. Interesting.

Thank you all

Replies (8)

September 4, 2017, 8:49 AM · Jay Ungar tends to bend his wrist or pancake the neck of the fiddle. This will probably restrict the use of arm or wrist vibrato. If you are doing the same, that could be your problem. A straight wrist should give you better results and enable you to shift to upper positions easier, too.
September 4, 2017, 10:56 AM · How long have you been playing?
September 4, 2017, 12:02 PM · And do you have a teacher?
September 4, 2017, 12:23 PM · I have a teacher but he teaches me fiddle rather than violin. With vibrato not being much of a fiddle technique, it's been self taught with the help of youtube. I live in a relatively low population area and I can't find any volin teachers. I first started messing around with the fiddle about 6 months ago by myself. Been having lessons for about half that.
September 4, 2017, 1:17 PM · Vibrato is usually first learned in third position.
The fiddle tradition that uses vibrato is East Europe, aka, Klezmer, Gypsy,..
Edited: September 4, 2017, 7:40 PM · What do you mean when you say you can't find notes quickly with only the thumb and finger tips on the board?

Do you mean you aren't familiar with the position? Maybe you need to practice more in that position - this sounds more like a reading/intonation problem and less like a vibrato problem to me, but I'm not the most experienced string player on the planet.

Maybe building/reinforcing your 'cage' or hand shape in first is the solution you need.

September 5, 2017, 6:48 AM · The statement "I don't have the stability to quickly find notes with only my thumb and finger tip(s) on the fingerboard providing support" suggests the problem is not vibrato, but more likely hand and arm position. Playing in 1st position on finger tips is the normal starting activity and the most common thing in violin playing. If you don't have stability to do this, your problem is hand and arm position.

Are you using Ungar's bent wrist position? If so, it is unlikely you will get vibrato going. Tendon paths and muscle angles with a bent wrist are not friendly to the relaxation required for vibrato.

You may have some large choices to make about what you want to play on the violin. Whatever you chose, the impact will last for many years.

September 5, 2017, 1:48 PM · For me, choice of vibrato is not so much a matter of position as finger. I find arm vibrato easier with my third finger than my first finger; conversely, first finger is easier for wrist vibrato. This is true regardless of position.

It took me six years before I had what I consider a decent vibrato - and I'm still trying to improve it. But now that I can do it reasonably well, I try to use it wherever I can - even when playing bluegrass fiddle if appropriate.

I'm trying to develop enough versatility that I can play in different styles. Currently I play viola in a community orchestra, violin in a string quartet, and fiddle in bluegrass jams. They're all fun, and they complement each other.


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