What is Proper Vibrato Technique?
I've practiced vibrato for a couple years, longing for the lush, wide, romantic vibrato that professionals make look so easy. But I've never been able to come close.
Lately, I've watched a lot of videos on vibrato, and looked closely at soloists' hands in videos, to see what I'm missing...and it's led me to question my entire technique.
I was taught to hold the violin/viola with 2 points of contact from the left hand:
(1) the thumb
(2) the base of the index finger
But a lot of vibrato videos insist you have to detach your index finger completely from the neck in order to get a wide, lush vibrato.
I've practiced that style for a week now, and while removing the index finger from the viola certainly gives a wider ranger of motion, it really throws off my stability and intonation since I use the index finger as a guidance point.
And since I have to move my index finger back to the neck to play regular non-vibrato notes, it feels awkward going back and forth between detaching and re-attaching the index finger. Vibrato on short notes feels especially awkward: Detaching and reattaching for the next note quickly is tough!
Separating the index finger on the C and G strings on viola also feels extremely difficult, and puts a lot of tension and stress on my hand. And I can't do 4th finger vibrato at all without the index finger touching the neck to give some stability.
So this leads me to a question for the extremely knowledgable and helpful community here:
Is detaching the index finger completely from the neck indeed the best way to get a nice vibrato, and I just need to relearn my left hand technique and get used to it over a few months? Or can you achieve a beautiful vibrato even with the index finger touching the neck?
Thank you for any advice!
When playing open strings, the base of your index should touch to provide stability. When playing notes with fingers, it should detach, but only after the finger has been placed. Between any two fingers, the latter finger should be placed before releasing the former finger, so that you ALWAYS have 2 points of contact on your violin (usually, those 2 points will be your thumb and the tip of the finger you're playing with).
Erik, thanks for that very useful post.
If you are finding your instrument unstable after disconnecting the base of your index finger from the neck of the instrument then you may need to work on your setup (chin rest, shoulder rest) to get more security, especially with the viola which is longer and heavier.
To create the Gap (1/32" is often enough) I slightly elongate the circle fomed by the thumb and fingers, but not enough to distort the hand shape.
More generally, we can spend a few minutes daily re-awakening movement and sensation in the spine and shoulder-blades, even if we then spend more time concentrating on more "local" motions.
Thank you everyone for the insightful comments! I'll continue to practice with a small gap--it feels especially necessary for the first finger in first position.
I have played violin for a little more than 2 years and I have had exactly the same observation as you do: some videos advise players to let the side of index finger contact the neck of violin, and some don't.
A great many players don't do what they say the do...
The best way for any particular person to play the violin depends on their physical attributes" hand size, lengths of upper and fore-arm, shoulder width, neck length, hand size, relative finger lengths and so on.
Vibrato develops even for some pros throughout their careers (many "debut" recordings/performances sound very different than their most "mature" ones, and not only because of different repertoire needs.)
The greatest key to vibrato is being really relaxed and having a good conception of finger placement. Once you have those you can start to deviate from "good form" when you want to have a really huge vibrato, but you won't get lost because you always know where you are on the finger board.
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