Hilary Hahn’s vibrato

October 23, 2017, 9:05 PM · How does this lady make it happen? Her hand *barely* moves, yet she produces this Heifetz-like vibrato. If my hand moves like hers it makes almost no audible vibration.

Replies (20)

Edited: October 23, 2017, 9:06 PM · Her violin is a big component in that.

Great violins need very little physical movement to produce audible vibrato.

October 23, 2017, 9:34 PM · She's definitely impressive. I'm still wondering how she remembers all those notes. I don't remember ever seeing her use sheet music. She's not human.
October 23, 2017, 11:21 PM · No solist uses sheetmusic. If you trained a concert for 50+ hours its burned into her head.
Her clean technice is impressive. She has close to no bow noise.
Her vibrsto is, as everything else, very controlled. Just enough movement to make it happen.
October 23, 2017, 11:30 PM · "It's the finger, stupid!" Seriously, the most important moving part in a vibrato is the final segment of the finger, so that the fingertip rolls back and forth producing the vibrato effect. How you get that final segment to move is the question. In theory you could keep everything stiff and make a huge movement from the arm. But that would disturb a lot of other aspects of violin playing, shake your violin, impede playing fast, etc. In contrast, Ms Hahn has a very flexible final joint and strongly developed left hand so basically she just needs to initiate the movement from the hand or even from the finger itself, hence the little visible movement, but it's the local movement of the final segment of the finger that is all that counts. So, Christopher, work on getting that final joint flexible, see the vibrato section of "Basics" by Simon Fischer, and develop your left hand correctly, again see Basics.
October 24, 2017, 12:00 AM · Her intonation gives me chills. I love her! She has always been my favourite violinist. in fact, she is my laptop wallpaper right now haha! i hope to meet her one day but she never seems to have any concerts in Australia! I'm just an innocent 14 year old who wants to meet her idol :(
October 24, 2017, 12:10 AM · "make a huge movement from the arm. But that would disturb a lot of other aspects of violin playing, shake your violin,"

Huh? Isn't arm vibrato a standard and accepted technique?

October 24, 2017, 12:52 AM · It is, every violinist should have different types of vibrato available and choose depending on the situation.
I went to multiple concerts by Hahn and never regretted paying for the ticket.
October 24, 2017, 4:22 AM · hi Han, like Marc already replied, sure it is, sorry if I gave this impression it was not my intention to start a debate on arm vs wrist vibrato as there have been many threads on this already and, as often mentioned there, it is probably not a useful dichotomy anyway.

by the way Christopher, you refer to Heifetz, there is a video where he makes fun of poor players in which, among other things, he imitates someone making a lot of movement trying to vibrato but without any hearable effect. actually, making fun of people is not such a nice thing to do...but he was doing this for his students, probably his way to show things to avoid. so one of the things he was trying to say is "the visible movement is not the point", like the point I was trying to repeat, probably redundantly so.

October 24, 2017, 6:08 AM · I agree, thats also what I ment when I wrote "just enough movement). A lot of movement gets lost for many players.
November 21, 2017, 10:24 PM · Have you guys noticed that whenever Hahn does vibrato with her 4th finger, she uses her third finger for support? I am wondering how she still maintains her vibrato with the third finger that supports, but without it slowing her down. Is it her instrument?
November 21, 2017, 10:31 PM · She's doing finger vibrato. It has little to do with the instrument.

As for sheet music, to be a reputable soloist you need to be able to memorise 2 hours of music (if you can't there's a 12-year-old up and comer who can...).

November 21, 2017, 11:19 PM · Hahn routinely plays her solo recitals from sheet music. But she normally plays concertos from memory. In any given season, she only does a handful of concertos, so each of those works is finely burnished and always memorized (I believe even the contemporary concertos are memorized).
November 22, 2017, 2:58 AM · Having had my attention drawn to her vibrato I find I can't ignore it! It's admittedly quite a few years since she recorded the Elgar concerto so maybe she's moderated the constant throbbing by now. And I will say she made the Schoenberg concerto listenable for me.
Edited: November 22, 2017, 6:00 AM · I don't think HH's vibrato is the result of her violin. It's about efficiency. That is a hallmark of her playing. She has figured out how to get maximum finger-tip roll with a minimum amount of effort. That was probably a very arduous process even for her. Once she found it, she worked into her playing until it became natural. It's the same with every other aspect of her playing. She makes it look effortless but you can be sure that there was tremendous effort in developing the necessary technique.

My guess is that many soloists just have developed fantastic memory skills. They've been memorizing all their performance pieces since they were small children. Probably a lot of them have many legion of Kreutzers, dozens of Viotti Concertos, and whatever else in their heads too. Having the sheet music at a recital of sonatas is a fad. The idea is that the pianist doesn't memorize, so if the violinist plays from memory then they're upstaging the pianist. It would surprise me greatly if HH need to look at the sheet music for things like Mozart or Beethoven Sonatas. It's a dead giveaway when they play for 5 minutes without ever turning a page. Mutter performed the Beethoven Sonatas without sheet music. I don't think she broke a sweat and I don't think Mr. Orkis was offended. He knows who the crowd paid to see (and hear). If you want to be impressed, watch the pianists who play through the entire 24 Chopin Preludes before intermission and then finish it off with Rachmaninoff's Third. That's one hell of a lot of notes.

Edited: November 22, 2017, 8:39 AM · I think Erik Williams is correct. For vibrato to be effective in coloring tone and increasing the apparent loudness it must engage appropriate overtones of the violin's upper octave* that surround the overtone of the fundamental tone. Fine violins have these overtones clustered more closely than lesser violins, thus smaller vibrato finger motion will generate the desired result on these fine violins.

*approx. 2500 to 5000 Hz

November 22, 2017, 10:26 AM · This sent me off to watch videos of Hilary practicing. I loved her 100 days project. (The internet and its rabbit holes!) One thing that was clear watching her practice was her extreme level of detail orientation. The excellence, as others have pointed out, is not an accident. Even something as simple as the Gigue from the E major partita requires care and precision–she doesn't just automatically play it perfectly. She's been working on Dvorak this season, Lydia.
November 22, 2017, 10:34 PM · Yeah, with sonatas it's customary to use music (or both players memorise - one or the other).
November 22, 2017, 10:56 PM · Hilary Hahn herself discussed this topic - music or not - in a v.com interview a few years back:
For her, she says, her nearsightedness and her preference to look at her violin (without glasses or contacts) while playing makes the use of music on stage very impractical. Her teacher Jasha Brodsky advised her to use the music in chamber music, yet when she does she admitts she never looks at it.

The interview: http://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/201110/12746/

November 22, 2017, 10:58 PM · That makes me wonder what it would be like to play without my glasses.

Mind you I likely wouldn't be able to make out the scroll of my viola very well..

November 22, 2017, 11:23 PM · I saw her relatively recently in a live performance where she did appear to actively use her sheet music. The pages were getting blown by the air-conditioning system in the hall, and she did repeatedly have to smack them back into the place, at one point in time sharing a laugh with the audience at the paper behavior. I suspect that if she weren't actually using the music, she wouldn't have bothered with that distraction.

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