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Ryan Vaughn

You're not so tough without your vibrato, are you?

July 5, 2011 at 8:52 PM

OK, so I'm tackling Paganini's 24th caprice, an extremely difficult piece perhaps a little too early in my violin life.  I think I've mentioned something similar in the past, but the piece has octaves, chromatic scales, tenths, thirds (these really fast thirds that if anything's going to get me, they will), and more.  With that in mind, though, there are a couple of advantages to playing this piece early.

For starters, it's only 5 minutes or so long.  True, at my tempo I'll probably come in more like 8 minutes, but it's not a horrendously long piece.  What if I originally said I was going to learn the Brahms violin concerto in a year?  Would that even be possible?  Here you might think I'm crazy, but if I wanted to play a 45 minute concerto, you'd think I was absolutely mad.  Or just doing some serious wishful thinking.

Another advantage to playing this piece is it's so fast that, I have to be careful how I word this, you don't really need vibrato.  That's not quite right since Danielle and other great players would still use fast vibrato throughout.  How about, it's so fast that I can probably get away with playing little to no vibrato.  That's good news since learning to vibrate is a very difficult piece of the violinist's set of tools.  Of course, I listened to a youtube recording of the caprice by Shlomo Mintz:


There are many interesting things about this recording.  First, it's markedly different than the Heifetz one I posted a few months ago (most noticeably it's a minute longer!)  When you listen to the theme, do you notice the vibrato in each passage surrounding the fast 1/16th notes?  It kind of goes bum(vibrato)-rest-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum(vibrato)-rest-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum(vibrato)-bum-bum-etc.

It's very beautiful with the vibrato in there, so I get this crazy idea that I could learn some vibrato to perform on some key notes.  Danielle gave me a crash course (a few days ago) on vibrato, so I'll tackle a one octave scale:



Yeah, I know, I really need a haircut and a shave.  Anyway.  Danielle actually doesn't love the idea of vibrato, as she says I could play the entire caprice without vibrato and everyone would forgive me, so there's no sense in wasting time.  But it would be so awesome!  I'll simply add it to the laundry list of stuff I have to practice every day anyway:

1.  scales

2.  octave scales - then work on variation 3 if I feel saucy

3.  chromatic scales - beginning of variation 4

4.  thirds (on the A and E strings - the beginning of variation 6)

5.  theme - working faster with metronome

6.  variation 2 - working faster with metronome

7.  and now...vibrato!

I figure that if I get toward the end and the vibrato doesn't sound that great, then I can always not do it and people would forgive me, but if I am going to do the vibrato, I had better get cracking on it now.  No harm in keeping my options open, huh?

Remember the theme we were talking about earlier?  Here's me with the first part of the theme with some vibrato sprinkled in there:


It's no Shlomo Mintz, but I think even at this level the vibrato adds a tiny bit.

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