Printer-friendly version
Clayton Haslop

The Vibrato Twitch, part 2

March 10, 2010 at 8:02 PM

Don’t know if you tuned in to the Oscars last night.  It was great to see the very talented Michael Giacchino take home the award for best musical score.  There is FEELING dripping from every note of the score to the movie ‘UP’.

This morning finds me still thinking about vibrato, however.  You see after my last newsletter I received one response that seemed to question the sense of starting the motion from below the pitch.

And the writer is right in noting that this does not conform to traditional thinking about vibrato.  I, myself was taught to start at the pitch and oscillate down and back up, in fact.  And it worked for me.

Yet it is clearly not working for a number of folks out there who have tried this for a considerable amount of time and still can’t make the ‘jump’ from slow, measured motions to quick, automatic ones.

So I did more experimenting over the weekend.  And I noticed two additional things.  First, when I ‘twitch’ my hand toward my body it more readily reassumes a relaxed state on the rebound than the reverse; something that is very important. 

And secondly, if you think of the vibrato as a series of automatic ‘twitches’ of the wrist, you will hear the strongest sound indication at the apex of the twitch.  If the twitch energy is sent downward, then, the result is a note that sounds flat and best.

Combine that with a reluctance of the hand to relax on the rebound and the effect is even worse.

Now, having said that, bear in mind that the twitch upward is quite rapid and coincides right with the first beat of time.  In other words, the apex of the first twitch and the beat are simultaneous to the ear.

Once you can do one ‘twitch’ quite cleanly, as I outlined in my last post, you indeed have the beginnings of a fine vibrato.

And yesterday I experimented further with this twitch approach.  At first I measured and ‘counted’ each one, pretty much as I outlined in the last newsletter. 

Then I counted on every OTHER twitch, every third twitch, every fourth, and so forth.

Doing this had the result of giving little pulses to the twitches.  And the ‘weak’ twitches – or rebounds – became the ‘automatic’ motions that I think are so elusive to some players.

So you see, it’s never a bad thing to pulse your twitches! 

Yet seriously, even if you have a decent vibrato, this sort of practice and control is useful.  It ensures that the hand remains relaxed as you vibrate, and that the vibrato is even and purposeful when it is used.

Now all this being said it is important that the twitches I’ve been talking about have a certain form.  And that form is what I demonstrate quite clearly in month 7 of my Beginners Circle program.

Of course the program provides a whole lot more instruction than what you need to master a beautiful vibrato.  In fact it’s truly a one-of-a-kind resource for the novice violinist who wants to PLAY the instrument and not just dilly-dally around with it.

All the best,

Clayton Haslop

From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 10, 2010 at 8:41 PM

Over the weekend I was teaching a group of high schoolers, many who were beginners to vibrato. I explained to them that there are "vibrato muscles," and they must be developed. I passed out little boxes of Tic-Tacs to use as shakers and showed them a number of other exercises.

But here is what I'm thinking about, reading your blogs, Clayton: there are the muscles that go backward, and the muscles that go forward, and you need both. A beginning vibrato student will try to "vibrato" in the air, basically waving at himself or herself, and in most cases, one can see how the muscles are not developed. The "wave" quickly deteriorates and the hand starts flopping convulsively, like a caught fish, instead of evenly.

But, I don't know that everyone's weakness is the same. I suspect some people tend to be more weak with the "flipping back" muscles while others are weak with the "twitch forward" muscles. Thus exercises need to address both.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 11, 2010 at 12:33 AM


Laurie,  it`s interesting that with all its slight permutations of whta one shakes,  what you describe is seen as a classic method of teachign vibrato . Yet I find myself with many doubts about it in spite of the fact it does work  (not sur eif this makes sense...).   The problem to my mind is that I don`t want the hand to flop forward towards my nose as part of the vibrato movement,  therefore I am essentially teahcing a movement which is paret superfluous and may even be misleading to some studnets.  By beginning from the string and understanding vibrato in terms of the first phalanx raising and lowering pitch just make smore sense to me these days.



From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 12, 2010 at 9:34 PM

Vibrato is so tricky to teach; I'm always happy to find new ways to skin that cat. I always start by trying "Do this!" and seeing if the student can just DO it. (Sometimes they can). But to complicate things further, the actual motion is also ever-so-slightly a sideways motion, in addition to all the other motions it encompasses. I certainly don't have the same approach with everyone; I try everything until something catches!

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal
Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings


Violin Lab



Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine