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Drew Lecher

VIOLIN TECHNIQUE/VIOLA TECHNIQUE: 40+ plus… & Vibrato w/pizza…

November 1, 2010 at 4:25 AM


It’s been a busy year…


In June I celebrated 40 years of teaching…


This autumn I have the amazing privilege of starting a String Academy with a number of my former students—graduates of The Juilliard School; Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University-Bloomington; Northwestern University; Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music; Oberlin Conservatory of Music and University of Illinois–Urbana Champaign.


Drew Lecher String Academy




Also refer to “Viva Vibrato!!!” 


Drew…why do you introduce vibrato right away when the student starts playing? I was under the impression that vibrato introduced to early could negatively influence proper hand shape and the like. How do you teach it so it doesn't interfere with them learning the basics? D.


Hi D,


After introducing shifting in the first few lessons…


The earliest I remember, and recorded, adding vibrato for a beginning student was the 8th lesson. These were hour lessons with a 7-year-old boy that was playing piano for a year and read music well. I have not taught children in the 3-6 year age range.


Every student is unique. 


There are times when even a High School student has great difficulty with vibrato, but this is almost always when it has been taught wrong and/or the student retains enormous tension.


I introduce vibrato with the fingertip slow-rolling flat in pitch and returning to tone in coordination with "shifting down and return up" actions in the left arm. Initially they just do one per beat. When this goes well, I increase the number of moves per beat. Every student responds differently. 


Don't worry too much about counting each vibrato move after 2 per beat. Just keep the motion fluid. Have them listen to the return of the pitch/tone and focus in their mind on the constantly straight pitch while vibrating. They can see and feel the shifting/pumping of the left arm along with watching the flexing of the fingertip.


Hand shape and vibrato along with shifting are important parts of our basics. We need agility, fluidity and ease of all motions—the sooner the better, but without rushing or forcing progress.


Certainly some children, especially the very young should not vibrate unless they have the desire and hand coordination. It will come with time. Children do like to do things with their fingers. Fingertip flexes against a stationary thumb are very good introductions—each finger individually. After they start to get this I do finger flexes with a featherweight touch on their hand and have them develop a feathery touch with their fingertips flexing on their thumb. This should also be accomplished with a firm flexing action—say mp.


The above, along with eating pizza, spaghetti or any Italian food… Violino (vee-o-lee´-no), vibrato, are Italian. I love asking my students, especially the Oriental and Indian students, if they are Italian. They look at me with such a strange gaze:-) So, I ask them if they eat pizza, etc., and if the answer is yes then pronounce that they have Italian blood in them………tomato sauce!!!:-) Then I tell them about my Italian friends and how they talk with their hands a lot, as do others, and with a big smile I demonstratively shake my left arm—shifting— and an open loose fist with rounded fingers—vibrato—saying, " 'ey, wh'tza madda yu……no veebrrrato?" with a “good” Italian accent. We have a great laugh and they get it right away.


Excerpt pg Xxix


The sibling to shifts. 

Complement to character of the phrase. 

Primarily accomplished by the rapid shifting/pumping of the arm, in line with the string, along with the 

flexing/rolling of the fingertip. These two are sympathetically joined via the wrist. 

(There must be no contrary action to these simultaneous moves.) 

1. The direction is from the pitch to below and return again – the ear picks up the higher tone. 

2. The wrist should have a pro-active flexing action – controlled, yet a loose, free quality of movement. It relates 

in feel to shaking dice in the hand or shaking the fist (use a relaxed, slightly open hand) – do not let the hand 

flop beyond the wrist in either direction. 

a. The hand must not go in an opposite direction to the forearm via the wrist. 

3. The easiest positions to first achieve vibrato are the 3rd through the 5th positions. 

a. Do NOT brace the base of the hand against the shoulder/rib or back of the violin – this creates opposing  actions that are counterproductive. 

4. In essence: play the note and simultaneously “shift down” while flexing and rolling the fingertip, then “shift 

up” with the returning finger motion. (Do not actually change position.) 

a. Practice Slo-Mo/Fast (Slow Motion then Fast). 

5. Vibrato has any number of speeds and intensities with various depths of range all to be employed in the most 

refined manner and style of interpretation. 


Note: There is one other seldom taught, but most useful, technique where the finger is actually shifted/slid 

back and forth to give an exceptionally full vibrato – it is generally confined to the 4th finger and should be 

used wisely and sparingly, so that the listener is unaware.



Enjoy your achievements!


Hope this helps.


God bless,



Author of 

"Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master"

"Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master"



From Roy Sonne
Posted on November 2, 2010 at 1:30 AM

Congratulations and best wishes for your new String Academy. How exciting and gratifying!

From Drew Lecher
Posted on November 4, 2010 at 4:10 AM

 Thanks, Roy. 

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