V.com weekend vote: Which finger do you find easiest for vibrato?

December 18, 2015, 12:58 PM · Which finger do you find easiest for vibrato?

vibrato hand

Numerous pedagogy courses have informed me that, in general, the easiest finger for most people to vibrate is the third finger, and so starting with the third finger can be helpful when first learning the skill. It's true with many students as well as many developed violinists, but not with everyone! I currently have a student for whom the first finger is definitely easiest.

I still remember learning vibrato (mostly in an unconventional way, practicing the movement at my desk at school, finger by finger.) Once my muscles became a little stronger, I was surprised to find that the fourth finger was actually pretty easy, and the first finger more difficult!

What's certain is that the muscles required for vibrato are not generally a set of muscles we cultivate in "real life," so it takes a good deal of persistence and repetition to build them up. During that initial time, the vibrato will not necessarily sound good, too, so it also takes some faith!

If you have a well-developed vibrato, all you have to do is to put the fiddle on your other shoulder and try producing a note with vibrato in the right hand, and you'll appreciate what the beginning vibrato student goes through!

That said, we each generally have one finger that is easiest to vibrate. Which is it for you?

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December 18, 2015 at 09:57 PM · I wonder if others have experienced a change in the optimal finger over time. Little by little I've found the first finger the easiest on which to vibrate after spending a long time with a third finger preference. Not that my experience is very deep...

December 18, 2015 at 11:02 PM · I voted 3rd, although I hadn't given much thought till now to which finger was easiest. Vibrato exercises are some of the first I do in daily warm-ups, right after basic finger gymnastics to get the muscles going and blood pumping. I do these in 3rd position first, then 1st position, equal time to each finger. Even in 1st position, 4th finger vibrato sul G is no problem once I am well warmed up.

I find it crucial to have the left-hand muscles well developed and maintained. Small daily doses of Sevcik or Schradieck help here. Another exercise I find valuable for opening up and maintaining the left hand: broken 3rds in 1st position, keeping fingers down as long as possible.

December 18, 2015 at 11:16 PM · Alan, I feel mine has changed over time. My fourth finger, perhaps because I also write with my left hand and type a lot, is actually over-strong and it has lost the ability to collapse at the last joint, if that makes any sense. It makes the vibrato more difficult than it once was.

December 19, 2015 at 12:18 AM · I voted for the 2nd finger (my longest finger - is that significant?), but the 3rd and 4th are close, and the 1st finger is improving steadily. I'm a late starter (i.e. in the retirement age group), and vibrato didn't really begin properly until I became fluent with left-hand shifting - to my mind they are very closely related and don't become truly effective until everything from the shoulder to the finger tips is relaxed and tension-free. Now, my vibrato is coming along nicely and fluently. I'm not deliberately using arm vibrato, possibly because I don't use a shoulder rest, but now and then it creeps in when I'm not expecting it, so it's worth doing some work on it.

December 19, 2015 at 03:44 AM · I find first, second and third about the same with first being a little easier. Fourth is the hardest.

December 19, 2015 at 12:58 PM · I find third finger easiest, closely followed by second.

December 20, 2015 at 01:51 AM · I think it's the second finger, in terms of physical action and flexibility. If we're measuring the effectiveness of the vibrato, then it's the third finger for me, because of the fleshiness of my third finger and the angle of approach, which is wider and richer.

December 20, 2015 at 02:21 PM · I'm double jointed so I worked hard at getting good curved fingers for playing on my tips. As a result I think my second finger is too 'strong' so that I can't flex the knuckle at will for a full vibrato. On the other hand, I can get my first finger to collapse and straighten on my tip very easily, and thus my first finger vibrato is excellent. The other fingers, not so much. :-)

December 20, 2015 at 06:17 PM · As my vibrato continues to develop I find my first finger lagging more and more behind the others. It's when I struggle with things in general that my third finger vibrates the most! :)

December 21, 2015 at 12:29 PM · Eventually, as in my case, fingers broken during soccer and volleyball practice, as well as arthritis, will determine the answer...

December 22, 2015 at 01:17 PM ·, you mean you never get injured during a match, only during practice? Remarkable - unless you hardly ever played or play matches.

December 22, 2015 at 07:41 PM · I voted for third finger, although the first decent vibrato I achieved was with the first finger. But that was a sort of finger vibrato which is more a matter of varying the pressure on the string and works best close to the nut. My current teacher discourages this and is trying to get me into an arm vibrato. It still doesn't really feel natural to me - I can do it but only with a lot of concentration. I get the best results playing a first-position G on my viola's D string (or D on my violin's A string - the relative position is the same), and I'm starting to get the other fingers - even the 4th - to co-operate. My first finger is the trickiest for an arm vibrato - I find I have to lay it down a bit rather than coming straight down on the fingertip.

It's a paradox - I need my knuckle to be firm enough to transmit pressure to the string, but supple enough to flex and let the fingertip roll.

And then there's the thumb. The reason it took me several years to get any kind of vibrato at all was (as I finally discovered) that I was gripping the neck between my thumb and the base of my index finger. This locked my hand in place and prevented any movement at all. But it felt so secure. I'm trying to touch the neck only with my fingertip, but this means clamping the instrument with my chin, which isn't good either.

I'm still searching for that magic combination of touch, position, and movement that, I'm sure, comes with time. It's only been six years so far. With luck I'll have another 30 left - hopefully that'll be enough.

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