In the best of all worlds, vibrato is simply a hinge that swings freely. However, it’s one thing to demonstrate it away from the violin, and quite another to try It on the fingerboard itself. Could it be that there are invisible obstacles that block the movement?
Introductory exercise for arm and wrist vibratos:
Bottle-Neck: What Happens On the Fingerboard
Do you ever feel comfortable vibrating on one string, only to find the next string over feels like a foreign country? That’s because it is. Now, certain types of minds absorb the change of string angles. For example, going from the E string to the A string, the hand inhabits a higher altitude on the A string. The elbow will rise considerably to accommodate the change of string. To make the adaptation complete, the wrist will morph as if it were made of ball bearings.
For those minds that take longer to process the different angles and altitudes (16 of them if you multiple four fingers by four strings), take heart. Strive to see the alteration of the terrain in your mind’s eye. Be patient and the hand will find the exact shape. You’ll be surprised how far the distance is from one string to the next. If you can visualize it, there’s no need to analyze it. Even if there were 64 angles, that’s not a dauting task for a hand built with ball bearings.
Exercise for Transferring the Vibrato from One String to Another
Ignition – Starting the Vibrato
For years I thought of the image of starting a lawn mower to replicate the beginning of a vibrato. It supplied what was needed – a very sudden thrust followed by energy that coasted on itself.
Then I found a $5 gadget in a party store that made an Easter egg open up, oscillating within a small radius around a cute bunny. I was ready to pay far more for it. This was even better than the lawn mower. Less gas, less effort, and less space involved.
These two images take care of the beginning of vibrato and the renewal of energy by coasting. What happens, however, when the vibrato starts and stops and never starts again? The vibrato shuts down.
Exercise for Continuing the Vibrato Throughout the Note
To develop a smooth, non-interrupted vibrato, keep the fingertip light on the fingerboard. Have the distance from the lower to the higher pitch equidistant, like a swing. These two points are easy to overlook. Since there aren’t a lot of moving parts in vibrato, be careful to spot-check each of them regularly.
Because of the vagary and subtlety of vibrato, we tend to use it without thinking of the details. Yet it’s just like any other movement in sports or music. Concentration on one detail will pay off and give you more rhythmic control and greater tonal beauty.
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