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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: What kind of vibrato do you use primarily?

June 28, 2013 at 5:25 PM

This week's question was inspired by the excellent Vibrato Master Class with Shakeh Ghoukasian that I attended last week. It gave me wonderful ideas as a teacher, and for my student who attended, it was a revelation. Afterwards she said, "I GET it!" -- three happy words!

There are two main kinds of vibrato: arm vibrato, in which the entire arm vibrates; and wrist/hand vibrato, in which the hand waves from the wrist. (Arguably there is a third, "finger vibrato," but this is more of a refinement of how flexible the finger is when touching the string, and it happens in concert with an arm or wrist vibrato. Yes, feel free to argue with me about this, I know someone will!)

Some instances work better with arm, others with wrist, but many if not most instances work just fine with either an arm or wrist vibrato. Most people have one or the other that they do better and default to. Me? I'm left-handed, and I came by a wrist vibrato quite early on. "Arm vibrato" was something my college professor taught me, and I found it to be an interesting revelation. I do use it for double stops, very high passages, etc., but I default to a wrist vibrato on most occasions.

Funny enough, my students have evolved their own vibratos -- several were very natural with "arm vibrato." It's great to learn both, but one usually starts with the kind that works best!

So what kind of vibrato do you primarily use, or do you honestly use the same amount of both? Or are you still working to cultivate this skill? That's okay, too!

From Kevin Keating
Posted on June 29, 2013 at 12:57 AM
Wow, this is a loaded question. Well, I've been playing about 5 years and am just finding my vibrato now. Whether I use hand or wrist or arm varies with which finger I'm using (index and working on the middle), what string I'm on, how far up the neck I am.

Using the first finger on the E string to vibrato it feels natural to me to use a twisting motion like a guitar player would use which can create quite a fast vibrato. Just imagine BB King's big left hand shaking out a note high up the neck and you get the idea. I've been playing guitar myself over 30 years.

I don't think there's one cut and dry answer to this although I'm sure those who've been playing much longer probably favor a particular style over the others. As mine develops I may end up favoring one style as well.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on June 29, 2013 at 5:25 PM
I say, go for developing them both! It's great to have wide variety in your vibrato.
From Emma Otto
Posted on June 30, 2013 at 7:01 PM
I think my teacher started me off with wrist vibrato, but I quickly took on to using my full arm, wrist and fingers in a bigger motion. Personally, it works well for me and almost everyone who hears me comments on my vibrato. Even my first teacher, who taught me vibrato, commented after several years that maybe she should be taking vibrato lessons from me.
Posted on July 1, 2013 at 6:21 PM
I've been watching some DVD's with Yehudi Menuhin, Leonid Kogan and Jascha Heifetz. It seems to me that their vibrato in all of them is mostly hand/wrist.

Is there an implicit message in those performances that we are not getting regarding which vibrato is best ?

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