V.com weekend vote: Do you do wrist or arm vibrato better?

June 12, 2015, 1:55 PM ·

vibrato wave

In an article this week about a left-hand technique class taught by Kurt Sassmannshaus at the Starling-Delay symposium, the subject of arm vs. hand vibrato came up. Sassmannshaus was saying that, if a student develops a good arm vibrato, it can be hard to convince that student to also develop a wrist vibrato.

That made me curious! What percentage of people do exclusively either wrist or arm vibrato? And among those who do both, which kind of vibrato is most dominant? And just to describe them: In a wrist vibrato, the hand moves back and forth from the wrist. In an arm vibrato, the forearm moves from the elbow, and the wrist is not moving.

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June 13, 2015 at 10:56 AM · Very interesting comment. I first developed arm vibrato, but my teacher insisted I developed a good wrist vibrato as well. I can do both very comfortabley, but now I actually tend towards wrist unless I make a conscious decision to use arm.

June 13, 2015 at 11:38 AM · Maybe Prof. Sassmanshaus has articulated why young students should be taught wrist vibrato first, because it would surprise me if 100% reliance on arm vibrato is a sustainable strategy.

I said mostly wrist since my teacher really does not want me to use much arm yet.

Edit: I see from the other blog post that Sassmannshaus does teach wrist vibrato first as well. I watched his little video on a starting vibrato exercise, that is exactly how my teacher trains his students.

June 13, 2015 at 04:34 PM · I'm curious to hear about the different musical applications of both wrist and arm.

Is arm vibrato associated with louder, bigger sound (and perhaps increasing intensity)? Is wrist associated with a specific sort of musical expression? Or are the two vibrati differentiated perhaps by position on the instrument more than by musical application?

June 13, 2015 at 09:10 PM · I'd like to see a blind test to see if the listener can actually tell them apart...

June 15, 2015 at 10:45 AM · It seems reasonable to me that having different ways of producing vibrato will give the violinist a more varied color spectrum, even though the listener may not be able to tell exactly how one achieved a certain effect. Perhaps a good teacher, who knows how a certain student plays, will be able to tell when they used arm vs wrist without watching.

I was taught that in spite of (because of?) the use of the larger muscles, arm vibrato can give you a sharp, intense "pulse" of vibrato on a shorter note, for example, in a sforzando situation. What do y'all pros/teachers think of that idea?

June 16, 2015 at 03:59 PM · It took me a long time to develop any sort of vibrato at all, primarily because (as I discovered later) I was gripping the neck between my thumb and index finger, preventing my hand from moving. My teachers told me not to worry and that my vibrato would develop on its own. When I finally managed to unlock my hand from the violin's neck, I found I could most easily do a wrist vibrato with my first finger; I still do that the best, especially in first position. I'm now using an arm vibrato with my third finger; I'm still working on keeping the joints flexible enough for the required movement. The same goes for my fourth finger, although that one's harder. For second finger it's a toss-up whether to go for wrist or arm vibrato.

It's a long, slow process, but at least I feel like I'm getting somewhere now.

June 16, 2015 at 07:54 PM · Elise, the blind test is a good point!

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