Need help with vibrato exercises

January 26, 2007 at 07:46 AM · While there may be a such thing as "too much vibrato" sometimes, I do not have this problem.

What exercises have you found most helpful in improving vibrato, widening it, and making it "feel" more natural? I'm thinking about setting the metronome and doing vibrato faster and faster (quarters, eighths, sixteenths)for each finger, then increasing the speed of the metronome. But I've done that before--it's kind of boring--and if my current vibrato skill level is any indication, this exercise hasn't been super-effective for me in the past. Is there something better that I can do every day for 5-10 minutes?

Replies (22)

January 27, 2007 at 12:40 AM · Greetings,

there are hundreds (?) of good exercises for vibrato. The most efficient version for me in the area you describe is:

set mm at 66 practice dooted quaver semi, four crotchets to a bow.

Same tempo, dottes semi, demi, four beats to bow.

Same tempo, four semiscortchet, four semis crotchet. Four betas to bow.

Up the mm by six. Repeat. Go to 106 using these rtyhm patterns.

If you have slightly stiff finger joints practice the Rivarde exercisde I have described many time son this list. If you joints are soft, dont.

Practice the wiping exercise everyday without bow. If oyu use a wrist vibrato this mean the wrist thros the hand along the string in a dotted rythm say from a third position on d string to f and back. The a flat to f sharp, then g to g flat, then a quarter tone and finally anchor the finger and do the vibrato. A beginners exercise thta for many people remains beneficial forever.

Another great exercise is to take a note and -move- it back a semitone (not roll) with the wrist (or arm depending which vib you favor) while the thumbstays where it is. Do it in dotted rythms four beats to a bow but only for one bar. Then immediatleyimmediatley repeat the procedure butkeep the finger anchored so that the firts joint rolls.

For a musically oriented exercise place a finer on any note and dont change it. Imagine a piece of music in your head and vary the sppeed of bvibrato according the intensit you feel on eacvh note of the music in your head.

However, the bottom line is, oif you want just about all the importnat vibratio exercises clealry explained you gotta buy Basics.



January 27, 2007 at 01:59 AM · What kind of fingers do you have?

Double jointed? or non-D jointed?


January 27, 2007 at 01:26 PM · My fingers aren't double-jointed. And they don't seem to get stiff. Where I seem to have problems is in my arm and especially wrist getting stiff. I don't know the anatomy, but there is a muscle connecting the hand to the arm, and when that gets tight, it's all over. I can't seem to loosen it again and have to just move on to something else for that practice session.

I did find that working on viola vibrato for a few weeks made violin vibrato come much easier. Maybe for viola I need to get a cello . . .

January 27, 2007 at 05:10 PM · Remember also, the virbato comes forward faster than it goes back. Important, the vibrato only comes up TO the note, not beyond it. If you go beyond it two things will happen, the vibrato will make you sound out of tune, and worse, you'll sound like opera singers who like to commit death by vibrato.

January 27, 2007 at 10:04 PM · Greetings,

Karen, I would hesistantly suggest that the majority of vibrato problems actually have their origin in the neck and shoulder. A frustratedplayer may diliigently work on exercises foir the wrist or whatever and ignore the actuall origin of the cause. You might explore this a bit. Do you find for exaple, that you actually ebgin to tense the neck befor eplayign an expresibe passage?

For a stiff wrist at lcola level the wiping exercise I describe above is excelent however advanced the plaer,



January 28, 2007 at 07:29 AM · Why I asked Karen is if you learn finger vibrato, you need not use much wrist or arm to get some big vibrato going. The only problem is that it takes a lot of training to get perfect finger vibrato. Check out Sarah Chang's playing Paganini on U Tube.

Search Sarah Chang.


I have a few exercises you can do... just let me know -- oh, and you don't need your instrument(s) to do em.

January 28, 2007 at 03:30 PM · Buri may be onto something, in that now that I'm also playing viola it is more work for my neck and shoulders. I have 2 kids, a husband, and a full-time paid job in academic neuroscience so usually I just don't manage to practice longer than 30-40 minutes a night. And that's not enough time to get really tired or strained.

On those rare occasions when I can practice longer I do notice that my neck and shoulders are tired and tight . . . the pre-Alexander Technique back pain I had in my 20's when I was playing for longer periods hasn't come back, at least.

But with vibrato, with me, it really seems like it is mostly a tightness in the forearm, not any higher: at its worst, I can feel the tendon standing out in the inner elbow and then the tension goes up the forearm to the wrist. It may come from actively pressing the 2nd and 3rd fingers down rather than just letting them fall. Teachers have told me to "relax" but that advice is too non-specific. If I totally "relax," I can't play anything.

January 28, 2007 at 04:47 PM · when we vibrato with too much forward vector (even without going sharp), the forearm flexors tend to engage more, which may be the case here, like holding up a small weight doing curls and holding it up there.

to appreciate what a more neutral motion may feel like, try a little of the other extreme, that is, rock the wrist regions with a more backward (toward the scroll) motion. immediately, you will see the flexor and extensor of the forearm are in better balance and the sound of the vibrato is not as...trying.

but hey, what do i know?:)

ps. the word "relax" is the most helpful thing to say when you want someone to tense up more:)

January 28, 2007 at 07:22 PM · You're probably using the wrong vibrato technique for viola. If you use violin tech. on viola, you'll feel strained.


January 28, 2007 at 08:29 PM · Greetings,

telling your arm to relax is fairly useless even if it is the point of tensions. Try telling it t "do less' and se eif taht maes a diffeenrce. Also watch lots of DVDs of players like Menuhin and ry to absorb their sens eof relaxation,



January 28, 2007 at 10:17 PM · Ah vibrato!. Am I late here? Anyway, if you are just starting to master it, five minutes are enough--but maybe even three--and do it 'daily'.

I have to practice vibrato out of sequence, and by itself to get the best results. And the balance between relaxed wrist and fingers is a compromise so that it's not so relaxed the vibrato sounds muffled or too wide or something.

I'm using the approach at for the basics, and have it going fairly well on all strings but in small doses--and for me at least it just takes a long time. And when you get f1 in the right balance, make sure you de-emphasise that and start working on all fingers ever day.

And don't be afraid to go back to the exercise in 5th position immediately, when one of your other fingers degrades. Go for the larger muscle movements first before you start worrying about fine-tuning it with speed and amplitude--that will be easy after you get to where you can grab f3 or f4 on 'd' and 'g'.

Also, always always work on vibrato, even when you get to where you can shift and grab that note easier (this is one who cheats talking). And the really good advice that was passed on to me here, was that once you get f1 and maybe f2 going, start using it in songs where appropriate.

Finally, I'm finding that one of the things I often overlook is releasing thumb tension thus left thumb joint tension before trying to get my finger oscillating. This actually applies to shifting as well ("lift, shift and drop"). This alone has made alot of difference--and fairly recently.

And when you get to some point, start paying attention to finger pad on the string for best sound; and, shifting right into an oscillation for your left wrists, hand, and arm's dexterity.

Good luck.

January 28, 2007 at 10:44 PM · Greetings,

Karen, one thing you might like to chekc that could be related tyo the viola. Is your left upper arm now too close tothe body. This can cause tension problems. An awarness exericse thta solves it is to place the left thumb on the right palm and any finger you like on the back of the right hand. Do the vibrato on the back of your hand while raising the right hand and lifting it up and bakc over the left shoulde .This lifts the left arm away from the body while helping to relaxthe vibrato in general. Also you can pracitc eit anytime , anyplace with the only down side being people will think you are a looney,



January 29, 2007 at 12:06 AM · Speaking of looney, I use to walk around when I was trying to get my f3-f4 moving again after the injury for weeks and weeks with nerf balls, and those little round high bouncing balls, working on my hand. One thing became certain, if I didn't get my hand back, I could take up juggling.

January 29, 2007 at 12:21 AM · "Speaking of looney, I use to walk around when I was trying to get my f3-f4 moving again after the injury for weeks and weeks with nerf balls, and those little round high bouncing balls, working on my hand. One thing became certain, if I didn't get my hand back, I could take up juggling."

Albert: Sorry about your injury, but I'm not sure I quite understand how exercising those balls of yours will help either with vibrato or with juggling.


January 29, 2007 at 01:16 AM · Oh, I'm sorry Sander--I was starting vibrato too at the time, and my fingers wouldn't work anymore. Probably should've mentioned that.

January 29, 2007 at 05:00 AM · I always have problems doing vibrato with 4th finger. After playing cello for a couple of months, I begin to feel more strength in the fingers but the 4th finger still isn't doing the vibrato as good as the rest of the fingers. How can I go about this?

January 29, 2007 at 06:16 AM · Yup, Nate is right on the money.

Put your third finger down until your fourth is strong enough... but also, do the Elman thing -- flatten the pinky and roll it... You will get as fat a sound as you would out of your third finger which to me, has the lushest sound.


January 31, 2007 at 05:44 AM · Karen,

I used to have trouble with too much finger pressure, particularly with my second finger which would cause some discomfort in my base knuckles. I'm sure someone else has posted this idea, but try playing with too light finger pressure (without vibrato) and gradually adding a bit more until you find just enough to get a good tone.

Also, when vibrating, does the spot just above you base knuckle of your index finger come away from the neck of the instrument? This gives greater freedom and relaxation. Maintaining contact with the neck of the instrument during vibrato can allow squeezing in the thumb. By addressing tension issues in my thumb, I was able to stop using too much finger pressure, so that might be something to check.


January 31, 2007 at 05:58 AM · Greetings,

good point. It is vitla ot recognize that finger pressure actually changes during vibrato. If the pressur eis kept the same on the back a steh forweard movement then tension will occur. The finger tip actually moves in a circular motion a sa consequence of releasing pressure on the string. this cna be workedon by a very simple exercise. You don`t need the bow. Place a finger on a note. Roll the finger tip back either with a hand or arm swing. As the finger rolls back release the resuure on the string, then as the finger rolls forward imagine the fingertip rolling back into the string. This creates a circular motion and can be practiced on all fingers everyday. Very beneficial,



February 1, 2007 at 05:42 AM · What about breathing and relaxing the neck and jaw? I tend to have the problem when I try to intensify the sound my vibrato gets tense. My teacher always wants me to slow down and to relax, but then the intensity is lost in the sound. So instead, I tried to relax the neck, jaw, shoulder and breath deeply. That works for me.

February 1, 2007 at 05:49 AM · Greetings,

yes, because that is where I belive most vibrato provblems real origin is.



February 1, 2007 at 07:32 AM · Thank you Buri for the confirmation!

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