Learning the vibrato

May 7, 2007 at 08:27 PM · hello, i am a violin student and a very impatient one. I learned a lot of bad technique when I was young and now we are picking them out with my teacher. But it is going very slow.

One of the problems is my finger vibrato. I use a lot of finger vibrato and almost no arm or wrist vibrato. We have started on exercises from Fischer's basics and my teacher also made me read Flesch's art of violin. When we are doing the exercises the arm and wrist vibrato seems to come out slowly, but very slowly. However, when I start playing (an etude or a piece) my finger vibrato comes back, as if I haven't learned anything on the arm and wrist vibrato.

My horrible finger vibrato is a subject of a lot of jokes in the family and at school. That is very depressing. I try to do my exercises regularly but still nothing has changed for the past month. Am I too stupid, or should one wait longer for a nice vibrato. Or maybe I am doing something else wrong, and I have to search for the problem somewhere else? like my elbow or wrist or so? Thanks in advance to everyone.

Replies (71)

May 7, 2007 at 10:51 PM · Greetings,

I think the exercises in Fischer are great. They should be, since they are a very comprehensive collection of just about all the great vibrato exercises used by anyone of note....

However, there is anotehr aspetc to this whihc I stumbled across years ago when reading an interview with Zhakar Bron. He argued that just about eveyrone was wrong and that the true origin of almost all vibrato problems was in the left shoulder. At the time I thought this was a little strong but in general I have found it to be very much on the mark. You can practice discrete vibrato exercises until the cows come home and improve a lot, but without the basic relaxed structure of whole body it is fairly cosmetic. One classic example is having the left elbow too near or resitng on the rib cage. To help this practic eyour vibrato with your fingers on the bakc of your right hand with the left thumb on the right palm.As you vibrate lft the right hand up and back over the left shoulder so that the arm is separated form the body.

Aside from taking Alexande rlessons you might find the following maxim useful: the instrument adjutss to the body, not the other way around. In other words you get confortable and balanced before you put the instrument up and then you don`t change by raising your left shoulder, clamping your head down or whatever.

One of the next issue syou may e having is too much finger pressure. A useful way to work on this is to practice passage sor whole works using no pressure, the finger just rests on the string. Then 25%, then fifty, 75 etc until you get to the exact maximum amount of pressur eoyu nee dand do more.

Then, as you know, the speed and amplitude of vibrato is controlled by the first joint of the fingers. Are your joint very soft or very stiff or in between? The reason this is importnta is that if these joints are stiff and inflexible then it is advisable to practice the following exercises:

1) Flesch Rivarde (a sdescribed in book).

2) Sliding type finger exercises such as chromatic scales iwth the old fashione dfingerings.

However, if your joints are very soft then these exericses are a little contra indicated and you should use them very sparingly.

Next you might consider a point I belive Fische rmakes in his book- a greta dela of tension is cause by the belive that vibrato is a back and forth motion of the fingertip. It isn`t. It is a circular movement in which the finger tip releases pressure as it goes backwards and rotates foward and down in the string as it returns to the original pitch.

Therfore exercises without the bow in which you practice this release of tension are veyr beneficial.

Incidentally, one exericse not in the Fischer book which may help is to practice your vibrato with the violin held like a guitar.

Finally, it is also very importnta to tyr and absorn vibrato from watching others. Try checking out DVDs of player slike Menuihin or Oistrakh. Just watch without trying to analyse what is going on. The n try your vibrato and see if anything feels different.



May 8, 2007 at 06:01 AM · I agree with Buri.

I have been doing almost nothing else but working on my vibrato for about a year now. The breakthrough came when I learned to relax both my shoulder and forearm. What was happening was that the tension in those areas would cause the violin to shake along with the vibrato. If the violin is moving, it lessens the effect of the vibrato itself.

Try putting down the bow, and do vibrato exercises while holding the violin steady with your right hand. Notice how much easier it is. Now let go with the right hand and continue. I think the goal is to be able to continue the left hand/arm movement, and not have the violin itself move any more than when you were holding it.

Not so easy, though!

Someone with more experience may correct me, but that's my story and I'm sticking by it.

May 8, 2007 at 02:09 AM · For some vibrato comes slowly--uh, like me.... The relaxed shoulder-- and actually I think the entire relaxed body is important.

You seem to have plenty of exercises and approaches. One more is at violinmasterclass.com ... I used their approach for my wrist vibrato and a teacher's approach for arm.

Like me also, you seem impatient. So, it may be a long journey for you, so just make sure you practice the correct way every day using strict attention to detail for at least 5 minutes.

May 8, 2007 at 03:14 AM · i think you are being over-analytical and micro-managing the body parts involved.

even though there is such a thing called finger vibrato, forget about it for now, i mean, for the next 5 years. any vibrato involves finger movement; at your level, to break it down as a single entity is not only confusing, but apparently paralysing.

it is like you are riding a bike and you constantly think about what you knee is doing, ankle is doing, head is doing, neck is doing,,,,can you really ride a bike that like?


May 8, 2007 at 05:08 AM · Thank you all for your valuable advice! I feel a lot better and motivated now. I had not thought of the position of my left shoulder, but you are right, I tense it a bit I suppose. I will try and write back again when I try your recommendations. And I will try to be more patient :)

I also agree with Al ku, I should not think too detailed maybe, but when I do not, and just play, the finger vibrato comes back again and I cannot get rid of it. I feel like I have a problem and I need to get down to the source.

I had learned the violin on my own when I was small and played like that for a couple years until I started taking lessons. during that time I learned lots of mistakes and now it is hard to get rid of them. So i am trying to pay attention to details hoping that will help me isolate and fix the problem.

May 8, 2007 at 05:17 AM · I will 3rd Buri's advice. The technique for helping the vibrato along using the "guitar" position is the one that really works for me. It is a much more "natural" position, so you will tend to be more relaxed overall. If you are in an orchestra, it is also a great way to get some extra vibrato practice in when the conductor works over another section of the orchestra.

May 8, 2007 at 12:37 PM · Oh such a great thread.

I'll just add to the testimony of having a relaxed shoulder! My shoulder used to pinch my violin and the violin used to rest not so much on my collarbone, but directly on top of my shoulder...and my chin was barely on the left-side chin rest.

I could not hold the violin comfortably enough or relaxed enough in order to feel secure and have a consistent shifting and it completely prevented any development with my vibrato from when I was 12 to 21.

And listening is great! I was a counselor at a summer camp and met a student with a very powerful vibrato who taught himself just by watching the greats play on DVDs and what not.

Set-up and Support, I've felt, have usually been my obstacles with major problems. It can almost always come to that on any instrument.

May 8, 2007 at 01:31 PM · i don't think this is a case where the poster has no information on the right thing to do, and certainly having a relaxed shoulder all of a sudden will not change things around. it is not a good place to start.

this is a case of doing too much too wrong for too long. now everyone's train is leaving the station except yours,,, that feeling sucks and it feeds into the tension.

the approach i will take is to do less, or better yet, if you can help it, do nothing.

stop all vibrato attempt. completely.

however, watch as many good examples as you can. youtube is a good start. get your mind ready before you move your body again.

do not attempt to do anymore vibrato until you get to a good teacher to start afresh.

de-learn what you have learned and re-learn under good guidance.

May 8, 2007 at 01:03 PM · Would it be possible to learn to play with no vibrato? I've heard teachers say that it is impossible to change a vibrato - you have to throw it out and get something totally different from the most basic elements. Try practicing your advanced pieces with no vibrato and build up your new technique with your exercises, then use it in the most simple pieces until it is natural enough to incorporate into all of your playing.

May 8, 2007 at 01:15 PM · I also line up behind Buri. My daughter who had a passable vibrato tried to learn to play without her shoulder rest to open up her sound. She managed to learn to shift well without a rest but when it came to vibrato, she tensed up her shoulder. Her vibrato became more of a shake. She put back on her shoulder rest for now and seems to be doing well with her vibrato when her shoulder is relaxed.


May 8, 2007 at 01:56 PM · I think that violin/string instrument vibrato is by far the most complicated of all the instruments. My daughter has been working intensively on vibrato for almost a year now, she is getting better but doesn't have it all the way yet.

I am a flute player and I have difficultly picking out the difference between wide and narrow fast and slow vibrato on the violin.

My daughter when she was beginning used what you call the "finger vibrato". When she got ready for wrist vibrato her teacher then would use a tic tac container and place it in her left hand and rock foward and backward to a metronome starting at 54 doing 2's 3's 4's 5's 6's and 8's moving up the metronome to about 69. This got her to do the motion without the violin.

My advice is to take it slow and learn the correct way. Don't let others pressure you with their attitude... they will be eating your vibrato dust. : )

May 8, 2007 at 01:25 PM · One other thing that, for me, relates to the relaxed shoulder: make sure you're not clamping down too hard with the chin to hold up the instrument. I did this when I started playing the viola: the instrument was heavier, and to hold it up without any input from my left hand, I was clamping down between my chin and shoulder. This caused my back and entire left arm to freeze up after about 20 minutes of playing, and then--vibrato? what vibrato?

I seem to have ameliorated the problem by getting a smaller viola and by using my left hand a tiny bit more to actually hold up the instrument. This just keeps my left arm and wrist from freezing up so that the other vibrato exercises suggested by others have a chance.

May 8, 2007 at 06:36 PM · thanks all for the encouraging words, understanding and advice :) i wanted to drop a note about what happened when i tried to apply your recommendations.

first and foremost, thanks so much for the idea of trying the vibrato while holding the violin like a guitar! the vibrato came so easy and natural when i did that. i tend to lose that easy feeling easily though and start tensing my shoulder and wrist quickly. then i try to release the tension and start from the beginning again, and so on... but it definitely helps.

another thing is i realized how much i tense my shoulder! even at the thought of the vibrato i feel something moving up on my left shoulder. i had never paid attention to it before. now i am also trying to get rid of that.

what i do not understand is, why while holding the violin normally, i cannot repeat the movements i do so easily while holding the violin like a guitar. something is going wrong there but i am not exactly sure what.

also i try to forget that finger vibrato and am playing my kreutzer, sevcik and sitt etudes without the vibrato, just plain long notes.

and i listen to a lot of menuhin, and watch his recordings of the beethoven violin concerto(specially second movement) and i imagine myself as menuhin :P stupid as it may sound.

but thanks a lot, i think i really am starting to understand it better, and i believe it more now that i will solve my problem!

May 8, 2007 at 08:13 PM · I didn't read any of the previous responses, so I may just be repeating something someone already said, but I want to give you a vote of encouragement. Keep working. We forget how athletic playing the violin is--how many muscles are involved in the process. Vibrato involves many muscles and reflexes (large and small) working together. My guess? Your body is still adapting to this new technique. Regular repetitive practice (as long as it's not too much too soon--a recipe for injury) will help you develop the muscle you need to produce an excellent vibrato.

I like your idea of visualizing yourself as Menhuin--a wise and intuitive thought. I would think the more you can accurately visualize what Menhuin is doing and see/feel/hear/comprehend yourself doing the same thing, the more you will sound like him.

May 8, 2007 at 10:40 PM · al said:

>having a relaxed shoulder all of a sudden will not change things around. it is not a good place to start.

Actually its a very good place to start. Extensive experience has shown this to be the case. I don@t think you have that experience. Certainly you are not as well qualified to comment on violin playing as Mr Bron regardles sof what you think about me.

Nothing wrong with having completely opposite opinions to -anybody- irrespective of your level.

But there is nothing wrong with a little politeness either.

May 9, 2007 at 03:05 AM · When relearning something, please see it as learning something new rather than un-learning. Build your new vibrato upon success, and give yourself a pat on the back when you can completely relax and get one note right, then two.

Everyone's music is a compilation of what is considered text-book as well as variability. Though 5 violinist doing the same detache notes may look the same on youtube, I promise you if you listen to each playing the same piece you would hear some difference. Build upon success, to limit frustration.

It may take some time to be more consistent with improved vibrato, but that is the price one pays--I'm the king of that--for the wherewithal that regardless of what anyone says, 'is a good thang'. ;).

Finally, I find that like Mimi Zweigler says paraphrased "relaxed down to your toes", gives me the best chance of getting nice clean controlled relaxed vibrato going--particularly wrist.

I forget who said (not here) what a demanding creature violin is of all of one's attention and abilities--plus then a little more--so it seems fair to say that especially with violin, one never really gets there. On that thought, all you can really do is just do it.... I had to--it's not terrible, though sometimes frustrating.

Over time, you will find you will be able to get it correct more and more if you will just be patient with yourself.

May 9, 2007 at 05:04 AM · Four or five double espressos really help my full-body vibrato.

May 10, 2007 at 04:34 AM · Sheine,

Regarding moving from guitar position to normal playing position... take it slowly. Holding a violin is most unnatural position. Get the guitar position vibrato down so that you could almost literally do it in your sleep. The trick is to get that same relaxed feeling in a normal playing position. Start the transition by holding your violin normally, and do a VERY WIDE vibrato with your fingers barely on the string. By VERY WIDE I mean like 3-4 inches, then shorten the vibrato down to about 1/32" or less - basically the normal vibrato. The moment that you feel tension, go back to the 3-4" vibrato, then focus it back down again. If you need to, switch back to guitar position for awhile, then back up on the shoulder and repeat the process over again.

With enough repetition moving from guitar position to on the shoulder, you will be training your muscles to remain relaxed in normal playing position. Think of it like training for a gymnist. You don't start doing back flips from the start - you have to train your muscles on how to make them do what you want them to do.

May 10, 2007 at 04:36 AM · Sheine,

The key point here is how you described yourself: very impatient. Unfortunately, impatience and learning the violin do not go together. I don't know your age, but I think that one month is a very short time in which to change anything about your playing. Getting an arm vibrato can be done if you do it systematically, deliberately, and daily. And you MUST abandon your old vibrato.

I have changed quite a few students who couldn't vibrate. It takes time, though.

The good thing here is that you're unhappy with it to begin with.

The students that have no hope are ones that can't vibrate and don't seem to notice.

Keep at. If it were any easier, they wouldn't call it "violin."


May 12, 2007 at 04:23 AM · By any chance does anybody know where to find the vibrato studies by Fischer? I've checked everywhere and I can't seem to find it...

May 12, 2007 at 04:56 AM · Sara, I don’t think Fischer has one book just on vibrato, but both his Basics and Practice have vibrato exercises and explanations, among whole bunch of other great stuff. If you search Shar or Amazon, you'll find these books.

May 13, 2007 at 02:37 PM · I have some further practice ideas that have not already been suggested, which you might like to try.

You may have already tried this, but practise the vibrato very slowly, preferably with a metronome. Gradually speed it up. Also, practise it in various dotted rhythms. Vary the width of the vibrato too. Always make sure that actual note is at the top of the oscillation (as already pointed out above).

Also try practising slow double stopping vibrato. When doing this, ensure that both the bottom and top of the oscillation are in tune. This will help all the fingers produce a uniform vibrato.

When practising vibrato you might find it helps to lean the scroll against the wall (maybe slightly tilting upwards) for extra support.

May 14, 2007 at 01:43 AM · Whatever you do, remember, the vibrato does NOT go above the note, but vibrates from the note, down and back up to the note, never above it like those awful Diva Opera singers. "Death By Vibrato."

The ideal vibrato, exagerated, goes slowly from the note backwards and quickly up to the note, and back again slowly. The "pulse" is always upwards.

May 14, 2007 at 02:14 AM · QFT !!!

-especially the part about "those awful Diva Opera singers"

Funny thing: I'm a voice teacher. My mom sang with the Met when she was a teenager in the 50's (at the time, she was the youngest member of the company ever) Besides my own extensive training years ago, I've read every book I can find on the subject, talked to my Mom about her training, and have spent hundreds of hours doing internet research.

In the field of singing, there is almost no attention paid to vibrato technique. This amazes me to no end. The prevailing attitude is that everyone has a vibrato, and don't worry about it too much.. A good teacher will point out that Bel Canto (a misnomer if ever there was one) typically employs a fairly heavy vibrato, which starts immediately (the main reason I can't listen to most opera singers) whil pop music typically employs a much lighter vibrato which starts a bit after the note.

And that's basically it. No excercises, no thought to various TYPES of vibrato. -Not EVER a mention of the fact that you shouldn't go above the root note. In fact, many pro singers DO go above the root note (like those d*mned divas) and I never realized before why it drove me nuts.

It wasn't until I began studying violin that I realized just how many choices there SHOULD be with vocal vibrato, choices that relate directly to violin technique.

One of the things I've borrowed in the idea that a musical vibrato should not be a "sine wave" but rather sort of a ramp-up. I think that's a very important point for violinists as well.

But I digress .....

May 14, 2007 at 02:42 AM · BTW-

There is a very interesting discussion going on right now in a luthiers' forum. Someone asked if there were ways to set-up a violin specifically to aid the production of a good vibrato.

Surprisingly, there were a few interesting answers. The most notable, IMO, was that the nut should not be too low. Evidently, good players prefer a nut that is on the high side, as this gives both better tactile feedback, and also causes more pitch-change for a given finger movement. Thus, assuming you have developed excellent control, you then have more options in terms of vibrato depth. Several luthiers commented that they see many fine violins set up with what they consider to be a too-low nut.

Do the professional-level players here have any thoughts on this?

May 14, 2007 at 03:15 AM · check out violinmasterclass.com the most lucid and useful vibrato instruction I have ever found.

May 14, 2007 at 03:21 AM · Good, Allan. Many Opera singers overdo vibrato big time.

May 14, 2007 at 11:16 AM · I think this is a classic chicken and egg thing: the vocal vibrato. Obviously, people were singing before violins were invented. And especially the application of vibrato later in the instruments history hones in on some of the subtle distinctions as well as differents in the intent and purposes of violin vibrato versus vocal.

I would think the violin was attempting to mimic the voice. And in doing so it is easy to imagine rules and standards that apply to the instrument version that are compromises based on the instrument in it's quest to mimic the voice. So the wave above or below the note may be more exclusive to vibrato in it's paticular context--as well as other characteristics.

So finally, I think it more wise, and even pertinent to the particular violin being used, to allow the lady to be all she can be in choosing vibrato styles and techniques that compliments the distinctiveness even among individual violins. Then the violinist is truly being an artist.

May 14, 2007 at 10:06 PM · My theory is that vibrato is more about trial and error than anything else. It's about training your ear to hear what is desireable, and what is not and learning what causes the sound in question.

Exercises are good for co-ordination and freedom of movement. After that, it's all about the ear.

May 15, 2007 at 04:32 PM · Buri,

Here's a stupid question for you. You refer to vibrato as a circular motion which makes sense-Eureka! Thanks. So here is the stupid question part. Is the motion clockwise or counterclockwise?

Thanks in advance,


May 15, 2007 at 07:18 PM · Actually, the bases of a good violin vibrato is not to alter the pitch, but to add an "aliveness" to the note. Physically, the most important part of the vibrato is not the back and forth movement of the hand (or arm), but the activation of the first joint of the playing finger. This is one of the reasons why you should never let your fingers collapse when placing them down on the fingerboard. Try this, place your first finger on the note "d" on the "a string" in third position. Now, bend the first joint a little. You will notice that when you bend the first joint of the finger, there is a slight pressure downwards. Now, release the pressure and the first joint of the finger begins to straighten. This bending and straightening of the first joint is known as a "pulse" It is the constant series of these pulses which creates the vibrato. These pulses can be very small and narrow, or very big and wide (or an infinite combination, depending on how you feel about the musical line you are playing. Of course, all other basics still apply such as the way you hold your instrument, proper posture etc. As you become more comfortable with this pulse you will find that your wrist (and or arm) may also move with this pulse. There also will be a slight alteration of the pitch (below and to the note). As you develope, this pulse feeling will be in your hand so that every note you play will be alive. In other words, the hand is alive when you play, not just the finger.

May 15, 2007 at 07:29 PM · That's the best description I've ever read of vibrato.

May 15, 2007 at 09:03 PM · Joel,

That's a good point, though of course pitch modulation is ALSO a critical component.

I think what you describe as "pulse" is a modulation in timbre, caused by a change in finger pressure. IMO, this is why finger vibrato works as well as it does, having more pulse and less pitch variation.

There is somewhat of an analogy here to singing, wherein the singer's vibrato is also a combination of pitch & tone modulation. Interestingly, a singer also modulates amplitude (tremelo) and aGOOD singer (my students, at least) can consciously blend the three elements as they desire.

I have thought about the reverse, about doing more tremelo on the violin. The only way I can imagine doing it, though, is with the bow. One would have to modulate downward pressure, or perhaps bow speed, and would have to sync that with the left-hand's vibrato. It might sound wonderful, but I have not been able to develop it into anything useable, at least not yet.

May 15, 2007 at 10:29 PM · I think an article in The STRAD Magazine a few years ago that described bowed-string-instrument vibrato in the context of the amplitude/frequency spectrum of the insttrument.

In brief, the spectrum shows many peaks and valleys in amplitude as a function of frequency. The details of the spectra are different for each instrument.

When you vibrate a note, you engage not only slight fluctuations in the pitch of the fundamental - but also in all of the associated overtones of that range of fundamental pitches. Depending on the richness (i.le., density) of such overtones in the spectrum the vibrato will add the special tone colors for which we do it.

Also, because of these differences, the effect of vibrato on one instrument will be different than on another. Given choices, a player would choose instruments on which his/er natural vibrato gives the desired effect - otherwise it becomes necessary to learn to get the desired effect on the fiddle you have - involving much harder work.

My own experiences tend to verify this information.


May 15, 2007 at 10:39 PM · violinmasterclass.com has an excellent video on learning vibrato.

May 16, 2007 at 01:06 AM · Interesting thoughts, Allan, Andrew. I'm not thinking that hard about what I'm doing normally--except my mind thinks "hmmm . . . I want this particular sound, now body, do it." That's I experiment. I play around until I figure out how to make it happen.

But, discussions like this give me some more play room--I get ideas . . .

That "tremlo" idea--I'm trying to visualize it. I'm thinking that might be the sound I get normally when I'm slowing the bow down with very light pressure in a ppp passage--like the last couple of notes in Lark Ascending. I vibrate quick, narrow with a very loose hand on those notes while the bow is barely moving but also alive (like a vibrato with the bow--the smallest inflections). Is that what you're getting at?

May 16, 2007 at 02:36 AM · Back to Neil's post on 5/13 -- this is "the" way I worked on my vibrato back in the day of weekly lessons so many years ago. Wonder if this is a historical thing or just one of many good ways to learn.

Of all of the technical issues in playing this challenging instrument, this one is one that I did not have to work on nearly as hard as other issues like intonation, sound quality, intonation, bow control, intonation...

May 18, 2007 at 12:04 PM · Re violinmasterclass.com, why does it have to be an orange? Would a small grapefruit do, or is the colour important? Is sphericality essential, or could one get away with a squash? How about something lighter like an aubergine? Would a plastic ball be inappropriate? Could one consider a half-used toilet roll, or would that produce a crappy vibrato?

May 20, 2007 at 03:30 PM · Allan,

You wrote: "I think what you describe as "pulse" is a modulation in timbre, caused by a change in finger pressure. IMO, this is why finger vibrato works as well as it does, having more pulse and less pitch variation."

That's not quite precise. The point of my comment was to have you look at vibrato at a technically different way other than moving your arm or your wrist back and forth. It isn't the movement of the wrist or the arm that is important to the vibrato, and yes there is pitch modulation but that is not the main goal of vibrato. Pitch modulation alone results in a very "nanny goat sounding vibrato and with no focus to the real pitch or note you are playing. The most important component in producing a good vibrato is the movement of the first joint of the playing finger. If you can picture this joint as a sort of shock absorber. You will notice that as you add downward pressure the joint will bend in order to accept this extra weight, when you release the pressure the joint will relax again just like a spring responds in a good shock absorber. As I said before the wrist and or arm probably will become involved with the movement as well as you become more comfortable with this feeling allowing a very free and expressive way of varying your vibrato and enabling you to produce many different colors in your sound. The concept of having an "alive hand" is what made for the great sound of many of the historic artists we have mentioned on this site numerous times. (For exammple, Heifetz, Elman, Kreisler, Milstein, etc.) Of course these great artists also had magnificent bow arms and tremendous musicality.

(One quality alone does not make a great artist)

One more thing the width of your vibrato depends not on how far you move your wrist or arm, but in how much your first joint bends and relaxes. the bigger the movement in the joint the wider the vibrato.

May 21, 2007 at 01:22 AM · Anyone interested in what Joel is saying about this type of vibrato, which is known as the impulse vibrato or finger tip vibrato, should purchase Steve Redrobe from the String Academy, a dvd called "Secrets Of The Old Masters". I purchased the dvd awhile ago and it has cleared up a lot of questions I had concerning vibrato and tone.

In regards to Sheine only using finger vibrato, I don't understand why other students would laugh. In my opinion, the finger vibrato/impulse vibrato is the least kind of vibrato used out of the three vibrato's [Arm ,Wrist & Finger]. If anything, it is unique. I have been adding in- addition to my arm vibrato this impulse vibrato technique, and have been very pleased with my tone. Redrobe states in his dvd that this kind of vibrato is a lost art. He also claims, that Fritz Kreisler used only an impulse vibrato, I wonder if anyone laughed at Fritz?

May 21, 2007 at 02:32 AM · Very interesting. I've actually heard ''very'' mixed reviews of Redrobes ideas.

May 21, 2007 at 01:44 PM · i doubt kreisler used just that kind of v. !

because it doesn`t sound good on the first and fourth fingers. it might be ok for the other two...

but ... come on... if it`s "a lost art" it means that the natural selection worked just fine.

May 21, 2007 at 01:45 PM · sorry, but i`m a little nervous with that "thing"... one of my students kills me literally with it... I cannot teach her any decent sounding vibratto because of her fingers that have that kind of active impulse, i mean ...instead of being moved, they move.

i really don`t know what to do with her...

May 21, 2007 at 02:29 PM · try also to improve your musical taste... this is with a few words all about listening how the others play. (this doesn`t work with my student...:) ...she is "to busy" to listen music)

May 21, 2007 at 02:55 PM · Sorin--

True "impulse vibrato" or having an "alive hand" or whatever you want to call it can be turned on and off at will. It can also be varied and changed up at whim. It's the most natural and least tense way of producing vibrato, and if your student has an "alive hand" that cannot be turned off or varied, chances are she isn't getting the impulse from the right place (which means it's a tension-filled vibrato) or she likes the way it sounds and she's choosing to play that way. Definitely something to pursue, but I wouldn't try to beat it out of her just yet--if she's really got it, it's not a bad thing in and of itself although it must be used correctly. There's another thread about this "tensionless vibrato" I think.

May 21, 2007 at 03:58 PM · what`s worse is that she makes it very untensioned!!! and she says that the "good" vibrato makes her feal tensed.

this is for me more trouble as a teacher...

I would just let her play like that... but the problem is that it sounds funny... i cannot imagine her playing Brahms concerto for example with that kind of vibrato... it`s so childish, weak and pour...

May 21, 2007 at 05:32 PM · Okay then, sound trumps everything else. If it sounds terrible, whatever she's doing can't be right. I'm starting to get the picture. Does she she do a very slow uncontrolled vibrato?

May 21, 2007 at 06:50 PM · thanks everyone for their comments once again, i wanted to write an update on my progress.

well although al ku doesnt agree, relaxing my shoulder did turn everything around and proved to be a good place to start. so thanks a lot stephan, and i wonder if you are a violin teacher? because you laid it out so well on your post, i wished i could be your student.

once i relaxed my shoulder i also managed to lift the violin with more ease than i could with a tense shoulder. and not only my vibrato improved but also did my trills and position shifts on higher positions! my teacher was very impressed and asked me if i had a revelation :P i am serious. i also finally got my wrist moving and it felt like i only now realized i had a joint there!

so, the outcome: my teacher told me that finally i was on the right path! the vibrato is still coming very slowly, but she said i was on the right path! and she said she believed i would have a very good vibrato, and that i already had a nice and unique tone of my own!! you do not know how happy i was, it felt like i just gave a triumphant concert in carnegie hall. it was the best compliment i ever heard!

so, off to practicing and being patience :) thanks again everyone, i really appreciated your encouraging words!

May 21, 2007 at 08:54 PM · medium speed but very uncontrolled

...actually ... she has an attitude problem that must be solved first... she is resistant to me... but this is another discussion... thanks anyway

May 21, 2007 at 11:36 PM · Fantastic Sheine--Glad you had such a glowing lesson. Nice job.

Sorin--sorry to hear about the attitude problem. That's no fun. She must be about 13 or 14. Am I right? She definitely does not have what I would call an "impulse vibrato" if it's not controlled.

May 22, 2007 at 01:11 AM · Sheine - Welcome to the club! Buri does seem to know what he is talking about, doesn't he?


May 22, 2007 at 01:24 AM · Greetings,

actually I have a fingertip impulse problem with chocolate,



May 22, 2007 at 02:13 AM · Ahhh . . . that's the uncontrolled sort, Buri.

May 22, 2007 at 02:56 AM · Can someone explain to us, when you do this pulse, what is your thumb supposed to be doing or not doing? Thumb needs to be relaxed of course and it can be taken off from the neck sometimes (especially at higher positions). What else we need to pay attention to the thumb?

Also, the 1st joint of my 4th finger doesn't want to move the way other fingers do. It never sounds good and I always try various fingerings so as to avoid using it for long notes.

May 22, 2007 at 03:30 AM · Greetings,

thumb rotates,



PS not a smuch as the Exorcist

May 22, 2007 at 10:50 AM · Kimberlee - How do you learn the controlled kind for that?


May 22, 2007 at 04:42 PM · If I knew Ihnsouk, I would package it and market it.

May 22, 2007 at 06:50 PM · A metronome and practice won't do in this case? I was hoping to tame life with a metronome.


May 22, 2007 at 07:39 PM · In this case, without proper guidance, you may end up with a situation typified by Lucille Ball in her infamous "chocolate dipping" episode of "I Love Lucy."

May 22, 2007 at 08:24 PM · she is 13 indeed...

May 22, 2007 at 08:50 PM · I knew it.

May 22, 2007 at 11:47 PM · I doubt kreisler used just that kind of v. !

Henry Roth author of Violin Masters, stated in his book, that he has seen Kreisler live in concert, and used which he calls an impulse vibrato. He also said that you hardly ever saw any back and forth movement at all in Kreislers left hand. In -addition, Menuhin in a conversation with Redrobe, also stated that Kreisler only used an Impulse vibrato. I guess will never know actually what kind of vibrato Kreisler used, unless we build a time machine and go back to one of Kreislers concerts. However, in my opinion, Kreisler out of all the violinist I ever heard, either on record or in performance, had the most recognizable sound I ever heard.

May 23, 2007 at 08:55 PM · ok. thanks... now i don`t`doubt (:

May 24, 2007 at 04:47 AM · Greetings,

re Yixi`s earlier comment about the fourth finger being problematic for vibrato this is very often true. However, although there is nothing wrong with using the third more (a la Kreisler) for performance it is woth working on.

One of the simplest ways is to actually play the note with a `good` finger to get the the sound you wnat and then tyr and emulate it with the fourth. A very powerful exercise in my opinion,



May 24, 2007 at 12:55 PM · I've just read through all of the posts above, having joined the discussion today and would like to thank everyone for such insightful and considered advice from which I have learned a lot.

I am a novice player of two years and being 55 years old, it isn't coming easily. I am also a qualified teacher of the Alexander Technique which I have practiced for 35 years.

I gave up using a shoulder rest around 6 months ago and despite having a long neck find it's the best thing I did as it enabled me to release my left shoulder much more. The instrument now sits on my collarbone and balances on my left thumb. My vibrato has been erratic and a problem and I have spent the last five weeks almost entirely to working on freeing everything up more, attending to my own poise as Alexander Technique helps with, and standing against a wall with the scroll wrapped in chamoix leather held with an elastic band. (This is also helpful for leaning the instrument against a mirror so you can see what you're doing from a different angle.)

I have found that while my left thumb supports the weight of the instrument, it's helpful to then use the minimum amount of pressure of my fingers along with a little more weight in the bowing arm, to help keep fingers loose and free and my arm able to move. I find I can feel the resonance of the instrument through my left thumb even more and it's somehow helpful to my tone to sense this to the maximum. While my arm is relatively free and will hopefully become more free as I practice, I have found it really interesting how my bowing arm is affected by the left arm and vica versa. It's been very difficult for me to separate them so they are entirely independent.

I am most interested in the pulse vibrato that Joel described so lucidly and the comments of others. There are a great many tips and wonderfully helpful advice given in this discussion and I shall go away and practice with renewed enthusiasm and the benefits of your guidance. Thank you so much. Noel

May 24, 2007 at 08:37 PM · Dear Buri,

My next question has pedagogical reasons. I know your opinion about vibrato more or less but I didn`t follow enough disscusions in order to know what kind of vibrato(s) you use (play with). Or you probably never said it. Can you tell me (us) ?


May 25, 2007 at 07:01 AM · Stephen Brivati's comments about the circular motion of the fingertip and Joel Arthur's comments about the fingers leading the way and the wrist and arm following have been most helpful. Overnight I have found how perceiving the process differently in these ways has made so much sense and made vibrato easier, more even and more rich. I can now see where I'm going with it. Naturally this will all take a long time to master, but the insights gained have really been most helpful. Thank you very much. Noel

May 25, 2007 at 04:17 PM · I had this finger vibrato problem for several years. One evening during a really intense song at a concert, I noticed I was using my wrist for vibrato! I wasn't even doing it intentionally, but it felt good to be doing it right for once.

I've noticed this happens to me most often while I'm playing a fiery song like Tchaikovsky or Zimmer. So you might try playing a fiery song with everything you've got! :) Not sure at all if this makes sense now, or ever will, but it's my experience.

By the way, two years after this started happening, I'm able to do vibrato on demand...in case you were wondering about a time frame. I'm beginning my tenth year on the violin this fall.

May 26, 2007 at 04:40 AM · Buri, the method you recommended is how I did with my 4th finger with shorter notes. If I can use this method to achieve playing long notes by my 4th finger with beautiful vibrato, especially in high positions, wouldn't that be glorious!

May 26, 2007 at 07:59 AM · Greetings,


How high do you mean? I would tend to use three on the higher notes on the e anyway. And when you egt right into the stratosphere it is technically superiro for another reason- its actually less of a stretch to play with the third than with the fourth.



May 26, 2007 at 06:54 PM · When my LH is in 4th or higher positions, the difference in sound quality produced by my 3rd and 4th finger becomes extremely noticeable. When I saw some professional violinists play these long and high notes with their 4th finger and doing the vibrato, I feel particularly amateur for not being able to do it myself due to lack of practice, which is entirely true. In stratosphere, my little finger can only make what I call ‘icy’ sound (harmonics-like) so I guess it has some value:) I do notice that in a same position, my 3rd finger can almost always stretch and reach to a note higher than the 4th one can, especially in higher positions. It’s very liberating to know that using the 3rd more often isn't cheating.

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