Vibrato - pull or push?

October 31, 2007 at 01:17 AM · In 'Basics,' vibrato is described as combining an active movement when the finger rolls to the higher pitch and a passive reaction when it falls to the lower pitch (Fischer calls it 'forward -forward -forward -forward'). I seem to have ended up doing it the other way round (pulling away, and as a reaction returning to the higher pitch, ie backward -backward - backward - backward). The reason is my teacher started me off on arm vibrato by practising hitting a balloon on a rubber band away from the back of my left hand. I always make the back move primary.

I now feel this has ended up with it being difficult to get the end joint of the finger standing upright at the highest pitch.

Should I practice to get it the other way round?

Replies (21)

October 31, 2007 at 07:00 AM · Your back-back-back movement is correct. Going forward has the danger that you could "overshoot" the pitch and end up sharp, and then you also have to -start- on a flat note and work it up sharp to the correct pitch.

I also used to do forward, but back is MUCH easier imho.

October 31, 2007 at 07:13 AM · I'm having a hard time believing Basics said that. I teach my students to roll back as well.

October 31, 2007 at 02:44 PM · From the descriptions, it sounds as though everyone is talking about the same motion with a different mental focus.

At very high pitch, I find I achieve more stability by simply using a bit of fast arm, rather than trying to oscillate the fingertip very much.

But then, I'm a violist, so what do I know? ^o^

October 31, 2007 at 05:13 PM · I was taught that vibrato should never bend the pitch up...another reason why violinists play sharp...

October 31, 2007 at 05:07 PM · Thank you for your helpful responses.

Just to clarify what Basics actually says, Emily:

"Vibrato is made with only one active movement, which is forward to the in-tune note. The backward movement is like a rebound. This is similar to clapping, where there is only one active movement to bring the hands together, not an active movement 'out' to bring them apart: the hands go 'in- in- in- in,' not 'out - out - out - out'. Similarly the vibrato movement is 'forward -forward -forward -forward', not forward -back -forward -back'. (Section 290, p. 221)

He has several exercise designed to emphasize the forward motion.

I find just the problem you describe, Larry. Also the vibrato ends up being a bit of a narrow pulse. And it is more difficult to maintain precision on the upper pitch. Just like clapping with the hands meeting but making no sound - very hard at speed!

October 31, 2007 at 09:47 PM · Noel,

I agree with Larry, Emily, and Kevin –– and Julie, if she goes from the pitch then below and returns, and flexes her fingers sympathetically to the direction of motion.

Intonation is primary and must be the starting point. I have never understood, nor comprehended beginning notes below or above except when used in the context of idiomatic music when appropriate, whether jazz, bluegrass, gypsy or some other type requiring or offering the musician the flexibility to twist the listeners’ ears a bit. By the way, in classical we do a little enhancing of the pitch periodically to create more or less tension in the phrase.

Pitch, Below, Pitch, Below, Pitch

The ear picks up the higher interval as the primary tone.

Also, pulling the left arm up to the pitch is a tightening/contracting action, whereas to open and then return via a release or relaxation continuously maintains ease of motion, AND YOU ARE IN TUNE AT THAT POINT.

One can argue for the opposite of this, BUT at the time of release or relaxing you are out of tune.

Another argument: To do it from below means quite frankly that we have another set of intervals to train for when we play without vibrato……

I just did a blog the other day ––

Viva Vibrato!!!

By Drew Lecher

Published: Oct. 28, 2007 at 8:10 PM

Maybe that will shed more light on the subject for you.

Hope this helps ––

Drew

Author of

Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Everything affects everything._

November 1, 2007 at 01:34 PM · oh, ya, ya - from the pitch. If you're so accomplished that you can sneak up on a note from the bottom, and your vibrato is so constant that this is not discernible to the ear, then you probably aren't in the market for vibrato tips...lol

November 1, 2007 at 01:38 PM · i think this line from drew pretty much settles the issue...

"To do it from below means quite frankly that we have another set of intervals to train for when we play without vibrato".

November 1, 2007 at 06:06 PM · Like decorating an upside down Christmas tree.

November 2, 2007 at 06:20 AM · Thanks, I am relieved to hear I have been doing it right.

November 3, 2007 at 12:06 AM · I think Drew's vibrato description makes sense in terms of leading to a more relaxed movement of the arm. However, the vibrato will sound different as to whether the active movement is up or down, and I suppose the sound is the biggest consideration.

If the active movement is up, then the sound will have more vitality to it, as the active movement is directed towards the pitch. If one requires a less lively sounding vibrato, maybe one that merely gives colour to the sound, then I don't suppose it matters too much which way the active movement is.

Also, I don't think that if the active movement is upwards then you have to start from below the note. Why not start the upwards active movement in the air before the finger goes down?

November 4, 2007 at 06:09 AM · Neil,

You raise a very good point about “more vitality” in the sound.

The vibrato should always be complementary to the character of the phrase.

When one wants more energy, brilliance and/or vitality the vibrato should intensify. Similarly, a broad and rich palette of tone would cause another variation in the vibrato, as would a calm and light spirit in the phrase cause yet another combination. These are accomplished with varieties of speed, depth of motion and weight of finger, etc.

All of the adjustments are greatly enhanced by additional variety of bow speed, weight, point of contact, amount of hair, stroke styles……… and then there are the inflections of various shifts……

You said: “Also, I don't think that if the active movement is upwards then you have to start from below the note. Why not start the upwards active movement in the air before the finger goes down?”

Interesting statement and question –– so when the finger lands on the note with the desired character, is it in tune and therefore instantly dropping in pitch or is it going to go sharp, followed by a return to the pitch and sharp again, or go below and finally return to the written note?

I vote for being in tune with enormous variety of inflection in the vibrato, bow and shifts all working together to bring about the desired character.

One further observation: when I vibrate with more intensity the action is very much in both directions –– out and in –– just as when I shift up and down quickly. I have to actively engage the arm with both moves in quick succession. I feel the vibrato is truly the sibling of the shift and should be thought of and taught as such.

I don’t want to be redundant, but you might find my “Viva Vibrato” blog an interesting curiosity.

November 4, 2007 at 06:18 AM · Neil,

You raise a very good point about “more vitality” in the sound.

The vibrato should always be complementary to the character of the phrase.

When one wants more energy, brilliance and/or vitality the vibrato should intensify. Similarly, a broad and rich palette of tone would cause another variation in the vibrato, as would a calm and light spirit in the phrase cause yet another combination. These are accomplished with varieties of speed, depth of motion and weight of finger, etc.

All of the adjustments are greatly enhanced by additional variety of bow speed, weight, point of contact, amount of hair, stroke styles……… and then there are the inflections of various shifts……

You said: “Also, I don't think that if the active movement is upwards then you have to start from below the note. Why not start the upwards active movement in the air before the finger goes down?”

Interesting statement and question –– so when the finger lands on the note with the desired character, is it in tune and therefore instantly dropping in pitch or is it going to go sharp, followed by a return to the pitch and sharp again, or go below and finally return to the written note?

I vote for being in tune with enormous variety of inflection in the vibrato, bow and shifts all working together to bring about the desired character.

One further observation: when I vibrate with more intensity the action is very much in both directions –– out and in –– just as when I shift up and down quickly. I have to actively engage the arm with both moves in quick succession. I feel the vibrato is truly the sibling of the shift and should be thought of and taught as such.

I don’t want to be redundant, but you might find my “Viva Vibrato” blog an interesting curiosity.

November 4, 2007 at 06:23 AM · Neil,

Talk about redundant……

I must have goofed somewhere.

Hope the above makes sense and is of benefit.

Cheers,

Drew

November 4, 2007 at 06:26 PM · Hi Drew, thanks for your reply. I agree that vibrato has to be complimentary, and that there are many other things besides vibrato that need to coincide to shape the sound, as well as variation in the speed, amplitute and weight of the vibrato.

One thing I didn't explain very well, which I'm not sure came across, is this (and please correct me if I've understood this wrongly). When the active movement is upwards, the finger (or sound) accelerates rapidly towards the pitch, and then stops abruptly when it reaches it, as if hitting a brick wall. The opposite applies when the active movement is downwards. Because of this I would have thought that there will be a noticeable difference in sound of the two versions; but I would need to hear both versions played one after the other to decide for certain which I prefer.

Also, I did mean "when the finger lands on the note with the desired character, is it in tune and therefore instantly drops in pitch".

November 5, 2007 at 12:51 AM · You're all crazy...

Just like in the bow thread about flat vs side of the hair...

Stop overanalyzing something that's in fact quite intuitive. Use your ears, not your brain. Find a sound you like... find the center of the note, and shake... it's very simple. Vibrato is highly individual and if you just use your ear, you'll have a good one. If your ear is bad... you'll have ugly vibrato.

November 5, 2007 at 04:28 AM · I'm more than crazy, Pieter.

November 7, 2007 at 07:28 AM · For me, Vibrato is an Art, it's up to you how will you express it...

November 16, 2007 at 07:25 PM ·

November 16, 2007 at 08:50 PM · You might be talking about "impulse" vibrato, or so Stephen Redrobe calls it. Do you never actually lift your finger from the string but instead increase and decrease the pressure? I've heard that Kreisler used this type of vibrato (Mr. Redrobe claims on his DVD that it was one of the "secrets" of the old masters).

November 16, 2007 at 09:27 PM ·

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