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Little Babies Don't Vibrate Apparently

March 28, 2008 at 07:06 PM · My teacher says I sound immature and childish when I do not use vibrato. However, when I use vibrato, she says I play very beautifully.

I mean, I see the compliment in there somewhere, but a dark cloud of negativity also looms in that statement.

What are thoughts? Does vibrato add a flair of maturity to playing? If a person is really good, should they sound excellent even without vibrato?

Let me know.


Replies (16)

March 28, 2008 at 06:54 AM · :)

March 28, 2008 at 07:15 PM · Well to my "untrained" ears it sounds like you really do sound nice when you vibrate, but there are still some problems you should work on which are exposed when you don't vibrate. They must not be too serious though, as you can hide them behind your vibrato... It also means you really did figure out this vibrato thing... a few more hops, and you have arrived!

March 28, 2008 at 07:31 PM · I cannot hear you play, so I have no idea how you sound either way. However, I have difficulty understanding exactly what your teacher could mean. Can you ask your teacher to imitate what you do when you play without vibrato and then play as s/he thinks you should? You obviously cannot hide everything behind vibrato.

March 28, 2008 at 07:43 PM ·

March 28, 2008 at 07:54 PM · It could mean two things: a) you’ve got a great vibrato (congrats!) but b)your bow arm needs some improvement. Good bow arm should be able to produce colourful and expressive sound without vibrato, and the vibrato will just add more 'juice' to it(see the previous thread called “Singing without vibrato”). This is something my teacher asks me to work on all the time, especially for the slow movements: play as beautifully as you can without vibrato first and then add vibrato. Try it, very effective for understanding tone production.

March 29, 2008 at 12:10 AM · Thank you everyone for your responses. Yixi, in particular, I think hit exactly on what my teacher meant. She always yells at me about Bow Speed. So, I am guessing you are totally accurate in your assumption that my teacher meant my bow arm needs more developement. I just wish she wouldn't tell me in such Creative and Crazy ways where I have to actually think about what she's saying.


March 29, 2008 at 12:07 AM · You are welcome Jazzy. It's a lot of fun working on bow arm. Soon you'll have goosepimples when playing even without vibrato:-)!

March 29, 2008 at 02:41 AM · I like to think of vibrato as a tool. The question shouldn't be whether or not you vibrato. The question is when to vibrato, what kind of vibrato to use, and for what purpose to vibrato. Maturity of sound comes from intent. Intent comes from an understanding of style and interpretation. Maybe it's not childish to play without vibrato. What is childish is vibrating all the time without real intent.

March 29, 2008 at 03:49 AM · Yeah, good observation as well Marina.

Actually, I was trying to interpret differently and take out vibrato on the really soft, piano parts of the piece I was playing. I wanted an airy, smooth floating in space sound. So I played a little over the fingerboard, limited pressure, slower bow speed, and no vibrato. That's when my teacher said,"What? That sounded so childish."

So, I was trying to use my imaginative, interpretive skills.

March 29, 2008 at 05:04 AM · My point was not whether you should vibrato or not to vibrato per se, but rather I suggested that temporarily playing something without vibrato, one can see how the sound can be better produced by the bow alone, without being ‘shielded’ by vibrato. Few people would object the approach of playing scales without vibrato for the purpose of nail the intonation, why would this approach not to be applied to work on bow arm? Jazzy, my teacher demonstrated that to me and I was completely in awe when I heard her playing the beginning a few lines of the second movement of Bruch g minor without vibrato. It had so much feelings and color that I had thought only vibrato could bring. Maybe you could ask your teacher to demonstrate to you what a mature sound with and without vibrato is like. That should be fun.

Intent or good understanding of music is a necessary but clearly not sufficient condition for producing mature sound. Otherwise, any experienced musicologist or composer without any violin training will be able to produce mature sound through his/her sophisticated musical understanding alone. A mature sound comes from careful listening and serious bow arm training so that one can have the technical necessity to freely express the musical understanding or the unique voice one has.

I’ve been told by a few teachers that I’m quite musical but I need to work harder on technicality. This is the most embarrassing part of violin playing for me. It as though each time you put your heart out, but you don’t come across right because your pronunciation is unclear or your voice is disproportional or inappropriate for the meaning you try to convey:-(

March 29, 2008 at 02:32 PM · Vibrato engages additional overtone frequencies so the technique makes any instrument sound richer. If your instrument alreadcy has its strongest overtones on exactly the note pitches, it will be quite rich without vibrato. However, it is more likely that there is a mix of strong high-frequency overtones close to the true pitch overtones and only by using vibrato will you engage them.

Bowing over the fingerboard reduces the involvement of overtyones in your sound; bnowing near the bridge increases the overtone involvement, so, depending on your instrument, there is a really extensiive palette of tone quality available from bow placement, speed, and use of vibrato (of different speeds and widths).

I think that when we play we should have a concept of the sound of each note as well as entire phrases and use bowing and vibrato to achieve those results.

Many years ago, when I was principal clelist in our community orchestra, I had to play some solo passages in performance on an absolutely dreadful, cheap cello (because my own had broken - badly). To achieve my sound and the projection I wanted I had to vibrate so fast and so wide that my hand flew off the fingerboard during the concert - an embarassing second - but playing that dreadful instrument really taught me the multiple effects of vibrato.

March 29, 2008 at 02:52 PM · Jasmine, I'm sure your teacher has the best intentions during your lesson. Each teacher has their own approach and concept of sound. It's important to learn what every teacher has to give you, even if they are contradicting points. Later with age you will be able to choose the right interpretation for you.

"I wanted an airy, smooth floating in space sound. So I played a little over the fingerboard, limited pressure, slower bow speed, and no vibrato." Did you tell your teacher this? If you were my student I would be proud of you for thinking about this and help you find a way to express this rather than tell you that it's childish. Listen to your teacher's ideas but also stand by your own interpretation because yours is valid as well.

Be your own judge once in a while. Record yourself and listen back to it with a critical ear, as if you were teaching yourself. Then judge for yourself if you thought it was childish. There's nothing wrong with disagreeing with your teacher.

What piece is this you're working on by the way?

March 30, 2008 at 03:56 AM · Apropos of nothing, the title of your thread is just hilarious! You're such a writer. : )

April 17, 2008 at 12:07 PM · No, Perlman will not sound awful without vibrato, but to a no offense, less experienced player, the lack of vibrato takes away much emotion. At the student level also, vibrato is not taken for granted, it is a technical skill, so if you have vibrato, it will raise you a step ahead from the other "babies" who can not do it yet.

April 17, 2008 at 01:22 PM · I don't think taking away vibrato makes for lack of emotion. That's like saying that just because I'm not laughing or crying it means that I'm not expressing emotion.

Vibrato is to violin playing what salt is to food. Most food needs it to bring out the flavor, even sweet recipies call for salt. But how much you add is a matter of preference and taste, and all part of the recipe you lay out.

Other ways of "seasoning" your playing are by tempo, dynamics, phrasing, intonation, and by motion (motion = e-motion).

Perlman is often too salty for me.

April 17, 2008 at 03:52 PM · Vibrato definitely makes the violin a much more appealing instrument, no question in my mind. Without vibrato you have to rely on perfect intonation and dynamics as you only means to make a piece sound respectable, even then it seems to lack a certain something. Fiddlers use slurs, finger rolls and other ornamantation to liven up the piece and give it a different sound too.

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