Violin Vibrato fixes

April 7, 2008 at 01:50 AM · I would like to ask if any of you have specific exercises or tactics to fix vibratos that are too slow, or too fast. Included in this discussion might be vibratos which are erratic or jerky. Any enlightenment on this subject would be of use. Thanks, Bruce

Replies (23)

April 7, 2008 at 03:23 PM · After teaching the correct motion and mechanics of a good wrist vibrato, I spent a few weeks increasing the speed using the metronome. Put it at 60, and have the student "vibrate" once per quarter note, then in eights, triplets, sixteenths, 5's, 6's and 8's. Once they can do 8 (or 4 complete motions) then you turn the metronome off and they can vibrate! This develops a very even vibrato. I don't believe the vibrato should be metronomic once they learn it, but EVEN is best, and sounds faster.

April 7, 2008 at 03:56 PM · I was taught by Miss deLay and Kort Sassmannshaus that the vibrato going back is a tad slower than that coming forward. Both said the slightly faster forward motion helps the vibrato and tone carry father into the large halls and doesn't sound like a warble. The vibrato also only goes up to the pitch of the note, not beyond.

April 7, 2008 at 04:13 PM · Maureen,

I've been trying to correct an uneven vibrato, and your suggestion sounds like what I need to do. Thanks.

April 8, 2008 at 08:04 PM · It is interesting to listen to the actual speed of vibrato in singers and in great violinists whose tone sounds most beautiful to us. It is surprising to hear how slow the number of pulses per second might sometimes be, yet there is an intensity conveyed in hearing *something* that is moving fast within this slow vibrato. I believe that the "something" is the fast snap of the forward part of the cycle that Ray Randall describes above. Therefore, when I hear a vibrato that seems at first to be too slow, I'm open to the possibility that the frequency of pulses may not neccesarily be too slow...rather the uniformity of speed throughout the cycle may be the thing that robs the vibrato of focus and intensity. I think that the forward snap is visible on Heifetz videos.

The opening of the slow movement of the Heifetz/Munch Prokofiev g minor Concerto is a fascinating example. Heifetz's vibrato here is relatively slow....similar to singer's speed, yet there is a laser focus of pitch and a marking of time in his vibrato that compels one to listen to every single moment of every note. Adding to this intensity is the way JH integrates the speed of the vibrato pulses into the beat of the melody. He makes clear subdivisions of beat with his vibrato. These subdivisions have an intensifying effect, not unlike the effect of a composer writing a faster moving accompaniment under the long, singing notes of a melody.

For years I have had the sound of this snap in my ear, but achieved it, as best I could through a combination of the vibrato mechanics taught to me by Miss DeLay, together with some bicep tension. More recently I have been getting these vibrato qualities that I desire more easily and reliably, by having changed my vibrato mechanism. I now use a vibrato mechanism that is based on the impulse finger tapping, as described by Stephen Redrobe in his DVD. Based on my personal experience with forming these new vibrato habits, I can believe that what Redrobe describes comes from JH through Erick Friedman.

April 8, 2008 at 08:32 PM · I was always lead to believe that vibrato sounds better if it moves faster when going upwards towards the pitch. I was taught that it feels like your hand is hitting a brick wall every time it reaches the note.

I was explaining this on a few months ago on a similar thread, and there were some interesting counter ideas.

April 9, 2008 at 12:41 AM · I would have to say the impulse vibrato came from Kreisler, passed down to Heifetz, Elman, Seidel, down through Friedman. Now of days this type of vibrato is a lost art. Hopefully Steve Redrobe with the help of his dvd can revive this type of vibrato. Being an amateur violinist, I have learned to incorporate this impulse vibrato in to my playing. I can play simple melodies on the violin using this type of vibrato. So far I am very pleased with the results.

April 9, 2008 at 02:40 AM · Oliver, your comment above is the most lucid explanation I've read on the basis for the most effective vibrato. What wonderful writing:

"These subdivisions have an intensifying effect, not unlike the effect of a composer writing a faster moving accompaniment under the long, singing notes of a melody."

Would you describe in more detail what you described as "...a vibrato mechanism that is based on the impulse finger tapping"?

Thank you. I'm sure many of us would benefit from this.

April 9, 2008 at 03:44 PM · Alan Wittert wrote: "Would you describe in more detail what you described as "...a vibrato mechanism that is based on the impulse finger tapping"?"


Not easy to do in print, but I'll give it a try:

Start out by playing open D, and F natural above open D, in a dotted eighth and 16th rhythm repeated many times in a slur. Then do the same finger action, but with the finger remaining on the string. (Now you are playing a long F natural with the lightest finger pressure that sounds good, and with brief taps of increased finger pressure.) If you experiment with a range of finger pressures and keep the whole left hand super-loose, you'll find that the finger tapping can cause the hand to move. However, unlike other vibrato techniques, the hand movement is passive, rather than active. The trick is to get the passive hand movement by super-loose and light hand, rather than by overly powerful tapping. As in all technique, the focus of concentration must be on the listening. A key point is to try for maximum resonance change (vowel change) with near zero pitch change. Playing with the above mechanism, as a child plays with a toy, constantly trying little changes, you are listening for anything that sounds more beautiful to you as a cue that the change you just tried is a good one.

April 9, 2008 at 03:38 PM · I apologize for my ignorance; who is Steven Redrobe and what is the DVD you're mentioning?


April 9, 2008 at 04:31 PM · most interesting explanation. thanks mr steiner.

April 9, 2008 at 05:04 PM · Mr. Steiner has it right. Always with a sense of relaxation, the muscles push (snap) the hand forward, up to the pitch, then the muscles relax allowing the hand to fall back (do not 'power' this part of the movement, but RELAX), this will give it the assymetrical quality that Mr. Steiner is talking about.

How to teach this is another thing. The metronome, starting slow working up incrementally faster thing never worked for me (not that it may not for others), because a 'full speed' vibrato feels so different. Once a good natural vibrato is established, work off of this and develop faster, slower, wider and tighter motions. Then use them appropriately - not every piece, or every phrase within a piece, should be played with the same vibrato. (Sometimes, even NO vibrato is the right choice)

April 9, 2008 at 06:34 PM · Is anyone familiar with the R. Lipizer's vibrato method? Although a bit confusing at times, I found that it had good effect on my and my students' vibrato.

April 9, 2008 at 07:55 PM · I give a pretty extensive explanation of the pulse type of vibrato on another thread. If you search vibrato and look for my name you will find the thread that I'm talking about. I've been using this form of vibrato for a long time, although when you see it, it looks as if my wrist and or arm are doing the movement. This is deceiving because when you let your hand and arm relax they will move together with this pluse. (Actually, you don't really see that much movement, since everything is in the first joint)

also the width of the vibrato does not depend on how far you swing your wrist or arm back, but rather on the degree that the first joint opens and closes. Instead of thinking back and forth, you should try thinking down and up, where the down is the weight placed on the finger to make the joint bend (to the note's pitch), and the up is the straightening of the joint (behind the note's pitch).

April 9, 2008 at 08:18 PM · Bruce,

Most teachers seem to start students with a wrist vibrato. In fact, my own teacher at Peabody tried his best to get me to change. However, many people, like me, get a better sound with an arm vibrato. I've had success with many students by switching them to an arm vibrato because they couldn't control a wrist vibrato.


April 10, 2008 at 02:09 AM · Oliver,

Thank you so much for the detailed info on how to develop "impulse finger tapping" vibrato. I will work on that and either I or my neighbors will let you know how it goes.

May 12, 2008 at 05:18 AM · I have a question about the finger-tapping exercises mentioned. They seem to describe tapping, or pulsing, with the finger that is playing the note. But in the Heifetz imitation video (, when he imitates a bad vibrato, it is the finger behind the one playing the note that actually taps the string. This is also seen in a less exaggerated version when Elman plays this Kreisler piece, ( I've never heard of tapping the finger behind the one vibrating and I'm wondering, is this another practice method? (I know the audition video is bad playing and definitely not a good model for technique, but I find it interesting that he would imitate a bad vibrato in that way.)

May 12, 2008 at 06:53 PM · kevin,

that is exactly why Heifetz ridiculed that type of vibrato. He was making fun of a student that vibrates everything but the playing finger. When you you saw Elman's adjacent finger vibrating next to the playing finger, this was just the entire hand being involved with the vibrato the adjacent finger was moving along with everything else, but not instead of the playing finger. When you play your whole hand is alive so that any finger placed on the fingerboard will move with the hand. The idea of the pulse, is to get the first joint of the playing finger activated.

On another subject about that Heifetz video, what makes it so funny and also so amazing if you think about it, is that Heifetz put practically every possible defect of violin technique into that example: poor intonation, poor vibrato, poor division of the bow, poor distribution of bow weight on the string, starting and stoping and then restarting the same phrase (remember this was supposed to have been an audition, you don't stop if you make a mistake), wipping his nose, and gulping. etc...

No wonder the students were hysterical with laughter. Although, some probably laughed because they knew they should. (When Heifetz was being funny you laughed if you were one of his students) (You know, he wasn't the easiest person to get along with)

May 13, 2008 at 02:45 AM · Ray,

Mr. Redrobe's website:

May 13, 2008 at 07:47 PM · Dear Bruce,

vibrato is one of the things I want to control much more.

My teacher suggested two kind of exercises with wirst or arm alternatively:

i) at first mute exercises with quick impulse forward and slow distension back and viceversa

2)the same using consecutive 3 quick impulses (f,b,f) (b,f,b) (f,b,f)

3)the same using 5 quick consecutive impulses (f,b,f,b,f) (b,f,b,f,b)

These exercises should be used on all the strings and alternatively with other fingers not involved in the determination of the note up and down the fingerboard.

ii)second to make faster the vibrato according to this pattern:

1) fb fb in a unique bowing

2) fbf bfb

3) fbfb fbfb

4)fbfbfb fbfbfb

5)fbfbfbfb fbfbfbfb

6) free vibrato

iii) with the scroll against the wall in order to release tension at the best

iv)in one bowing slow down and speed up the vibrato as gradually as possible

Currently, dear bruce I'm working very hard on vibrato and I'm happy because I'm getting able to count the number of obscillations of my fingers.

I'm finding very helpful also the direct application of slowing down of vibrato on lierature, trying to take in account the vibrato changing over the whole musical phrase in order to give it a direction.

Hoping it can be helpful

For alternate impulse and distension I guess that in general alternation of action and distension is at the base of every kind of control on the instrument.

What do you think about?

May 16, 2008 at 04:16 PM · A good vibrato goes from tension to relaxation. In some cases a slow vibrato can be corrected simply by clenching the left hand into a fist, away from the violin for about 5 seconds until it becomes almost painful. Then immediately play a note on the violin. The immediate relaxation of the hand muscles can, in some cases, give the feel of a fast vibrato. Another way of doing this is by placing a finger down on a note with extreme pressure on the string. Move the hand back and forth, with a very slow,constricted vibrato motion and only allow the skin at the tip of the finger to move. No finger joints should move. Then release the pressure so the hand can move freely. This exercise can help to center a wobbly vibrato.

May 28, 2008 at 10:38 PM · Bruce-

Thanks for the" wobbly" vibrato exercises!

It just worked wonders for a student of mine. :)

May 29, 2008 at 05:15 AM · I noticed after watching a Heifetz video for the umpteenth time that his index finger is standing straight up at attention while he generates his rich vibrato (in the Bach double concerto 2nd movement in this case). I tried it and it seems that having the index finger in this position acts like a throttle on the vibrato richness and possibly speed. Tom

August 19, 2008 at 12:10 AM · I would like to give my sincerest thanks and compliments to Oliver for describing this most powerful vibrato mechanism. In fact the technique is so good it's almost like the "what the government does not want you to know about vibrato". Too bad that it is not in the Fischer books that I dropped a hundred bucks inexcusable omission???


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