Help with Hand Vibrato

September 13, 2008 at 02:46 AM · I'm having lots of trouble with hand vibrato. I don't know if my first joint is moving enough, or if it is getting flat enough. Do you have any exercises or tips for this? How do you practice it?

Replies (26)

September 13, 2008 at 02:49 AM · Check the archives here. There are some great tips and threads! Someone once mentioned using a metronome to develop diferent speeds of vibrato and other neat stuff.

September 13, 2008 at 03:33 AM · Giancarlo,

What is the "driver" for your vibrato, arm, wrist, or "finger?" Does it vary with position up the strings?


September 13, 2008 at 06:37 AM · i personally found todd ehle`s (youtube) exercise to be very useful

especially this one:

September 13, 2008 at 02:08 PM · The driver is the wrist.

I had always heard it called the wrist, until I went to Mrs. Vamos, and she called it the hand vibrato, and she said that was the official term for it.

September 14, 2008 at 03:51 PM · The best way to activate and control hand vibrato is to adjust your elbow. Instead of trying to bring it out in front of you which looks and is contorted, try swinging it under and behind the violin.

September 14, 2008 at 11:46 PM · You move your hand up and down the violin neck and alternate the fingers. Practice this a lot.. It can be hard at first, but it does work. Or you can always do the whole pill bottle in your hand thing.....

September 15, 2008 at 01:41 PM · in my uninformed opinion, this approach is putting the cart in front of a piggy.

why make the distinction between hand vibrato vs others?

why not close your eyes and let your body relex and listen to the sound?

why not trust your body and mind and soul to find its own way, whatever happens happens?

why lock yourself and your wrist in such a way that may not work for you?

for the record, i have seen some advanced students with so called hand vibrato that is beautiful to look at but makes wimpy, ineffective motion, thus pathetic sound. don't follow the pack off the cliff, pal.

September 15, 2008 at 08:06 PM · Al

I don't understand where you're getting at with those comments. What cliff are you talking about?

Get ready for a shock - we violinists have to contort our bodies in all kinds of ways to be able to play the darned instrument... starting with picking it up. Hand vibrato is not some freakish gothic bodily manipulation. It is a skill in which all violinists are educated though some prefer to use sparingly. Truthfully all 3 kinds of vibrato hold a place in each violinist's technique as the greats demonstrate. There's a time and a place for all vibrato (and no vibrato).

I understand you are not a violinist so you may be regurgitating information that has been given to you falsely, but please beware of any violinist or violin teacher that tells you that there is only one right way to do anything.

September 16, 2008 at 12:27 AM · hello marina,,,

"I understand you are not a violinist so you may be regurgitating information that has been given to you falsely, but please beware of any violinist or violin teacher that tells you that there is only one right way to do anything."

what is your definition of a violinist? i am not sure if i am not, at least not yet:):):)

your statement that there is more than one right way to do anything is actually my point. but, it should follow the right start. the poster indicated that he is unsure about the first joint motion,,,

since you are a violinist, and i may or may not be, but not knowing the poster's level, would you entertain the pressing issue of the bare-minimum basics of vibrato, that is, the correct first joint motion and not going into hand vs others at this stage, because without a solid foundation on the first joint, the rest of the limb is of secondary importance, so to speak?

thus my suggestion that just close your eyes and listen, forget about hand or others, anything goes, just listen and feel. get the first joint moving first, get the sound out first, and then we fine-tune the motion and pick and choose,,, do you recommend this approach with someone who is unsure about the first joint motion?

(i swear i did/do not regurg this from anywhere in particular,,,i am a very poor follower:) no teacher says: anything goes! BUT THEY SHOULD, more often than not:)

September 16, 2008 at 03:20 AM · I'm not sure how to have a reasonable discussion about technique with someone who may or may not be a violinist. The intricacies of playing the violin are vast and difficult to comprehend even if you are playing on a high level.

I can not consent to "going with feeling" as this sort of statement implies that playing the violin well is just a hunch and you either got it or you don't. Neither am I one to sit and talk about what the first joint should be doing. It's too vague and pedantic to be doing online.

I see many people ask advice about technique on the forums. Whatever the answer is it must be taken with a grain of salt because it seems that some people may or may not be violinists.

Excuse me while I go on to a car mechanic's forum and begin answering questions about transmissions. Am I a mechanic? Maybe. Maybe not. I could be. You'll never know.

September 16, 2008 at 04:07 AM · marina, in response to your inquiry, i have provided my understanding of the situation and it may turn out to be educational if we stick to the issue of the first joint motion. if it feels like a violinist talking to a car person, why bother, really. right or wrong according to you with respect to my opinion, you are at liberty to say or not say. it's just that i find i-am-a-violinist as a status a little underwhelming:).

this is and there are people from all walks of the "musical" life. as a qualifier attempt, yes i can whistle. i am not sure if it serves much public good if we have to differentiate and qualify further in order to discuss and share opinions. as a rule (mine), the more one emphasizes one's credential, the less impressed i become. what is wrong with me?

marina, please curb your distain if you have no interest with my take on this with the following. very often, we come across on people confused about what to do with something. i am not sure if the teacher did not teach them right, or did not teach at all, or they did not have the right info, or know how to access it. then there is another group that with all the info in the world already presented still do not know how. my opinion is that to help this group to break through the barrier, one may need to not go by the book anymore, so to speak. for instance, if shaking the hand and moving the first joint does not work, a different mental picture may need to be presented instead of telling them to do more the same, simply because others have tried and succeeded.

because i can whistle, i can judge how a student learns, as well as how a teacher teaches...:)

September 16, 2008 at 12:49 PM · I don't see anyone here tooting their own horn. I haven't used any posts to advertise myself as a violininst. Yes many have asked me to describe my experience studying with you-know-who, and I try to answer honestly. I can't help that people would be interested in that and if it impresses them then that is my teacher's reputation, not mine.

"i find i-am-a-violinist as a status a little underwhelming:)." "the more one emphasizes one's credential, the less impressed i become."

I am not looking to impress you with my credentials, and I'm not asking you to list yours. But when it comes to technique one must always be careful what they say... bad technique can lead to all sort of injuries and possibly the eventual demise of a blooming musician. I usually skip over posts about technique and when I do contribute I usually just suggest a certain etude that might help or I will say something to the effect of "my teacher suggested this..." or "this is what works for me...".

I hold no disdain for you or your posts. It's a public forum and you are welcomed by all to write what you like. If I were the queen of the world then I would probably make up rules in this case that if you are not a violinist and are giving advice about technique such as what you did in your original post, that it should come with a disclaimer. But I'm not the queen and this is a public forum so we must rely that people will try to participate in a way that reflects their own experience and hopefully people will know their own limitations, know when to make their opinions known, and when to move on to a topic that they know more about.

Also, I happen to use hand vibrato and finger vibrato the most according to how I was taught. It works for me and if done right can be breath-taking. It's what people notice in me the most. Coincidentally, my teacher is very famous for his vibrato.

September 16, 2008 at 02:03 PM · i must have mistaken you as a queen in a public forum then:)

if people on can offer "helpful" health related advices without qualification, i don't see why i cannot make the statement that if first joint motion is not fully developed/understood, hand vs other vibrato can wait. my point is that a poorly developed vibrato of any form is not good.

btw, by credential, i do not mean anything more than being labelled as a "violinist". you can be the most qualifed teacher in the world, but if you are discussing something, i think it is a teacher's responsibility to relate to people at different levels in a public forum, instead of saying, well, since you are not a violinist,,,

it seems that telling me that i am not qualified to give advice is not going anywhere. i have yet to hear what i have said is wrong. why not share with the board what is your approach in a situation like this?

September 16, 2008 at 04:50 PM · Calm down everyone it's just a simple discussion! Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. People know things even if they're not professionals in it. Mr Ku, i agree with you in that it depends on the development of the first joint, as vibrato requires flexibilty in it. Go have a look on Youtube, there are some good instructional videos there =)

Good luck, Aysha

September 16, 2008 at 07:35 PM · I'm glad that you two are having such an interesting debate, but would you mind keeping this thread on the topic of vibrato?

Thanks a million.

September 16, 2008 at 10:27 PM · Greetings,

actually they are both vibrating...



September 16, 2008 at 11:03 PM · giancarlo, you are welcome a million.

in which post of mine on this thread was i not talking about vibrato? :) don't say i did not try!

September 17, 2008 at 07:47 PM · thank you much mr. ku for your very good suggestions. :)

September 20, 2008 at 05:39 AM · I rather liked Al Ku's original remark. It seemed similar in spirit to what Yehudi Menuhin said in the violin of the century about feeling the sound and the natural violinist.

September 20, 2008 at 11:45 AM · do want to bring up an excellent point marina mentioned earlier, that the greats of the field incorporate different types of vibrato, and a student player should aspire to learn all types of vibrato...

i remember sitting in a master class a while back, helll no, not as a music student or anything remotely related to that:)

anyway, the passage the student player was playing needed some intensity, at least much more than what the student could deliver with his hand vibrato. the teacher suggested,,,get a little more elbow involved. the student simply could not do it, as if his elbow joint was in a contracture. he could do hand vibrato just fine but it would not work with a little elbow motion for a bigger amplitude. the teacher was as puzzled as the student as me. loss of feel? may be.

now, some of you would say, well, my hand vibrato can be as intense as i want,,well, don't, that is not my point:)

September 20, 2008 at 06:23 PM · Any recomendation of books on/for the development of the different vibrados?

Kind Regards,


September 24, 2008 at 07:42 PM · Yes, get Steve Redrobe's DVD. Stimulating, interesting, got some excellent reviews. Even if you end up disagreeing with it, only half agreeing, it is still thought-provoking.

September 26, 2008 at 07:29 PM · Although some have hinted (correctly), no one has yet explicitly stated this to the poster:

If you can't get a hand vibrato to work, it may not be the best type for you. From what I've seen, most teachers begin students with the hand vibrato. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for me and many others--I have to use an arm vibrato. An effective vibrato requires a very specific interaction of muscles, one that will allow them to reach a specific range of speeds that will sound attractive.

You may need someone to teach you an arm vibrato.

September 26, 2008 at 08:14 PM · I do have the arm vibrato down, but my new teacher, Mrs. Vamos, wants me to have the hand vibrato in my bag o tricks as well.

September 27, 2008 at 02:53 PM · Listen to Ms. Vamos. She knows what she's talking about more than anyone you'll ask here. It is true that some people cannot make hand vibrato work due to the incorrect positioning of their left arm. If your teacher is helping you learn hand vibrato then she must think you have the potential for it. Nothing is more elegant and coveted than good hand and finger vibrato.

September 28, 2008 at 12:30 AM · Many fine teachers suggest that students having problems with vibrato... stand facing a wall, and place the top of the scroll against the wall. This gives you a little more support/flexibility until you have the motion perfected. Hope that was clear? Try it. It works. G

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