Once more unto the breach dear friends....More on impulse vibrato and the like from anyone.

May 9, 2009 at 04:25 PM ·


Paul de Kayser wrote an interesting post on impulse vibrato just before the hundred mark blew Al`s unexpectedly exciting thread out the water.  So I`m opening a new one so that we can keep going, hopefully with a little less exuberant determination to avoid prunes.



Replies (55)

May 9, 2009 at 04:57 PM ·

 Am I to understand that the basic idea of  impulse vibrato is the quick 'strike and release' of the finger, which then in turn instigates motion from wrist and/or arm as needed for the particular kind of vibrato/sound one is going after?  

Written definitions of technical matters concerning playing can get very confusing. One word here or there causes an entirely different interpretation from the reader. 

So it is my hope that we can all come to an agreement as to what exactly, in the simplest of terms, understood by all here, is meant by impulse vibrato....?  Just so we are all on the same page, figuratively as well as literally. ;-)

May 9, 2009 at 07:57 PM ·

Hi, I agree with William. 

I have discovered that by simply mooving the tip of the finger first (like if the tip was the absolute leader), you can hit such a sound spot.  I mean I litterally hear my violin open up all its beauty/power/resonance when I put almost ANY pressure and just let the fingertips do all the job.  (the rest follow but really it's my finger tip who does everything).  As I don't know if this is impulse vibratos or not, I say to people I do (try to...) and prefer finger vibratos.   Again, I'm not a pro but when I do get it a little, it is SO OBVIOUS it is as if it was written in red letters in the sky "SUPER sound like the one you like in this direction...) I just know the potential of this even if I'm mediocre. How weird! (However I have never liked arm vibratos much and my definition of super sound can differ from someone who love arm vibratos!)

From what I hear, I think Perlman and Oistrakh are doing a kind of impulse vibrato that is quite rare (correct me if I'm wrong on this) Of course, they have it magnificiently!

We "hear" more than we "see" with these two artists.  You don't see them moving their forarms like mad and I believe (personal view only and yes I'm a king of nothing too so don't take this too seriously) that the more one moves violently the hand/forarm, the less we hear all the "bending" or "roundness" of the vibrato which is so beautiful to my ear. I just love these.

Again, I hope I am not confuse in what is an impulse vibrato!  Yes talking about vibratos on the net is quite confusing!


 ps: these are only my perceptions, one could totally disagree and it's find like this :)

May 9, 2009 at 07:35 PM ·

In his DVD, Stephen Redrobe indicates that fingertip impulse vibrato is accomplished by alternately pressing the string with the fingertip and releasing. The string never leaves the fingerboard and the fingertip never leaves the string. His superb analogy is to imagine a woodpecker who has had the tip of its beak superglued to a tree. Try as it might to peck at the tree, it gets nowhere. It's the same movement as opening and closing the hand, driven by the tendons in the arm that operate the fingers. If the hand and arm are completely relaxed they will move in a coordinated manner not unlike the arm and hand movements of Yehudi Menuhin in "Art of the Violin" but the arm and hand movements are passive/secondary and not the impetus for this type of vibrato, the active movement coming from the fingers. Mr. Redrobe states that Kreisler used only this type of vibrato as confirmed by conversations with Henry Roth and privately by Yehudi Menuhin.

Not to derail this thread, but can someone please explain further Professor de Kayser's explanation of how bow weight/pressure is properly applied to the string.  The clip covered this quickly and the camera coverage didn't do it justice - I desperately want to understand this technique.  Count me among his fans/supporters - I personally would love to study with him but couldn't hack the commute from LA.


May 9, 2009 at 08:04 PM ·

Anthony, this guy suggested that the string never left the fingerboard.  From my little experiences, I find it true in pp(sometimes) but when I play ff, I have to put no pression at all on the string with my finger because otherwise, the vibrato is so narrow... Did he suggested that it was always like this: that the string must remain on the finger board no matter what?  I am not sure but I think Mr de Kayser said that you had to put just the minimum pressure necessary to not do an harmonic but no more.  (Am I wrong on this?)

However, I love impulse vibratos if they are what I think!


May 9, 2009 at 08:58 PM ·

Hi Anne-Marie,

Yes, I believe I'm quoting Mr. Redrobe accurately, but I agree with you that Professor de Kayser's mimimal pressure is the best approach and seems (in my hands anyway) to afford more varied vibrato possibilities. (Perhaps it's better to say that the finger never leaves the string and leave it at that). On my instrument, minimal pressure and string contact with the fingerboard are close to the same thing - in the lower positions I pretty much have to push the string to the fingerboard to get a clean, non-harmonic tone. Another way to think of it is that it involves the same muscles and finger motion that one might use in a trill, but with an utterly relaxed hand and wrist.  Please also note that I am in no way someone who can claim any sort of expertise, just a struggling amateur with a passion for all this violin stuff.

May 9, 2009 at 09:25 PM ·

My understanding is as follows...

(i) in terms of vibrato, the flesh of the fingertip does not leave the string. There are two states. First, the finger strikes the string, but with minimum pressure - the finger rests on the surface as if you were playing a harmonic. Once in this state, the finger depresses so that the string touches the fingerboard - the string is stopped. As the King explained, impulse vibrato is the alternation between these two states.


(ii) as for bow pressure, it is rather complicated to explain. The thumb applies pressure away from you. The middle two fingers apply pressure towards you. And then, the middle finger tries to push against itself ie it wants to extend. However, it cannot because of the initial pressure direction. It is important that all the muscles in the arm are relaxed, which is an extremely difficult thing to achieve.

May 10, 2009 at 03:41 AM ·

Thanks for your response, Nicholas.  I truly wish that I fully grasped what you are saying in (ii) re: application of bow pressure, but I'm not quite there yet.  Is there another way to state it?  It would be great to see a clear visual demonstration of this concept (hint, hint).

May 10, 2009 at 09:18 AM ·

Anne-Marie says that this "vibrato is so narrow".

In fact, the 100% impulse vibrato doesn't waver in pitch at all, only in amplitude. You play an A at 440Hz, and it stays there - it doesn't go down to 430 and back up again. It is like wobbling the volume control up and down on your hifi amp.

Of course, this 100% version is not what we normally achieve; as I said in the other thread, there is usually a slight intonation "wobble", hence A-M's comment on its narrowness. But the main effect is that of the throbbing in volume (and timbre) that comes from the compression and decompression of the flesh of the fingertip. It sounds as though PdeK's version is even more extreme, going from stopped note to harmonic and back, though I may have misunderstood this.


May 10, 2009 at 02:43 PM ·

Hi,  thanks!  However I didn't say it was narrow when the pressure by the finger was almost nothing. I was refering to the idea of what the guy said (the one Anthony stated) about always put a quite great amount of pressure on the finger so that the string touches the fingerboard.

I was telling that this made a very narrow vibrato compared to when there is almost no pressure and the finger has more freedom for doing a wider vibrato!

in fact (personal view only!), i hear a much wider vibrato in persons like Perlman (who I suspect does a sort of impulse vibrato?) than im many who don't do impulse vibratos.

Interesting suject!




May 10, 2009 at 03:57 PM ·

 Well... I would like to see a video demonstration, with varying speeds, etc. 


May 10, 2009 at 04:34 PM ·

William, it's not a visual aid unfortunately, but if you search this site for a previous thread called "Violin Vibrato Fixes" you will find Oliver Steiner's excellent description of impulse vibrato.


May 10, 2009 at 05:03 PM ·

BTW if you want to join V.com and you don't have the right kind of e-mail, just contact me. Not hard to do.

May 11, 2009 at 01:34 AM ·

Thanks, Anthony. :-)   I'm aware of most verbal descriptions.


Just saying it would be nice to see a video with varying speeds, etc.  And I would be interested to know if there is any movement of the wrist, hand and/or arm in any way.

It's quite simple to make a quicktime video, if anyone would care to do it.

It would be quite helpful to know what exactly is being done. The brain learns better from demonstration than verbal instruction.  I've read somewhere that that is a scientific fact.  Can't remember the source.... anyway.... I learn better that way, for sure.



May 11, 2009 at 02:58 AM ·


Willaim I think the oint you raise about elarning crops up in all manner of areas of endeavour because it is so fundamental.   One of the best example of it in a modern work I can think of is `The Inner Game of Tennis.`   Gallowey describes how he was  `super educated` tennis pro who could give verbal isntruction up the wazzo and his studnets thought it wa sgreat but success was limited. One day he simply tried asking the newbie to watch a profesisonal style serve ten times and imitate what was done.  The stdunet reproduced all the technique he wa shown with the exception of a movement of one foot.  On being queried the studnet repiled it was the movement of thta foot that he had tried to change from the visual representation he had recieved to a verbal instruction  to himself.



May 11, 2009 at 04:16 AM ·

According to my best teacher, George Neikrug, a student of Dounis,  the vibrato is initiated by a forward motion going up to the pitch of the note. The motion is like a twitch which immediately releases. His basic exercise is to do 4 flicks forward of the hand, then a "sizzle" on the 5th impusle which contnues the vibrato. The vibrato should not be forced to continue, it should continue on its own.

This is just a rudientary explanation of the process of vibrato. He went far beyond this.

May 11, 2009 at 04:55 AM ·

I would be a "promising"rookie fiddler if I wasn't so old.What is being described is the way you get vibrato on a guitar. It's just tension and release. It's the first way I got vibrato on a fiddle, then I found out vibrato means wiggling your finger. So, since I'm so naive, I also sometimes use bow vibrato, which is pulling a long downbow while "shaking all over", which is, I believe, the correct rock n'roll way to describe it.

May 11, 2009 at 04:58 AM ·

Thanks, Buri.  Inner Game of Tennis.  Yes, of course that's where I first read it.  

It's been too long since my reading of that book - not to mention a host of other similar books I've read in years past.  I need to read them all again.

Difficult to read with an empty cup, though.  Funny as I get older how some things are getting easier and some things more difficult.  And to maintain the 'freshness' of everything.  That's tough, too. :-)



May 11, 2009 at 05:20 AM ·


yep. I noticed you are stepping into your spiritual phase.  You haven`t just turned forty by any chance?

(Not compulsary to answer;)   Do have email now though!)



May 12, 2009 at 05:08 AM ·

I must admit some confusion over this term and exactly what one is listening for. This is my understanding. Please feel free to correct /advise/comment as you wish.

  In observing  Jascha Heifetz in the 24th Paganini Caprice in the octaves and in Debussy's La Fille Aux Cheveux De Lin, one can see the use of arm, wrist and flexible bending nail joint. I believe it is the combination of these (with the nail joint being extremely flexible and a wrist that is straight to slightly bent out)  that allows for a quick vibrato whose pitch variation is so quick and not wide such that the sound is a throbbing pulsed quality rather than an obvious pitch variation. It looks efficient and it sounds wonderful. I believe I hear a similar quality in David Nadien's vibrato.

As near as I can tell, the flexibility of the finger joint closest to the nail is key to creating any kind of decent vibrato, although with some people, the fourth finger, turned at a different angle than the first finger because of its position in the hand requiring a turn to face the string, may roll back and forth in the tip without the nail joint bending as much.

  It appears that an arm vibrato without the fourth finger joint bending as much is the typical approach when doing artificial harmonics, though the lower finger will have its nail joint bending. My understanding is that for projection in a larger hall, the arm vibrato may carry more but it will not be as intense as the narrower vibrato because its width precludes it from moving back and forth as quickly as the finger tip impulse does. However, I have seen violinists use an arm vibrato that oscillates fairly quickly and I have seen violinists that use a wrist/hand vibrato that oscillates by comparison more slowly and not found either to have a deleterious effect on the sound. As long as the nail joint is flexible it would seem the vibrato impulse can be free to move as quickly or slowly as one wishes to allow it to.

As for pressing into the  string,  I question how  well that will work in the highest positions when the distance of the string on to the fingerboard would be greater than at the nut and one would be more at risk for creating tension as a result.

 It would indeed be helpful to see a closeup demonstration of different forms of hand/wrist and arm motion  with and without the use of the impulse vibrato. I did not find the demonstration on the Redrobe  video to be as helpful as I had hoped it would be.

  The other thing is that a very different hand/wrist vibrato is created when leaning backward in the wrist resting against the rib of the violin in fourth position, for example,  compared with extending the hand outward some as seen in watching Heifetz. Yet this position also creates a fast vibrato which has a throbbing, pulsing quality with minimal pitch deviation, even though it is considered bad form by most violinists.


May 12, 2009 at 05:22 AM ·

This is the way I was taught impulse vibrato. First just putting down a finger like a cat catches a mouse: with a definitive hit, immediately followed by release to just enough tension to hold the string/mouse. Impulse vibrato was taught to me as an exaggeration of that movement. I don't know what cats do for impulse vibrato.

May 12, 2009 at 05:42 AM ·


I think you are thinking of `impussy` vibrato which is ratehr differnet.  

The discussion goes on but I hope people will be careful of this notion of hitting. It is actually not such a good idea.  Maybe throwing would be safer....?



May 12, 2009 at 07:14 AM ·

I don't like this "hitting" or "striking", either. It is more about relaxing and squeezing than hitting etc.

But there are teachers who recommend hitting the fingers on the strings, so you hear an actual pop as the string is struck. I think this is a way to fake clear articulation, as that little bang covers the change of bow direction, thus giving the impression of clean left hand/bow co-ordination, while really just masking it.



May 12, 2009 at 05:31 PM ·

Yes, throwing probably is a much better word. I'll ask our cat. Thank you, Buri.

May 15, 2009 at 07:35 AM ·

Here is what Joachim the cat said: "I like throw, but you want to be careful with squeeze."

May 15, 2009 at 08:25 AM ·


Po said `I throw when you squeeze.`



May 15, 2009 at 02:59 PM ·

So it would seem, that the more responsive the violin/strings the more pronounced this vibrato would be?  I am trying to figure when this form of vibrato would become an option.


May 15, 2009 at 03:06 PM ·

the way i look at this whole thing from a distance has couple angles:

1.  throughout human history,  there always seems  a need to coin something for the sake of illustration or to leave a legacy. during that process,  some things are truly innovative and others simply fluff or bluff.  what makes life interesting is to tell them apart.

2.  assuming we are onto something solid here for a moment,,, this reminds me of a situation where a beginner billiard player inquires about how the world champion pool player creates that just-right english on the cue ball.  fundamentally, there are certain basic physics principles to operate under.  however, what really makes the difference in terms of understanding is having enough mileage under the belt first and foremost.  it is metaphysical when physics melts into the body and the mind.

May 15, 2009 at 05:48 PM ·

it's me paul de keyser back from istanbul....this is much better now! there is always going to be some wobbleato as well because as well as depressing the string dont forget more flesh will contact so there will be some sharpening of the pitch as well. NO OISTRAKH AND PERLMAN DONT HAVE THIS VIBRATO. PERLMAN IS SHARP MOST OF THE TIME AS IS RICCI AND I FIND THIS UNBEARABLE. I TEND TO GO FOR PLAYERS WHO PLAY MORE TOWARDS FLAT RATHER THAN SHARP. IDA HAENDEL AND SZERYING AND MILSTEIN PLAY DEAD IN TUNE. KREISLER AND STERN MORE FLAT MENUHIN IS NOT AT ALL PLEASANT HE WOBBLES ON EITHER SIDE OF THE PITCH IT MAKES ME FEEL SEA SICK.(15 year old menuhin elgar concerto unbeatable though). if the movement is initiated in the lumbricals then it doesnt matter if the accompanying movement comes from the hand or forearm; i am not having a nervous breakdown either way! al ku is right we must be careful if we are talking anatomical movements related to science then  we should not be woolly. it isnt a matter of finger or hand or forearm vibrato. all of this speak evades the issue viz  wobbleato is wrong in my opinion and impulse is right. again gc has it right(this man is brilliant!) his analogy with the volume control is spot on its closer to what i think and feel. best wishes

May 15, 2009 at 06:15 PM ·

Hallo from me.. My name is Emanuil Markov . I am a bulgarian boy that started to study violin in Bulgaria when I was six.  Later my family imigrated to England and 6 month later I had to go there as well . I am in England now. The first few months I wanted to continue studeing violin and because the school I was in they offered vilin lesson. I spoke to the teacher she sed : play something to me .. I played and she told me : there is nothing I can teach you I will recomend you to a very good violin teacher.. And I met Paul de Keyser ( the king on the violin )...!!!
It was different from the begining because I was used to the teaching in the music schools in Bulgaria.. ( and I hope you all know that the music education in the east : Russia , Bulgaria is allso one of the top is much better than the west.. )  ... so it was different for me..and I was fiting wit him about some stuf I was asking why like this I know its like this and so on... later on my eyes begin to open and I realysed that he is so right and he is so so so ahead of every other education you can get...not only violin but music !!!  anyway  now when The King posted the videos on youtube sodenly many bad remarkes and comments came up.. now discussions and bloggs with lots of nasty " sugestions" about Him... and here is my simple question " Why " .. cant you see that he is actually telling things that no one did... cant you see that he is actually helping you ... cant you see that he is right.. why are you saying " oh he is hitting his students" excuse me I am his student and you have no idea how funny and how nice is it to be in His Presens ... the closeness between the student (me) and the teacher (the King) should be much deaper than sitting on a chair and the teacher seas play this .. you play and he goes .. ok its god better than last time ... and you call this great teaching.. I will give you an example ( fother and son.. what kind of relation ship they have.. have you never had a smack from your fother..if not than you dont have relationshhip with your fother..) and please dont tell me " but the fother is not supost to beat the child.. well did Paul beat anyone no.. he have the student a smack on the hand and its so funny its great.. and yes he is not just a teacher to me .. he is like a fother to me.. so yes I am here to defend The King .. if you have any questions or sugestions please thing first and than write... Thanks for reading and exuse my English ... Emanuil Best wishes to everyone...  

May 15, 2009 at 07:16 PM ·

Thanks Emanuil!  Yes, I think that at the end of the previous discussion, we all agreed that we judged too fast a few videos and this was the why of our comments. It is really great to have a student's point of view!  Of course, a few videos can just show a tiny bit of all the complexity of one's personality and we kind of forgot this...  However, it's quite hard to tell who is "right".  Violin is so subjective. But your teacher certainly have really really valuable experience and point of views.  We can all learn so much from v.commers like him! So congratulations!  I love this vibrato discussion! 



May 15, 2009 at 07:39 PM ·

Are we listening to the Enigma Variations again!!!

May 16, 2009 at 02:37 AM ·

Welcome home, Professor de K.  Any chance of seeing (or reading) further explanation of how bow weight/pressure is properly applied to the string.  The clip covered this quickly and the camera coverage didn't do it justice.  Inquiring minds want to know!



May 16, 2009 at 01:01 PM ·

This is very entertaining to observe. 

May 16, 2009 at 07:53 PM ·

When is De Keyser going to accept Laurie's invitation to get his own email address to blog here rather than his student's?  Seems like she'll waive the rule..... tune in tomorrow! Same Bat time....same bat chanel!

May 16, 2009 at 08:04 PM ·

If I was P de K, I wouldn't bother.


May 17, 2009 at 12:51 AM ·

Maybe you are P de K... maybe we all are.

May 17, 2009 at 09:44 AM ·


I feel I am more PDQ on the QT.



May 17, 2009 at 02:40 PM ·

I could also be named P de K but wait a minute P de K for Prunes de Kayser in my case!   I will probably never get passed the prune stage :) lol  Ennough joking for now,


May 17, 2009 at 03:14 PM ·

the standards are slipping again!

May 17, 2009 at 03:37 PM ·

It seems like Nicholas does not control what happens with his account, does anyone else agree?

May 17, 2009 at 08:01 PM ·


Yes indeed. it certainly does seem that way. Funny, you use the word control.

May 17, 2009 at 11:55 PM ·

Laurie- A few posts back I asked when would he get his own account? I've been wondering since you invited to set him up?

May 18, 2009 at 12:12 AM ·

p de k here. i tried but it's not possible. it means me taking nicholas'university account and using another sign in name. this site just wont accept hotmail accounts and that's where my account is. laurie says you have built up a nice community over 12 years or so but i wonder how many hundreds or thousands have been lost due to this entry requirement....

May 18, 2009 at 12:18 AM ·

Back to Buri's subject;

When would anyone here posting 'use' impulse vibrato.  i.e., This song at this particular place, because, blah, blah, blah,.

and a dot net account will be accepted, and Laurie said to email her and go from there.

May 18, 2009 at 12:18 AM ·

further more due to the deterioration in attitude again, i would rather correspond only with those people who do not resort to insult/sarcasm/ nastiness and so on via my personal email. for some reason i have become notorious on this site with the " groupies." it is not my "scene" i am too busy to be bothered by this. serious discussion; yes. for those who are beyond the infantile ,you are welcome to find my email via my you tube account. best wishes to those people.

May 18, 2009 at 03:57 AM ·

Ok, I will take note to not do anything with "humour" when you (P de K) is on a particular thread.  I had let fall my much too stereotyped thoughs that I admitted I had made only on the videos (which is wrong!) but I steel think that little non insulting short inside jokes are ok since v.commers regularly do little jokes (sometimes tongue and cheek) between them.

 This site is really instructive and it is also a place where tired violinists, workers and students passionated by violin "rest" and "laugh" a little after their day.  Violinists are cheerful persons and I believe it is totally possible to be serious and steel use humour a little.  Some very skilled violinists here are big users of such little jokes. 

(and by jokes,I do not mean the phenomenon where some people, like I also do sometimes :( can judge someone too fast)  For sure we can be shocked for a moment etc but we also can think rationnally and make non offensive short little jokes between us.

But I value so much your advice as a violinist that I, personally, will avoid, in the future, any kind of jokes on the threads you participate since I loved your advice on this thread and wouldn't want to be one of those who "scared you off" from this wonderful site.  Please see this as respect, I really mean it!


May 18, 2009 at 04:36 AM ·

Anne-Marie, your comments are hardly insulting. you need apologize for nothing. Comments from V.commies are part of the deal...sometimes informative, sometimes direct, sometimes funny, sometimes cutting; but always supportive and loving...yes loving. Mr Keyser is once again trying to control the situation; it's all about the control. I find it most interesting that he who is sooooooo 'hurt" by "insults" turns right around and slings arrows at the "groupies". At least that is a productive use of his bow; far better than tossing it on the floor.

Laurie  went out of her way and offered him a solution. All he had to do was  contact her directly.

  " it is not my "scene" i am too busy to be bothered by this.'... BEST NEWS YET. I trust we shall not hear from this person again, whether by the name of Paul, Nicholas, or the latest nom de plume Emanuil.


May 18, 2009 at 05:25 AM ·

bye bye have a nice life! enough is enough....

May 18, 2009 at 05:49 AM ·

Yes, goodbye.

May 18, 2009 at 05:59 PM ·

Pay no mind to someone who tries to control you because once they figure out that they can't control you they will want nothing at all to do with you.

Mr. PdK, it would suit you well to browse our site before you demand anything of its members.  It doesn't seem like you've bothered to chime into other threads and your attitude when faced with opposition is frightening at worst, silly at best.  We are all here for good discussion but nobody is required to agree with your opinions... we hardly ever agree with eachother anyway.  None of us expect complete adoration from other members and you will probably not receive it either if that's what you're looking for.

May 19, 2009 at 04:02 AM ·

Good wisdom there, Marina, I like that first sentence.

May 19, 2009 at 06:34 AM ·

I must confess to being not at all pleased with the outcome here. While I fully realize that I am but a rank amateur compared with many other posters, Professor de K's teachings struck, well, some kind of chord in me, and I for one will miss the contributions he might have made to the site had things turned out differently. Sorry, just had to get that off my chest.

Anyone ever mix prune juice with vodka?

May 19, 2009 at 07:58 AM ·


Mr. de Kayser is quite happy to exchange his ideas via email so if you write to him and tell him this I am sure you can set up a good exchange.



May 20, 2009 at 02:11 AM ·

Thanks Buri, will do.  Though I still often wonder about the vodka/prune juice thing.


May 20, 2009 at 02:42 AM ·

Buri, this is just for you...

vodka/prune juice toast...

drum roll please.........drums 002


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