Vibrato and Trills

July 12, 2010 at 09:04 PM ·

When we play a single note with vibrato, we hear the upper limit of the pitch range as the pitch of the note.

When we trill, we hear the lower of the two notes as the pitch.

Why is this?

gc

Replies

July 12, 2010 at 09:30 PM ·

IIRC, it depends on whether or not the trill is "stealing time" from the upper or lower note as to which one it's identified with.

July 13, 2010 at 11:25 AM ·

I think it's to do with what the ear hears first. Vibrato : the main note is played first, then a note a microtone below, then back to main note, etc etc. So, the main note is the highest, and the first note, so that's what we hear as the pitch, right?

In a trill, the lower note is played first (usually), so again, what we register as the pitch, regardless of what we play around it.

Pushing this theory a bit further, try playing "bad" vibrato on a perfect D. Play the first note as a slightly sharp D, then a perfect D, then roll up instead of down. Is the perceived pitch now the fractionally sharpened D? It is for me .. and I think this is one reason why we're taught only to sound the vibrato below true pitch and never above it :)

Jim

July 13, 2010 at 11:50 AM ·

I doubt that it is the first thing we hear. We often begin a note slightly below and bend into it then use  vibrato.

And trills in Baroque music start on the higher note, yet we still hear the note as the lower of the pair.

gc

July 13, 2010 at 12:04 PM ·

I wonder how different it would sound if you played a semitone or tone trill, starting on the upper note, and accenting only the upper note each time? Would that reverse the perception? Aural illusions abound, and it's interesting when you stop to listen and analyse :)

July 13, 2010 at 12:26 PM ·

Jim, that would be more like Janis' "stealing time" idea.

gc

July 13, 2010 at 12:41 PM ·

I'm curious now. I'm going to put a few samples here (if it's allowed) see how people hear them :)

July 13, 2010 at 02:19 PM ·

This subject is one I missed out on, not being Conservatory trained. Is it true they teach "better sharp than out-of-tune"? Though unqualified to comment, I DO happen to recall that Sir John Barbirolli had a "thing" that when playing trills, the upper note should be pitched sharper than normal to register as being "right'. 

July 13, 2010 at 02:25 PM ·

This is totally wierd!

For a start, a trill is usually a semitone or a tone.

Vibrato should be a fraction of a semitone or a little more of a fraction sometimes.

I don't get all this stuff about the pitch being the upper part of the vibrato or whatever.

Vibrato is the oscilllation AROUND a note, say C natural, and is equal on each side of the pure C natural.

So you hear C natural.

END OF STORY!!!!!!!!!

TALK ABOUT MAKING IT COMPLICATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

July 13, 2010 at 02:32 PM ·

No, Peter, you don't hear the middle of the wobble as the pitch of the tone - you hear the top of the wobble - if you wobble above the note, it sounds sharp.

Do the experiment, and hear it for yourself.

gc

PS, we have discussed this before:-

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=5609

I should have taken my own advice from the "Ambience" thread.

July 13, 2010 at 02:57 PM ·

I used Intonia software with recordings of many violinists and it showed that all of them vibrated above and below the pitch (and I checked the the tuning on these recordings and they were in tune with the software). This was a disturbing discovery, as I was always taught that you only vibrate from the note to below, as Galamian states.

July 13, 2010 at 03:02 PM ·

Marty, was that all the time, or sporadic? Did they sound sharp all the time, never, or occasionally? Were there differences between tessituras?

There used to be a practice of violinists tuning  a touch sharp to stand out from the orchestra, Could that have been what you were picking up?

Interesting stuff.

gc

July 13, 2010 at 03:02 PM ·

Thanks, Graham, for that link

 http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=5609

The tendency, noted there, for concertmasters and others to edge above the pitch for reasons of assertiveness seem to be at the heart of that legendary "Better sharp then out of tune" advice. Intonation in orchestras is a moveable feast with sharpness prevailing amongst the fiddles and 'celli - only bassists seem to keep to pitch. No-one ever takes a blind bit of notice of the oboe "A" - that's another reason why I'm unqualified to give reasons for the observed phenomena ! However, thanks, folks, for giving me much to think about. 

db = decibels.

July 13, 2010 at 04:39 PM ·

Well, a lot of people on that other thread are agreeing with me.

Try this ---- play a D on the G string and test it with the open D string. Dead in tune? Then add vibrato. If the pitch changes there is something very, very, very, very wrong.

HOWEVER, all this stuff about vibrato is enough to make one think we should all play WITHOUT ANY VIBRATO AT ALL!!!!!!!!

 

July 13, 2010 at 04:39 PM ·

It started on the pitch and moved down, then up. It was for essentially every note. You can go to the Intonia website and see samples of this with different violinists.

July 13, 2010 at 05:51 PM ·

How often is an extended trill used as a sort of pause between two notes where the overall movement of the phrase is going up?

When you're talking about, for example, operatic cadenzas -- where the trill is used by the singer to let the orchestra know they're about to end the cadenza and it's almost time to come back in -- often put the trill in a downward-moving phrase, near the end.  Might it not be that we're just used to hearing trills in that context, in a phrase that's moving downward, so we are anticipating the lower note?

They may not always be in that context obviously; we're not talking about opera here.  But we may expect them to behave a certain way because of the historical context we're used to finding them in.

Vibrati aren't always used in that context -- vocally, they are used as an ornament to emphasize or color a particular note for a ton of possible reasons and in any phrase moving in any direction, not as a signal to anyone that something is about to happen.

July 13, 2010 at 05:53 PM ·

After cogitating, I came up with a thought. If the vibrato is a tight, non-wobbly one, either wrist of finger, and exacuted with flattish finger, then the top of the pitch variation MIGHT be more firmly stopped against the fingerboard than the lower end. It could sound more clearly, and be picked up as "authoritative" by the ear.

The lower note in a trill is firmly stopped - the upper one is just fleetingly touched. The lower pitch might seem the more authoritative one here.

Just an idea. My own vibrato has always been "incorrect" and intonation was never my strong suit.

July 13, 2010 at 05:56 PM ·

Peter,

YOU DON'T NEED TO SHOUT!!!!!!!

gc

 

July 13, 2010 at 06:03 PM ·

For any piece I know of that uses trills, if you practice without trilling, to get the shape of the melody, you use the lower tone. You never use the upper trill tone. That is not the tune - the lower tone is.

This is really one for the psychophysicists.

gc

July 13, 2010 at 07:23 PM ·

I've been listening to trills on the piano, to see if you are also attracted more to the lower note, and I'm not sure you are, in the same way you are on the violin. If that it true, it must be a case of timing, i.e. on the violin, people often tap the top note, so most of time you hear the lower note. This would be hard to achieve on the piano at speed. I'll have to listen to a few more piano trill to judge properly though.

July 13, 2010 at 08:35 PM ·

About vibrato being below and / or above the note : I did a little recording, playing two short sequences, D-A-F#-G, and A-B-C#-D. First time, vibrato only under the main note pitch, then vibrato below and above the pitch. There's a fair difference in sound :

http://www.worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/vibrato-01.mp3

Going back to Graham's original question about hearing the lower note in trills, I did another little sequence of a "wide" trill - DBDBDB, C#BbC#BbC#Bb, DBDBDB, ECECEC, DBDBDB, C#BbC#BbC#Bb, DBDBDB  .  To me, the main notes I hear are D, C#, D, E, D, C# D, in other words, the higher note of each trill. Now I play a the same sequence but now using a semitone trill starting on CBCBCBC .. Now I'm hearing the lower note of each pair, even though I start each pair on the higher note of the two - the opposite of what I hear in the wide trill. So, to me, it's the width of the trill that determines the "main" note :

http://www.worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/trills-01.mp3

Jim

July 14, 2010 at 06:00 AM ·

 I don't have an opinion about trills, but Graham is correct about vibrato.   (Sorry, Peter.)  It's how our brains work, and this is no argument possible.

 

It's also why it's so much easier to tune UP into a note, accurately, than down into it.

July 14, 2010 at 06:13 AM ·

> No, Peter, you don't hear the middle of the wobble as the pitch
> of the 
tone - you hear the top of the wobble - if you wobble
> above the note, it sounds sharp.

Right on, Graham!

I have the most difficult time explaining this concept to students, and sometimes other teachers...I get a bunch of people who always tell me that they vibrate "around" the pitch rather than varying degrees below it, with the desired pitch at the top of the oscillation. Then, they can't understand why I teach my students vibrato the way I do (which allows them oscillate *downwards* from the desired pitch).

The ear perceives the highest pitch...that's why one single string player playing sharp to everyone else in a whole section sticks out. Sometimes that's desirable, other times it is not.

July 14, 2010 at 06:20 AM ·

Graham wrote: "About vibrato being below and / or above the note : I did a little recording, playing two short sequences, D-A-F#-G, and A-B-C#-D. First time, vibrato only under the main note pitch, then vibrato below and above the pitch. There's a fair difference in sound :

http://www.worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/vibrato-01.mp3

Sounds to me that the first one sounds sad and the second happy.  One might even call the first a 'minor' vibrato and the second a 'major' one.  But you performers here must surely use one or the other depending on the music?  I'm going to play with that anyway...

July 14, 2010 at 07:20 AM ·

 Thanks for recording both vibrato versions Jim. The 1st G sounds in tune, the 2nd one sharp. The 1st (stopped) D sounds in tune, the 2nd one sharp. Therefore, what you have proved is that the ear picks out the top of the vibrato as "the note". 

 

 

July 14, 2010 at 10:40 AM ·

A quick check and it seems to me that I hear the UPPER sound in trills too. That Galamian advice for vibrato seems to work, also. I have been struggling lately, "pulling down" the pitch to stop sounding sharp - and now I know why. Thanks, folks.

I had trouble understanding why, after practising scales as taught, without vibrato, the introduction of vibrato made me feel uncomfortable. 

July 14, 2010 at 03:14 PM ·

I guess fundamentally, the vibrato is a change in color within one note, and the trill is preceived as an oscillation between two separate ones.  Since the brain hears the first as a variation within one note and the second as two notes, there's no real reason for it to treat them in the same way.  There are instances in spoken languages where exactly the same process is as work in two contexts, but the brain only perceives it in one since it only engenders a change in meaning in that one context.

Take the words "then" and "them."  Change the location of that nasal sound in the mouth -- move it from the tip of the tongue to the lips -- and it changes the meaning, so you notice it.

But quickly say the words "ten doughnuts" and "ten bagels."  If you say it fast and casually, in every single case if you are a native English speaker, the "n" in the second case will move up.  You'll be saying "tem bagels" in anticipation of making the "b" with your lips.

But you don't notice.  You notice it in the first case because it causes a change in meaning.  In the second, it doesn't.  So the brain treats them differently, even though it's the same change in sound.  No surprise that since a vibrato isn't perceived as changing the note, it's also treated differently by the processor, even though it and a trill can be seen as just two instances of swapping quickly between two pitch limits.

July 14, 2010 at 03:41 PM ·

Graham Clark
Posted on July 13, 2010 at 07:56 PM

Peter,

YOU DON'T NEED TO SHOUT!!!!!!!

gc

 

OH YES I DO! When you read some of the rubbish people have spouted about vibrato, you either shout or GIVE UP!!!!!

Nate is the only one with good sense and a good ear.

July 14, 2010 at 03:44 PM ·

This is like living in cloud cuckoo land!! Which means there are a lot of nutters spouting total rubbish on here, with regard to vibrato.

SOME OF YOU SHOULD GO AND TAKE A COLD SHOWER.

July 14, 2010 at 05:15 PM ·

To be fair Peter, you posted this earlier on in this thread.

Try this ---- play a D on the G string and test it with the open D string. Dead in tune? Then add vibrato. If the pitch changes there is something very, very, very, very wrong.

If I play what you suggest, and vibrate in my normal way, i.e.from the note and below it sounds ok. If I vibrate above (or around) the note, it clashes. Your own test clearly disproves your theory! Try it for yourself.  I have been a professional violinist for around 20 years, and play for a well known string quartet, where good intonation is critical. I'm not saying my opinion is any more valid than anyone else's though, I just think you should be more respectful towards other's views.

July 14, 2010 at 05:44 PM ·

"When we play a single note with vibrato, we hear the upper limit of the pitch range as the pitch of the note.

When we trill, we hear the lower of the two notes as the pitch.

Why is this?

gc"

I don't know any of the technical mumbo jumbo and nothing I say will impress anyone so I've asked my nerdy non musical husband. This is his theory: The only real difference between the two effects is the length of the vibrating string. With vibrato you are not changing the length very much so you here the sharper of the two notes because when you vibrate you have a natural tendency to accent the higher note, thus the string is shorter, thus your brain hears that note. When you trill you are naturally accenting the lower note, and you are in effect playing two notes and your brain knows that so it's hearing what is logical to hear, and you are shortening the vibrating string by a great percentage, thus your brain understands when hearing that it is the lower note that is the main note. That is my husband's theory. Btw, he's not a violinist!!!! Now, there is someone who loves a good theory!

July 14, 2010 at 08:22 PM ·

Peter, perhaps your constant need to shout down facts that come in conflict with your unsubstantiated assertions about vibrato and pitch contributes to your overwhelming inability to comprehend why a good number of people here disagree with you.

In the example you have provided, any single time I attempt to vibrate even slightly above the given fingered pitch (D on the G string) when played simultaneously with the open D, there is a distinctly noticeable clash (or beats if you prefer).

I challenge you to present an example where a player can vibrate around a given pitch and not sound sharp to that reference pitch (whether that is a single note from another string, a string quartet, or an orchestra).

I'm not discounting the fact that soloists will sometimes play slightly above pitch in order to brighten their sound and/or bring out their part (such is the case even with wind players), but that is another subject altogether.

 

 

July 14, 2010 at 08:48 PM ·

You know, after reading all these comments, I'm surprised that I never ever thought about the pitches in vibrato. I've always vibrated on and under the main note. It just seemed the natural thing to do (no pun intended!) If I go above the note it just sounds plain bad to me - worse as the amplitude is increased. I can't imagine why anyone would play vibrato sharp, unless they genuinely like the sound, or wanted to "cut through".

Jim

July 15, 2010 at 02:54 AM ·

Starting the vibrato late can give the impression of scooping up to the pitch from underneath. I must say, I have heard a lot of that. UGH !! Presumably it's better to hit the note dead-centre then make the vibrato pull down. What did Galamian teach ?

For so many of us vibrato is taught before a precise sense of pitch is developed. Unless we develop acute harmonic thinking, an autopilot operatic wobble can remain embedded for ever. As I wrote, intonation in large or amateur orchestras tends to be approximate.

Lisa's nerdy explanation is similar to an earlier post of mine. The upper pitch ot the vibrato is likely to be made by the less fleshy part of the finger-tip and sound clearer, as if accented. But I now think it's a matter more of psychological perception.

As to trills, the lower note is nearly always the "harmony" note, reinforced by the accompaniment. Does "psychology" make us hear that as the stronger of the two pitches ?

July 15, 2010 at 04:15 AM ·

All this dodgy theory makes me think you should all play without vibrato at all and play in tune instead.

I'm all for people having ideas about playing improvments but some of this stuff is unbelievable.

(P.S. I also have played in professional orchestras for about 30 plus years and string quartets)

(P.P.S. Maybe I/we are misunderstanding each other, that being a problem with internet discussions).

Anyway, I'm out of this discussion now.

July 15, 2010 at 04:24 AM ·


Gene Wie

Well, you have your opinion and I have mine, so lets leave it at that. I'm out of this forum now, so no more discussion, as far as I'm concerned.

July 15, 2010 at 06:42 AM ·

lol@ my nerdy explanation!I think I agree with what you are saying David. I believe we unconsciously accent the higher part, and we are not on the same spot of the finger too. What about trills? I think we do the same thing, we unconsciously concentrate on the lower note, when the higher note is the trill.

This is a great discussion that has me thinking of vibrato and trills in different ways than I'm used to. Maybe there is no answer. Maybe it's a question of perception and non qualtifiable. At any rate, I'm going to be paying more attention to my vibrato from now on! I always liked my vibrato and when I was young I was called "machine gun". But, now I have a few different vibratos I can call upon. We each have our preferences and favored techniques. So, maybe it's impossible to come up with one unifying explanation.

PS. Speaking of nicknames, there's a guy in our orchestra who does such a violent vibrato that we call him "Dramamine" cuz it makes us seasick!

July 15, 2010 at 09:13 AM ·

What I've learned is the astonishing acuity of hearing that you full-timers have.  I'm quite jealous.  However, its been inspiring since what its caused me to do is to listen more carefully to what I am playing.

When you are learning any instrument the main and only thought is hitting the note at the right time and getting it sufficiently in tune that you can not get dinged for it.  Development of the skills obvious above takes mastery of this level and also gradual improvement in ear acuity.  But most of all you have to be aware of the possibilities that can be achieved and even more so the fact that other's ears are already developed and can hear the flaws in your playing that you are blissfully unware of. 

Come to think of it, the latter scares the heck out of me with respect to playing to any audience!!

July 15, 2010 at 10:51 AM ·

I beleive you keep or focus, subconsiously, on the note that is played first..

I found this vid interesting at 1:00 in

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rZJpQts32Q

 

July 15, 2010 at 12:31 PM ·

Charles, thanks for that video. Excellent.

July 15, 2010 at 06:47 PM ·

Peter, just because you don't want to discuss *facts* with people who don't agree with your hypothesis, doesn't mean that you can dismiss their challenges to your claims by saying "well, it's just your opinion so go away."

You proposed an experiment for people to hear the effects of vibrating around a note and comparing it to an reference pitch. I would venture that the majority of us who did try it came to the same conclusion: vibrations above a given note cause that note to be perceived as sharp relative to that reference pitch. This is just an observation of physical phenomena, and not a judgment call on whether that result is good or bad.

You will find that many of the posters here on Violinist.com are not as misinformed or unintelligent as you insinuate, but rather well-educated and knowledgeable professionals, teachers, and students.

July 16, 2010 at 04:37 AM ·


Gene Wie

Thanks for your rather condescending post in answer to my comments. I don't think I have ever thought anything else other than a lot of people on here are experienced professionals. So don't attribute your own views on to me.

And if I wish to make no further comments that is my right, and I would point out that this messageboard is NOT a subset of the American armed forces, or even the British armed forces.

So I will make no further comments, no mater how much that disturbs you, and will probably give this site a miss from now on.

July 16, 2010 at 07:41 AM ·

Peter, If you want to stop commenting or stop visiting the site, then by all means do so. I'm sure the rest of the board doesn't enjoy being told that their facts are "rubbish," that they are "cuckoo," and that you think it's okay to shout down ideas that don't conform to your own beliefs.

It's not condescending to engage others in rational discussion about the validity of an argument. In this particular case, it is quite meaningful because this discussion of how vibrato works is something that even students who frequent the site may read, and apply those ideas to their own playing.

I am of the camp that asserts that vibrato *around* a note distorts the perception of the actual pitch, because the human ear discerns (picks out) the highest frequency in the oscillation, and thus vibrato downwards from the desired pitch yields a more desirable result in most playing situations.

Again, I am not dismissing the concept that there may be very justifiable reasons for playing above pitch, and/or making use of techniques like vibrato that could achieve that end. Perhaps the next discussion here ought to consider situations in which one does want to be slightly above the pitch center of an ensemble?

July 16, 2010 at 07:51 AM ·

Along those lines Gene, perhaps the simplest case is the violin solo where (as i see it) integrating the sound with other instruments, and hence positive harmony, is not an issue but getting a tone effect for the piece is.  I commented above that listening to Peter's vibrato down and across the pure note had rather different effects to my ear.  The down version is calming but also more sober, and melancholy whereas the 'through' the note is brighter, more strident and alerting - even happier. 

I'm going to play with this and see if it can be used to generate a mood corresponding to the music.  But surely some soloists here can comment on the use of this particular tool (if such it is) in the violinists chest? 

July 16, 2010 at 08:20 AM ·

Many moons ago I had to work an examination paper on Musical Acoustics and seem to think there was something in the syllabus about a psychological element in the perception of pitch.

I am fairly sure that a violinist playing alone can sound "in tune" even if in fact somewhat wayward. Only a listener with very acute perfect pitch would be able to detect small aberrations. Most ears are inclined to be charitable. Near enough is good enough unless the player is exposed to the cruel environment of fine chamber music or an accompanying keyboard. And in the case of keyboards, "equal temperament" is a way of being "nearly in tune" but actually "out of tune", all the time. We get used to that, as we do to those wobbly operatic vibratos.

Writing as I a do as someone with experience of Musical Composition, I know that a solo line way above the accompaniment in pitch needs to be seriously out of tune before jarring occurs - and composers and arrangers are apt to take account of this. That's one reason why so many of us can "get away" with a strictly incorrect vibrato for so long - IMHO. 

July 16, 2010 at 10:21 AM ·

David, you wrote, "Only a listener with very acute perfect pitch would be able to detect small aberrations."

I think it is more likely to be very acute relative pitch that would detect such aberrations.

If I remember correctly, perfect pitch is more about labelling categories of perception than precise frequency perception, while relative pitch is about hearing the size of intervals, or frequency ratios,  accurately.

So someone with perfect pitch will call (say) 435 - 445 "A", but gets confused when A is tuned down to 415, because it is much closer to "normal" Ab. Someone with good relative  pitch just puts the note into the harmonic context of the  piece, and  knows the  size of the interval, without being concerned with the note name.

gc

July 16, 2010 at 02:18 PM ·

 Graham,

Sorry if I explained myself badly.

Many of the posts on this thread have concentrated on the teaching that a player should vibrato DOWN from the correct in-tune non-vibrato position, or sound sharp, because as you wrote the ear latches on to the upper pitch.  What I was trying to say was that unless the player has one of those huge operatic wobbles, a vibrato that oscillates above and below a correct mean pitch is less likely to be detected as sharp if a player plays alone, or in a very large group in which, as is often observed, there typically arise internal variations in pitch.

Only today I heard a broadcast of the Schubert Quintet. I was convinced that the players were using vibratos that went above and below the pitch, until I realized that these were Berlin players accustomed to an "A" higher than 440. So, yes, I am only right to suggest that perfect pitch types would be the only folk to detect an "incorrect" use of vibrato, i.e. one that makes the player sound sharp, if both player and supervising swot have agreed on the same "A", e.g. = 440 to start off with, and the player is not lacing his interpretation with open strings.

"Relative" pitch individuals will soon spot if a sharpening vibrato is causing intonation problems in a fine ensemble. But I think I had a point in thinking that quite wayward intonation can go undetected in many day-to-day applications.

I don't have particularly perfect pitch, and I am glad, because, taken to extreme, this gift is a mixed blessing in a world of transposing instruments and world-wide variations in concert pitch.

July 16, 2010 at 02:32 PM ·

Thank you, David, I see what you mean, now.

gc


July 16, 2010 at 02:36 PM ·

 Phew, what a relief !

July 16, 2010 at 03:32 PM ·

Gene Wie
Posted on July 16, 2010 at 09:41 AM

"Peter, If you want to stop commenting or stop visiting the site, then by all means do so. I'm sure the rest of the board doesn't enjoy being told that their facts are "rubbish," that they are "cuckoo," and that you think it's okay to shout down ideas that don't conform to your own beliefs."

I may be wrong but I don't neccisariy (spelling?) think other people on this messagboard are objecting to anything much, APART FROM YOU, and you appear to be wanting to make a point, to the point of it becomong SOOOOOOOOOOOO boring. It reminds me o f the odd person who I sometimes think needs to get a life, but I expect in your case you have a life.

Its a pity that when people posting on messasgeboards come accross people like you, they inevitably think "what's the point, when we have to put up with someone like this."

Maybe YOU are the one who should stop posting.

 

 

 

July 16, 2010 at 03:52 PM ·

To add to my previous post, having looked at your website I see you play lots of instruments AND conduct!!

Jack of all trades and master of none?

I only ask...

July 16, 2010 at 04:53 PM ·

After reading David and Graham's recent comments, I'm even more aware of how much sound and tone is lost when listening to a player (live, or on a recording) using vibrato, compared to what the player hears during live playing. When I recorded those short vibrato samples earlier in the thread, I thought my "sharp" vibrato would be really noticeable (I thought this while I was recording it). However, it sounded less sharp and strident when I listened to the recording afterwards.  

July 16, 2010 at 05:32 PM ·

Jim,

Because you began your vibrato examples with open strings the second in each group does sound too sharp, to me anyway. But just suppose you used the under/over vibrato on lots of notes, avoiding open strings, they could all be sounding sharp yet still "in tune with each other". A listener's ear could adjust to the prevailing pitch and there's be no complaints. That's what I am getting at.

July 16, 2010 at 06:39 PM ·

David Beck : "Because you began your vibrato examples with open strings the second in each group does sound too sharp, to me anyway. But just suppose you used the under/over vibrato on lots of notes, avoiding open strings, they could all be sounding sharp yet still "in tune with each other". A listener's ear could adjust to the prevailing pitch and there's be no complaints. That's what I am getting at."

@David Beck : I see what you mean now. Good Point :)

July 16, 2010 at 07:44 PM ·

Nate, you wrote, "So according to your theory, vibrating downwards would then also make the note go flat as well, wouldn't it? "

No. The whole point of this is that our aural perception uses the top of the wobble range as the perceived pitch, not th ebottom.

gc

July 16, 2010 at 07:50 PM ·

I understand the point you're making David, that it will sound collectively in tune providing the top of the vibrato is the same for all players, even if it means that all notes are sharp relative to the open strings. 

You've already mentioned the problem that you need to avoid open string, as they would sound flat in relation to the general pitch. Would another problem arise every time players vary the width of the vibrato, or play senza vibrato? If their practice was to vibrate around the note, I would have thought that the affect would be that the pitch centre would constantly be changing.

I believe in practice, most advanced players (or any players with a good sense of hearing), naturally vibrato below the note, whether they realize it or not. 

July 16, 2010 at 08:18 PM ·

Maybe this is an experiment worth doing, with some questions.

Play D in third position on the E string for 3 bars non vibrato (at say a steady 3/4 time) and then for another 3 bars adding a healthy vibrato.

Does the pitch change?

Now the other way, 3 bars with vibrato, and then suddenly senza vib. Does the pitch change?

Answers on a post card please ...

July 16, 2010 at 08:41 PM ·

 Is that vibratoing your way Peter, or my way!! If in the former case, I would say yes, it most certainly would change (or at least the effect of what is the pitch to the human ear).

I should just point out the obvious to you Peter at this point, vibrato on the violin results in a change of pitch, that's generally what vibrato does. I don't think anyone who's posted so far would dispute this fact. What we are discussing is whether to vibrate below the pitch or around it. 

July 16, 2010 at 09:40 PM ·

Well, I've really enjoyed this discussion - a lot of good input from you all. Just in case things get too serious round here :) :), here's something I did elsewhere, to show "creative" intonation and extreme vibrato - but just as much for fun also. Cringe and enjoy :)

http://www.worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/file2069.mp3

July 16, 2010 at 10:31 PM ·

> So according to your theory, vibrating downwards would then
> also make the note go flat as well, wouldn't it?

Obviously. Vibrato is an oscillation in the frequency, and in this case the pitch goes downwards (flatter). However, as gc and I have pointed out repeatedly, the human ear perceives the highest point of vibration as the frequency (or pitch) of the note. Peter's original test, fingering/vibrating a D on the G string against the open D, is an excellent example.

> Actually it does make the pitch go out of tune to
> 'vibrate' under the 'real' note as well. 

> Does the pitch change?

The pitch does change, but this particular assertion is irrelevant. By definition, vibrato is an oscillation (repeated variation over an interval) in pitch (frequency). The perception that a vibrated note is out of tune really only comes when it is vibrated above the desired note, for the reasons we've repeated tenfold over this discussion.

> Jack of all trades and master of none? I only ask...

Peter, your juvenile name-calling only serves to reinforce just how poorly you understand the subject matter. If the only thing you can do to defend your stance is to attack me, then you really don't have any facts to back you up. What frustrates me is that rather than making a genuine effort to discuss things in a rational manner, you've decided to make things personal.

It is my hope that no student reads this forum and attempts to take your flawed claims about vibrato to heart. That poor kid is going to end up playing horrendously out of tune, and that will be your legacy.

 

July 16, 2010 at 11:46 PM ·

Why don't guitar players or opera singers vibrate down only?

July 17, 2010 at 01:55 AM ·

If I understand what I've read here, there are several concepts being put forth:

 One is that vibrato is a pitch oscillation in which the tone of the note you are playing is enhanced, made richer or more resonant,  by moving the finger backwards below the pitch and  back up to the pitch. If done at a fast enough speed, the listener hears the original pitch as the central pitch in this vibrato cycle. I am adding the following:  The finger pad/tip can do this because either the hand/wrist or arm is used to roll the finger ( not slide) on its cushion back and forth to achieve this pitch oscillation.

  The second concept I am given to understand is in conflict with this first concept because it posits that the pitch variation occurs both above and below the note so that it is the center of the note that is heard with the vibrato, or pitch oscillation occurring on either side of the note.

  The third concept is that there is a finger impulse that is not so much a pitch oscillation as a pulsing that occurs in the fingertip or pad and creates a pulse of intensity or throbbing without changing the pitch.

 Is there a fourth or fifth concept I have failed to note or understand?

And finally, a question: What do you call the sound of moving your  third finger back and forth on the D string  around the note G while your bow plays only the open G string. Is this not considered a vibrato on an open string?   But is it a pitch oscillation?

July 17, 2010 at 02:55 AM ·

 "What do you call the sound of moving your  third finger back and forth on the D string  around the note G while your bow plays only the open G string. Is this not considered a vibrato on an open string?   But is it a pitch oscillation?"

Surely this must be a variation in volume. When the vibrating finger hits the frequency if the octave above the open G, it draws energy from the octave harmonic within the G string sound and resonates, reinforcing the sound of the open G. At other parts of the cycle, the resonance decreases. I think that must be what goes on. I don't know of any fancy name for this.

"The finger pad/tip can do this because .."

Early on in the thread I wondered if the rolling finger tip could make the top-end of a vibrato sound clearer, because the less fleshy part of the finger-tip was then in contact with the string. But I now think it's simply that, as gc wrote, the ear latches on to the upper pitch - I got my fiddle out and tried it. However, I don't play much now, and the finger-tips are not as tough as once they were.

"Why don't guitar players or opera singers vibrate down only?"

They don't know any better, I imagine ! Seriously, the guitarist cannot bend the note below the pitch established by the fret - he/she can go upwards only. Solo singers presumably have an assertiveness agenda - and back in history violinists have been expected to imitate the singing voice - Cantabile ! Bingo !

Actually, Didn't some popular crooners of yesteryear pitch below the note and then vibrate ? It would seem like a mannerism, scooping up. They called one of them, who shall be nameless, "The Old Groaner".

July 17, 2010 at 05:08 AM ·

The original question was about the difference between vibrato and trills.

One thing has not been mentioned yet: in vibrato, momentaneous pitch varies continuously, whereas in trills the change is discontinuous. Perhaps that helps to explain the difference in perception. (and, of course, the pitch variation of a trill is larger, but that has been said already.)

July 17, 2010 at 05:19 AM ·

> Jack of all trades and master of none? I only ask...

"Peter, your juvenile name-calling only serves to reinforce just how poorly you understand the subject matter. If the only thing you can do to defend your stance is to attack me, then you really don't have any facts to back you up. What frustrates me is that rather than making a genuine effort to discuss things in a rational manner, you've decided to make things personal.

It is my hope that no student reads this forum and attempts to take your flawed claims about vibrato to heart. That poor kid is going to end up playing horrendously out of tune, and that will be your legacy."

I have a feeling that making things personal was started by you.

I'm just pleased that I never had the misfortune to have been a student taught by you! The world may be overflowing with students who have been taught things by you which they must surely live to regret!!

I'm always pleased to have rational discussions/arguments with with people who are rational, and I seem to succeed on other threads and with many people.

But with you I've drawn a complete blank, Maybe because you think you are the only expert on this forum. And yes, very occasionally one comes accross situations like this in professional life, but usually these people get ignored or become an object of amusement. You should chill out a little and stop taking yourself so seriously. You never know, you might learn something!!

 

July 17, 2010 at 05:22 AM ·

To execute trills properly, we are taught to resolve the trill to the written note (the lower one) before moving onto the next pitch. As trills often feature in a cadence that resolves to the tonic key of the composition, the written note of that trill is very prominent harmonically, so much that our ears accustomed to hearing tonal harmony "lock" it in there.

For example, in Mozart G Major Concerto No. 3, in the first movement right before the cadenza (this is the measure before letter M in the free part available on IMSLP): the written trill on A (to B) is underscored by the orchestra which is in D Major (eighth notes in the viola and cello/bass), so the sound of the lower note of the trill on the dominant (A) of D Major is quite prominent before the cadence resolves to the tonic of G Major on the downbeat of the next major.

So in short, we hear the bottom note of the trill more because it is the primary note of that musical effect.

July 17, 2010 at 05:27 AM ·

I actually understood what Gene said there and I'm so happy that I'm going to go grab my violin and do a celebratorial trill!

July 17, 2010 at 05:40 AM ·

> The world may be overflowing with students who have been
> taught things by you which they must surely live to regret!!

Peter, it's one thing for you to go and attack me just because you're hurt and upset that I don't accept your incoherent ranting and raving at face value, but is it really necessary for your to attack my kids?

> Maybe because you think you are the only expert on this forum. 

No, there are many experts that frequent violinist.com, including a lot of friends and colleagues. By virtue of your continued inability to have any rational discourse on a subject on which the major controversy in this thread *you* instigated, you've clearly demonstrated you are NOT one yourself.

> You should chill out a little and stop taking yourself so seriously.

So that you can convince kids to screw up their technique and play out of tune?

No.

July 17, 2010 at 05:45 AM ·

GW

Please stop these silly comments as I'm getting a terrible pain in my side from uncontrollable laughter.

I'll have to go and have a stiff drink to bring me back to reality!!

Cheerio and best wishes, and good luck in your impossible quest for good fiddle playing.

July 17, 2010 at 06:10 AM ·

Peter, would it be a logical assumption to say that you view the opinions of, say Galamian, Flesch, Sassmannshaus, Delay, Fischer as rubbish, dodgy theory, over complicated, unbelievable and flawed? It’s fine for you to have that opinion, but I just wanted to be sure.

 

July 17, 2010 at 06:17 AM ·

 Gene,

"So in short, we hear the bottom note of the trill more because it is the primary note of that musical effect."

A few posts back I wrote "As to trills, the lower note is nearly always the "harmony" note, reinforced by the accompaniment....", so it seems that we are in agreement.

July 17, 2010 at 06:22 AM ·

David,

I said pretty much the same thing in an infinately more roundabout way, so I agree too! :oP

Gene, I have enjoyed your comments, thanks :o)

July 17, 2010 at 06:25 AM ·

Neil

Galamian, Flesch, Sassmannshaus, Delay, Fischer.

No, I would not consider their veiws as rubbish, why should I? I have little knowledge of some of them, but I studied with a Flesch pupil.

Fischer, do you mean Julia? I certainly admire her playing and musicianship.

Peoples' views on vibrato are interesting and I like to consider them all. In the end one has to make a choice somewhere, and my choices do not coincide with you know who. That's not to say I couldn't be persuaded by a more considered dialogue. But that is obviously not posible.

Can you explain more?

July 17, 2010 at 06:30 AM ·

Gene and Lisa,

However, if in the comfort of my own home I play random trills, devoid of any accompanying piano, orchestra, massed choir, brass band, imaginary or otherwise (no phantom conductor either, not even a bathroom), I hear the upper note as more prominent, and wonder if I am alone in this. Advancing senility might be to blame.

July 17, 2010 at 06:35 AM ·

lol! I don't think so! Maybe it's a personal thing, or a matter of taste. I think each of us may even accent what we want to accent, based on our perceptions. I may just pay closer attention now and start doing the opposite!

I will put your theory to the test and go into my cavernous bathroom and see what happens (I mean, with my violin, to play trills)!

July 17, 2010 at 06:36 AM ·

Nate, sorry, I was taking the word "pitch" to mean perceived pitch, rather than a given frequency.

Yes, the wobble takes the frequency of the note below the intended intonation frequency, but the percepton of the pitch is the top frequency of the wobble range. In a pure 100% "impulse" vibrato this would not happen, but I think in practice we tend to use a combination of wobble ane impulse, apart from Ronald's example of open string vibrato.

That is a pure impulse type vibrato, with the impulses coming from the resonances of the unplayed octave coming in and out of tune with the overtones of the played open string, and soaking up energy from the overtones when in tune, while leaving all the energy in the lower string when not. (I think that is the right way round - it is odd because it is counter-intuitive:  yoo would expect the reinforcement to come when it is in tune, but that is precisely when the fingered string absorbs energy)

gc

July 17, 2010 at 06:41 AM ·

Sorry, I meant Simon Fischer. Basically I was listing famous violin teaches who asserted that the human ear picks out the top of the vibrato as the note, and one should therefore vibrato below the note, not above.

Therefore, logically, does it not follow that you see their views, in relation to vibrato at least, as rubbish, dodgy theory, over complicated, unbelievable and flawed? As I say, it’s perfectly ok if you do, I’m not criticising you, but I think it would be interesting  to establish where you stand. 

July 17, 2010 at 06:50 AM ·

Neil

I think you may be complicating things. At least for my much reduced brain activity.

I just look on it as playing the note in tune and adding vibrato. Simple really.

And I rarely if ever do I think Simon Fischers comments are rubbish. (In fact I did know him very slightly and have worked with him at times many years ago).

In the end I think this whole thread has become extremely over-complicated and one person at least has let it become an obscession.

Best to leave it at that, and move on.

July 17, 2010 at 07:21 AM ·

Peter : "In the end I think this whole thread has become extremely over-complicated and one person at least has let it become an obscession."

 ... but it's a very complicated subject (vibrato, trills, and the psychology in hearing them), and very interesting too! My summary is that I (primarily) hear the uppermost note in vibrato, I always execute on and below the note, never above, because to me, sharp sounds bad, esp against an open string of the same note. I might be a little bit different from a lot of people on v.com in that I never play with other melody instruments (playing the same melody line), so my notes are always in a little space by themselves, thus I might view the sound differently from someone who regularly plays in a quartet or orchestra.

On trills, I primarily hear the lower note of the pair, if it's a semitone or tone interval. If the interval is increased to a major third or above, then it's the upper note I hear the most, as in the very first audio clip I recorded and put up here.

July 17, 2010 at 07:41 AM ·

Jim, yup, same here!

July 17, 2010 at 07:56 AM ·

JIm

I agree about the trills, the lower note is the one.

July 17, 2010 at 08:21 AM ·

 "Why don't guitar players or opera singers vibrate down only?"

 

-Well trained singers DO go down then back up.  That's standard pedagogy & has been for hundreds of years.  You sort of "bounce" the note off of the air in your thorax.  

 If one were to go up then down, besides throwing off the perceived pitch, it would tighten the larynx & support muscles, which would kill the voice in short order.

Not inconsquentially, I became a better singer once I started learning violin vibrato.  I also became a better voice teacher.

July 17, 2010 at 11:13 AM ·

Peter replied: I think you may be complicating things. At least for my much reduced brain activity.

 

Thanks for your reply Peter to my perhaps rhetorical question. Although you didn’t answer the question litterally, you sort of confirmed what I suspected, so thanks for that.

I think the notion of what we are discussing here in relation to vibrato is very simple, although I agree with Jim in that the psychology of how we hear things is probably much more complicated. I’ve noticed that there seems to be two types of musicians around (not just here) - ones who are very analytical and like to know exactly how things work, and ones who act more on intuition alone and are not overly interested in or understand the intricacies of technical detail. I know top players from both categories. Might you belong to the second category Peter? Of course correct me if I’m wrong. Personally I enjoy these technical discussions, and have learnt a lot. There seems to be quite a few brainy people on violinist.com!

 

July 17, 2010 at 11:24 AM ·

Neil

I'm not really in either camp. I do go in for the details and intellectual ideas quite often, and have been reading and acting on the Ricci book on glissando.

I do also believe in instinct - as in the end we have to play - and use what we've got in that way.

I think its dangerous to be too dogmatic, and I like to take on all these ideas, many of course which I may come to reject. I'm open to ideas, its just that we can get too bogged down sometimes.

People sometimes get their knickers in a twist over silly things, as we have recently witnessed on this thread. In the end you can either do it or you can't.

July 17, 2010 at 11:36 AM ·

After all these posts, the ORIGINAL question from Graham Clark hasn't been answered, bogged down as we have been by arguments as to whether his claims as to the perception of pitch are at all valid, and whether we are being stigmatised for making our vibrato incorrectly.

Is it physiological, within the mechanism of the ear, or to do with brain function - and to what extent, one might ask, is such response affected by teaching ? Come, feel the bumps on my head.

July 17, 2010 at 11:44 AM ·

OK David, start answering your own questions!! I'm afraid it's beyond me , I can't.

Good points though. (My brain definitely does not function ...)

July 17, 2010 at 11:46 AM ·

"I think its dangerous to be too dogmatic, and I like to take on all these ideas"

 

I couldn't agree with you more Peter. I suspect someone has hacked into your account on July 13th, pretending to be you - I'd change your password if I were you! Only teasing by the way!

July 17, 2010 at 11:55 AM ·

David, Actually a few of us have been talking about vibrate AND trills, but we seem to go completely unnoticed because the "vibrato debate". You just didn't notice it.

July 17, 2010 at 12:50 PM ·

Neil, that often happens, many idiots hack into my online accounts, and some of them are conductors, or violin/clarinet teachers with sensitive pupils.

Liz Fogler. You may not have noticed but many of us have agreed about the thrill of trills. It's the vibrato question that gets their knickers twisted.

July 17, 2010 at 01:24 PM ·

 Lisa,

As Peter observes, we have settled trills . See my post of July 15th. and Gene on the 17th.

It's the perception of the pitch of vibrato that's more controversial, and this will remain so as long as there are fiddlers out there playing sharp relative to the accompaniment, as many persist in doing. 

July 17, 2010 at 01:40 PM ·

July 17, 2010 at 01:48 PM ·

David said : "It's the perception of the pitch of vibrato that's more controversial, and this will remain so as long as there are fiddlers out there playing sharp relative to the accompaniment, as many persist in doing. "

It sure is controversial. I'm wondering whether the perception differs for fiddlers (meaning Scots and Irish trad players, and generally speaking, non-classical-ers). Many of these simply *hate* vibrato of any sort, good or bad, no matter who is using it. "You either play the note properly or you don't. Don't f*** with it!" is quite a common complaint. Now, that's a perfectly valid point of view, and to me that's *all* about perception. Totally different from mine, but it's there all the same. More to think about :)

 

July 17, 2010 at 02:24 PM ·

Hey David, I was just responding right after your post earlier today (20 minutes after you posted it), "After all these posts, the ORIGINAL question from Graham Clark hasn't been answered". So why are you telling me to go back and look at previous posts? You just said that today! lol! I was disagreeing with that post.

Then after Peter posts, which he is right about btw, you respond to me "As Peter observes, we have settled trills . See my post of July 15th. and Gene on the 17th." Then why did you just say that it wasn't settled?

A Thousand apologies to you and your team.

July 18, 2010 at 02:56 AM ·

Most accept that the upper limit in a vibrato is understood by our ears or brains to be the "Pitch", rather then the mean point of the oscillation.  It's WHY that should be the case that's not settled. "Trills" seem to be an easily explained exception to what looks to be a general principle.

Could audiologists, psychologists, shrinks, neurosurgeons and phrenologists get together and explain ? Bats in a laboratory ? Easier just to accept the situation, but Graham Clark DID ask.

July 18, 2010 at 05:47 AM ·

... shrugs her shoulders...

 

Jim, yes I've noticed that too. Some fiddlers feel very strongly about that! While I agree about being able to play a "pure" note (as pure as us imperfect humans can), I don't see why they hate vibrato so strongly. There's got to be a middle ground. I play in a symphony orchestra and I can say that quite often we play certain passages without vibrato at the request of the Conductor. But, to cut it completely out and treat it like it is a bad thing to do, that I don't understand.

July 18, 2010 at 07:28 AM ·

David said : ""Trills seem to be an easily explained exception to what looks to be a general principle."

Are you hearing the upper note as the main note in the wide trill, and the lower note as the main note in the narrow trill? Here's the sample again : wide trill, narrow trill, wide trill, narrow trill -

 htttp://www.worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/trills-01.mp3

True, we still don't have an answer to Graham's the original question on pitch. I'm really not sure we'll find one - but I think it's in the category of conditioned responses to musical sounds, if that makes sense :)

 

July 18, 2010 at 08:12 AM ·

Lisa : "Jim, yes I've noticed that too. Some fiddlers feel very strongly about that! While I agree about being able to play a "pure" note (as pure as us imperfect humans can), I don't see why they hate vibrato so strongly. There's got to be a middle ground. I play in a symphony orchestra and I can say that quite often we play certain passages without vibrato at the request of the Conductor. But, to cut it completely out and treat it like it is a bad thing to do, that I don't understand."

Another conditioned response, I'm guessing. Much in the same way that some "western" ears cringe at the sound of microtones in Indian music (although I think this system is a lot stricter on intonation than western music is). You know, I smile when I hear a fiddle player comlain about vibrato. Quite often these guys are playing in sessions / jams with other melody instruments like whistle, which because of its temperament is almost always sharp, esp on the higher notes. That makes me wince. Perception, perception. :)

 

July 18, 2010 at 08:18 AM ·

>  A few posts back I wrote "As to trills, the lower note is
> nearly always the "harmony" note, reinforced by the
> accompaniment....", so it seems that we are in agreement.

Yes! David, I'd even go further with that definition to include that we hear trills in that way because we are trained (conditioned) about the harmonic context in which that trilled note is played.

I guess if someone heard a perfectly even trill with two notes and no harmonic background on which to compare it to, and had no prior experience with tonal harmony, that person might acknowledge that the two pitches sound equally with the exception that one is higher (that in itself already creates a choice). However, as we don't hear the elements of music in a vacuum, we gravitate towards certain standards as a result of our prior experience. For example, some of us find music that isn't based on a equally tempered twelve-tone scale to be rather exotic sounding with all those "out of tune notes," while people from that culture don't even give it a second thought...it's as a normal as their everyday language.

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