November 19, 2012 at 06:33 PM · Heyyy! As an amateur, I would always look up to those experts, and one particular technique caught my eye; vibrato. I have a lot of questions about vibrato and I would strongly appreciate responses.

Are there any easy ways to learn vibrato?

If so, how?

How can I practice vibrato?

What are some errors I should look forward to.

Lastly, how long will it take me to master vibrato?

I have an upcoming concert this December and would really love to try out vibrato.


-Gian ;D

Replies (23)

November 19, 2012 at 06:42 PM · People have very different rates at which they learn vibrato. My students are all over the map--some get it easily, some struggle for years. Much has to do with the desire to emulate and produce a certain kind of sound.

I probably teach it much like many others:

1. start in 3rd position, using wrist as a hinge against the instrument. Fingers are dragged backwards (pitch lowers from the note).

2. Number of repetitions is like weight lifting--don't just do any random number of reps, but deliberate, from fewer and slower to more and faster.

3. Practice different finger patterns in 3rd position (in other words, half-step between different fingers).

4. Practice carrying the motion between fingers.

If a student doesn't make progress with the wrist as the hinge, I go to an arm vibrato, which works much better for some.

Problems to watch out for:

-"Squeeze and shake"--you can't have tension in the hand. Maintain control.

-Fingers not rolling backwards in the direction of the strings, but across (kind of like a guitarist would do). This is less efficient

November 19, 2012 at 10:30 PM · Remember. Don't overdo vibrato. The music should come from the notes and from the bow. Vibrato is often used to hide poor intonation or bow control.

November 20, 2012 at 12:50 PM · Thanks Guys! :D

November 21, 2012 at 01:15 PM · So I just tried doing it with my 1st and 2nd finger and I sorta was shaking my whole instrument rather than rolling my finger tips on the fingerboard. Is it a good start tho? Does anyone happen to have any resources on the web that really helps?

November 21, 2012 at 02:03 PM · You need to start with establishing the flexibility in the finger joints. Whatever you're doing with the rest of your arm, whether you're doing arm or wrist vibrato, none of that will transmit to the strings if the point of contact- the fingers- are not doing what they need to do & that's be loose.

the vibrato exercises in Simon Fischer's Basics are pretty much the same as what my teacher does.

November 22, 2012 at 01:56 AM · Put your violin scrool against a wall and do your finger exercices on the finger board. That way, you'll learn to move without making the violin move. You're vibrato will have it's optimal effect : )

November 22, 2012 at 05:57 PM · Hey Anne! I really appreciate the tip, what exercises would you recommend tho? ANd what kind of vibrato do you think would be best for 'rookies' like me? :D


November 22, 2012 at 05:58 PM · Christina, by any chance do you have a link to the book you're referring too?


November 22, 2012 at 06:01 PM · John, by holding the right hand with the left wrist do you mean I grab my wrist as I do the exercise. Sorry I'm so illiterate :P.


November 22, 2012 at 06:02 PM · Oh and Happy Thanks Giving everyone! Have a blast with family, friends, and turkey ofcourse. :D


November 23, 2012 at 04:03 PM · click on Basics at Simon Fischer's website (UK based)


at Amazon

November 23, 2012 at 07:04 PM · Gian, thanks it's my pleasure :)

My teacher had me do the classical finger tip trick where while going really slowly with a bow stroke, you play a note, roll the finger tip towards the scrool to lower a bit the pitch, roll it back to go back to the pitch and so on...

On the pitch, lower, on the pitch, lower, on the pitch, lower... until you die (well...)

Never go higher than the pitch, experts tell that is bad and sounds out of tune.

I learned the wrist vibrato which is the easiest or first teaught usually (I think)

I really like it and dislike the arm vibrato sound which I often find goaty (but that is a personal choice. Some great players do only one or a combination of both...)

I also did a lot of listening. I highly recommand Itzhak Perlman's recordings because his vibrato is really beautiful, musical wide and obvious. I sure know that us mortals can't do as well but... we can improve so much by listening to the greats!

My teacher told me that vibrato is one of the most controversial and mysterious techniques of the violin playing. Many books have tried to explain it but, because we are all different in our hands, no one does exactly the same...

November 24, 2012 at 12:38 AM · actually I heard from several very competent sides that the pitch should be in the middle, as it is with singers. The amplitude should go up and down There is an awesome Cellist from an well known String Quartet, who did some research on that with slow motion analyses of Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and others. He put the videos in a sort of online blog. You can find the videos here:

I believe that for violinists its better to develope an wrist vibrato with soft fingers. Unfortunately I have a quite stiff arm vibrato so this topic will go into my practicing too.

November 24, 2012 at 08:39 AM · I have always been led to believe that in an auditory oscillation such that a sine function is given to possess a period of 1/6 to 1/8 of a second, the human ear perceives maxima as the given pitch. This is consistent with the teachings of Ivan Galamian, Josef Gingold and Efrem Zimbalist. Until someone can show me an irrefutable contradiction in terms of sound physics and the physiology of the human ear, I'm going to keep trusting these guys.

November 24, 2012 at 12:04 PM · Yes, I know, that many teachers say its the top wich is heard. But first of all, is it really a sinus curve?

I am not a believer in any of those theories, but I must admit, that the one of Galamian, Gingold and others (Simon Fischer too as far as I know) is put into question after analysing singers vibrato. Not that I like all the singers vibrato, but still it shows that there is more room than just the fixed rule to vibrate below the pitch.

As I said, the advice to think about that always came to me from very good musicians, wich had a nice sound and vibrato...

November 24, 2012 at 09:26 PM · Y'all are a big help. Thaanks Erryone!

November 24, 2012 at 10:37 PM · Vibrato is a function of the sine/cosine variety, I just picked sine as an example for visualization purposes but I could have easily gone with cosine as well. Personally I'd rather NOT vibrato the way most singers do. I find it aesthetically displeasing from a string player's standpoint, and out of curiosity, I decided to call up a friend of mine in the physics department who is also a violinist himself. He claimed that the ear tends to choose the upper of two or more tones to focus on (at velocities of oscillation such as those in vibrato), assuming that values of c-sub intervals on the domain represent even divisions of the axis between the upper and lower limits. The violin spends more time resonating the top pitch in an oscillating sequence than it does any other pitch, because throughout the range of the function the finger is dampening the lower pitches through every period of the function. The more in-tune the top pitch is, the more it will resonate and the identity of the lower-most pitch in the range contributes very little by comparison except for overtones.

I'm not doubting that there are excellent players with wonderful sound who advocating placing the target pitch in the middle, but I think it's possible that even they are favoring the upper range without realizing it. The anatomy of a finger naturally lends itself to this unless you play with the fingernail perfectly parallel to the string, which as far as I know is mostly a cello thing.

November 25, 2012 at 12:07 AM · all this theory is good, but neither side has any real prove. So i would say lets stick to the ear and test out, what works best for someone. I personally dislike a vibrato going under pitch, especially if its also slow and wide. If a player has this as its "common" vibrato its not a good habit to my ears.

Also vibrato is an expressive tool and there may be places where vibrating over the pitch might indeed be inapropriate. Just because some say I will not limit myself or take away what sounds better to me.

Vibrato is anyways connected to intonation, wich of course is an quite speculative and relative matter too. For example the "expressive" intonation with high and low leading notes is something one can use just very rarely and with care.

What is actually somehow true is, that the feeling of vibrato should be an relaxation towards the scroll, down the fingerboard, instead too much over the fingertip in direction of the fingernail. But on the other hand also this movement can be necessary in some places and should not be negated.

November 25, 2012 at 03:20 AM · This is very interesting. Michael, you may already be familiar with studies, but here are two that place the perceived pitch as the mean. I don't have a dog in this fight in any case, although I am partial to the idea of it being the mean from my intuitive sense. Whether the finger spends more time closer to the higher pitch is not something I would be very informed on, though approximating the vibrato as a sine wave (As seems to be a fairly standard practice) would seem to indicate against that.

Pitch center of stringed instrument vibrato tones


Perception-based control of vibrato parameters in string instrument synthesis

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on these if you disagree. The question is by no means settled.

November 25, 2012 at 11:19 AM · Thank you Christian, those are very interesting studies. Just to clarify, I did not mean to suggest that the finger itself spends more time at the upper pitch of the range than the rest. The physicist that I spoke with suggested that the violin resonates more at the upper pitch because it is the only pitch in the range that isn't dampened by the progression of the vibrato motion. Therefore, the sine comparison still applies since it is (or should be) the intent of the player that the vibrato motion be as even and uniform as possible.

After reading those studies I think it's very likely that the part of the motion that contains the perceived pitch is subject to variance depending on the speed of the vibrato.

November 25, 2012 at 10:57 PM · I'll have to see if my physics is with me enough to meaningfully comment. I would think that damping isn't really a factor, because as far as the string goes, it is being supplied a constant source of energy from the bow. The string length is changing constantly, based on the movement of the finger. As you say, the decay of the higher frequency should not be affected by the string lengthening, but I would expect the string shortening to have such an effect.

However, though I would expect damping to play a role if the energy into the system were not in constant supply, because the bow is providing energy, I would think that intensity of decaying sound on the higher frequency tones would be orders of magnitude lower than the intensity from the bow. I would imagine that this effect could be present for vibrato on a pizzicato.

I have no idea if my take is right, but it's been an interesting thought experiment.

And John, I imagine that audiences won't claim that a performance is out of tune. I think that non-musicians probably have a much wider range for acceptable intonation. I think that listening to a certain instrument becomes kind of entrained for musicians, so that they have a more focused idea of being in tune, as well as being better at recognizing and picking out their instrument from a chamber or orchestral ensemble. I think it is a big part of why we tend to listen to music featuring our own instruments more than others. I think that the timbre and range picks up a greater emotional association as well. This, of course, is all my own opinion.

December 3, 2012 at 12:15 PM · Hey Guys! So I tried doing vibrato with all the great tips in mind. But I seem to strain my hand as I try to move back and forth in playing position and I seem to have rather a slow motion glissando rather than vibrato. help?

December 5, 2012 at 02:18 AM · When trying to develop a wrist vibrato, something that has helped me more than anything else, is to concentrate on rolling the finger

down note toward the scroll. Backward, instead of forward. The forward movement will become almost automatic after a while

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide


Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine