No one person can claim to know everything about vibrato. Vibrato has fascinated the most famous musicians for centuries. It is a profoundly personal ability, and is what gives the player the same distinction as the voice does to the speaker.
I disagree with the idea expressed elsewhere, that there is no 'wrist' vibrato. Too many eminent teachers have contradicted this in the past, by teaching and writing about 'finger', 'wrist', and 'arm' vibrato.
I also disagree with the idea that purely natural vibrato is never any good; that it must be taught.
The number of times I have personally been congratulated on my "beautiful" vibrato outnumbers all other favourable comments regarding my playing (whether a good or bad thing!), and I can safely say, that my vibrato was entirely self-taught, albeit it with the help of the writings of many famous teachers. Six months after starting violin lessons I achieved ABRSM GRADE IV (WITH MERIT). Written on the examiner's report are the words "Franck possesses the most delightful vibrato".
Later, I learned from my teacher, the eminent Hungarian violinist Nicholas Roth, how to teach vibrato to a pupil within 15 minutes, and always guarantee success. I shall not disclose this method here, but pupils of mine have all managed to develop an almost instant vibrato technique as a result, which remains with them always. Furthermore, this seems to be easier to grasp than most aspects of technique, provided the pupil is able to relax (that seems to be the main hurdle!). Too many methods actually teach, without realizing that vibrato is that most elusive of skills, instead of focussing on other
Whether or not players choose to play with 'continuous' vibrato, or not, depends on their own personal ways of expressing their music, unless they have been directed to play without vibrato. While vibrato definitely can be an aid to excellent intonation, I agree that this should be achievable without vibrato. Vibrato is meant to enhance one's sound, and not correct errors. Adjustment of pitch using vibrato doesn't fool many listeners into thinking that you have a fabulous sense of pitch.
About three years before his retirement, I listened to the virtuoso Aaron Rosand talk about vibrato during a radio broadcast BBC Radio 4. I have always admired Rosand's particular sound, and fascinated by what he had to say. He was of the opinion that the use of the shoulder rest is injurious to one's vibrato, because it causes the player to approach the strings with fingers set almost at a right angle to them. When playing without a shoulder rest, the fingers tend to point down the fingerboard towards the bridge. The resulting sound after his advice is quite different, and much improved. Try it for yourself! Unfortunately, I will never get used to playing without a shoulder rest. I cannot position the instrument securely, and without severe pain unless I use a shoulder rest. However, I have experimented and found to my astonishment, that when I recorded what I played onto mini disc, my sound (without shoulder rest) proved remarkably similar to that of Rosand's (even if my instrument's tone was different from his Guarneri's). The quality of one's vibrato varies according to one's health. It doesn't matter how satisfied you may be with your own vibrato, there are times when, however well you think you played, you may be dismayed by what you hear if it is played back to you.
Throughout my full-time playing career, I have never received unfavourable comments about my vibrato. The only time I did, was while I was studying violin at college. The pupil who expressed that she "...hate the sound of your[= my] vibrato", as it turned out, had always wanted to be able to produce a good vibrato, but never could. In her mid-twenties, she gave up playing altogether. Some pupils from my college days now play with a completely different style of vibrato from that taught to them, and today play beautifully, even though I would not necessarily advocate their methods myself.
To insist on one style of vibrato over all others is rather like insisting on a particular fingering. What suits one person may not suit another. A good teacher will bear such things in mind.
By 'health' I also mean 'well-being' in the sense that one's playing is influenced by one's mood, as well as by other musicians who happen to be present at the time. If they are difficult to get on with, this will almost certainly reflect in your playing (I'm sure everyone knows this). Tone is one thing, but personal vibrato is what truly sets you apart from others. Technique and tone do not.
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.