Vibrato - Rolling or Flattening Finger

December 14, 2016 at 02:10 AM · I'm working on my vibrato. This video talks about ROLLING the finger on the fingerboard to create the wrist vibrato.

(please watch at 6:43min mark)

I've heard that another method is to bend and FLATTEN the finger for correct vibrato.

I do find this rolling method easier, especially when i bend my left elbow more inwardly to my body.

Which is correct? Or both are acceptable, depending on personal preferences? ROLLING is for wrist vibrato and FLATTENING is for arm vibrato?

Replies (22)

December 14, 2016 at 02:40 AM · I am no expert for giving advice, but I never seen any vibrato instruction that was clear about the actual motion. I don't think that it is one or the other but a combination of both in varying degree depending on the finger used. Unless the fingers are directly parallel to the string (which is physically impossible), "flattening only" would produce less of a tonal change as the angle of the finger to the string increases and the size of the finger decreases. As I see it, the degree of rolling (i.e. side motion parallel to the string) increases as the fingers are more at an angle to the string (e.g. 4th finger). As you roll the finger, it also flattens as typically seen sideways from the finger. This view often shown in instruction videos I think is deceiving as it hides the rolling motion that must occur at the same time.

December 14, 2016 at 05:36 AM · I don't particularly like this portion of the tutorial, because the person demonstrating doesn't consistently return to the same pitch after rolling away.

December 14, 2016 at 06:10 AM · For some reason it helped me to hear the purpose of the vibrato desribed as 'flattening the note' by my instructor. I know that doesn't specifically relate to the mechanics of the vibrato, but for me I think it helps to remember it's purpose. Does the method used to achieve the purpose really matter that much?

December 14, 2016 at 01:17 PM · I was taught that the finger rolls back and forth from the tip (on pitch) to the pad (under pitch). I don't see how you can do that if your last knuckle is not bending at all. The impulse to accomplish this rolling back can come from wrist, elbow, or a combination of the two. I'm sorry to say that vibrato is one of those aspects of violin playing that one really cannot learn properly without a guru. The movements are very subtle. If you need to learn from internet videos, I suggest you look for videos by Todd Ehle or Kurt Sassmannshaus. The former are mostly on, the latter mostly on

December 14, 2016 at 01:50 PM ·

"Too Flatten" is a problem. To say roll or flatten is just semantics, IMO.

I generally don't want to see too much forearm movement when doing very slow vibrato. When you flatten the fingers too much, the palm will rise and create a 'pizza pan hold' look. There shouldn't be any up and down palm movements or back and forth forearm movement(<1/4 inch +- is okay for the forearm). Fast vibrato is going create some vibration movement in the forearm; maybe some have tricks to prevent this, but I don't.

Practice with a mirror so you can watch the palm and forearm movements. You can also practice holding the forearm still with your right hand. Practicing very slow vibrato in "harmonic position"(very light touch on the string) periodically is very good for advancement. Remember variation is an excellent concept for learning quickly and accurately: practice vibrato with different speeds and rhythms.

Perlman has a very still forearm when using wrist vibrato:

December 14, 2016 at 03:10 PM · Maybe Leif and Charles are not on the same page re: flatten. It looks like Leif means to flatten a note's pitch, and Charles means to flatten the finger's curve. Ironically, both can occur simultaneously. What are the best videos (if any) on technique?

December 14, 2016 at 03:25 PM · Don't get over zealous with semantics. The finger rolls, the note goes slightly flat. Watch the motion of performers who do it well. Do get over zealous about motion.

December 14, 2016 at 07:43 PM · I see what's going on here now. To set things straight, there is no such thing as "rolling finger vibrato technique." If there was such a thing, than I would consider it a poor way of doing vibrato. I would consider this(only teaching the rolling of the fingers and not teaching finger joint movement) a poor teaching technique.

I watched her perform in other videos and she uses the same vibrato technique that I use, but she teaches to roll the fingers and not bend at the joint.

Vibrato is flattening the finger back by bending at the joint, and then roll forward. To teach someone to only roll back with no finger joint movement, is wrong,IMO. When we play with a normal - fast vibrato it may look like the last joint isn't moving, but it is.

December 14, 2016 at 08:23 PM ·

Yes she does a weird vibrato...not the one to model one's self after!

December 14, 2016 at 11:18 PM · How about this video? Does it show vibrato technique better?

December 15, 2016 at 02:25 AM · Beth Blackerby -- yes -- her instruction seems high quality to me. Most of her videos require a subscription.

December 15, 2016 at 03:19 AM · Galamian writes about a variety of vibrato techniques. One has the finger rather flat on the strings (as opposed to on the tip). There is still a "rolling" action, but it is restrained and can still produce a wide vibrato.

Galamian also talks about a method to create a narrow, rapid vibrato by using a change in string tension together with a near imperceptible rolling back of the finger. Press the string to the fingerboard to get the tone, then relax the pressure of the finger from the base knuckle to reduce the string tension and flatten the tone. It is an easy way to get a serviceable, rapid narrow vibrato.

You can find instructional videos by famous players and pedagogues who explain the vibrato motion as a forearm rotation (supinate/pronate). The effect is to get the finger to roll back on the string, and it seems to make it easier to develop a rapid vibrato of any width. Sometimes Pearlman's vibrato looks dramatically like this motion.

Sassmanshaus has great practice videos on developing a beautiful, projecting vibrato. He notes that the highest tone of the vibrato should be the note pitch, and then one flattens the correct pitch by rolling back towards the nut. He also notes that one "slowly" flattens the pitch, then "rapidly" restores the pitch to create an asymmetric vibrato that sounds good and projects for any width or speed.

He held a class with teachers where he explained the difference between flattening the vibrato pitch as opposed to sharpening or centering it. The main argument for flattening it seemed to be based on vibrato with common double stops. A sharpened or centered vibrato sounded odd, while a flattened one sounded much better.

December 15, 2016 at 11:11 PM · The lowered part of the pitch is often under a softer part of the finger, and thus a shade softer in timbre and volume, thus our ears "catch" the crest of the wave.

The Sassmanhaus decription seems to add a kind of "jab" towards the note?

December 16, 2016 at 03:04 AM · I think the Sassmanshaus description was just trying to reinforce the asymmetric nature of "good" vibrato by giving a technique to have the "flattened" part of the tone last a little longer than the "in-tune" part of the tone: roll back slowly, return quickly.

An interesting experiment might be to roll back quickly and return slowly and see if people can tell the two methods apart.

December 16, 2016 at 08:44 AM · There is an interesting difference between the Sassmanshaus approach and Simon Fischer's approach. Fischer teaches to play a dotted rhythm, the on-pitch note is the dotted one and then you quickly flatten and roll back up. With Sassmanshaus it is the converse, you hold the flattened note dotted and then quickly rollup and flatten back again. Like Carmen said, it is probably best to practice both so that you can get a noticeable difference. Then in the end these are just exercises, in the end the goal is to develop a free vibrato of your own, benefiting from the exercises to develop the motions and the flexibility in the joints. Vibrato is a life's work! There is the almost insane story of the winner of the Queen Elisabeth competition for violin in 1955, Berl Senofsky. A year or two after winning he retreated himself completely from the concert circuit because he was not happy with his vibrato: he wanted to learn a new vibrato. See the touching documentary "The Winners" by Paul Cohen.

December 16, 2016 at 10:50 AM · Even in the so-called "finger" vibrato, (or rather the vertical component of many folk's' vibrato,) when the finger pressure lightens, the tone will be also a little less clear, and also very slightly flattened, since the contact will be on a softer part of the finger and further from the finger nail area.

Edit: This seems to correspond to the Galamian suggestion described by Carmen.

December 16, 2016 at 12:46 PM · Regardless this issue (which I feel it's not too crucial... many hands benefit from a combination, and vibrato changes depending musical application and even finger used), the important matter is how it sounds musically, and avoiding using the same sort of vibrato everywhere, regardless repertoire, phrase, playing position, etc. It does require practice, but it will evolve with you as you keep growing as a violinist.

Very slow vibrato ("old singer tone") usually sounds inappropriate, as do extremely wide ones out of musical context. A nervous movement that hardly produces any oscillation is also a common deficiency.

I recommend practice and studying violinists from different eras, as the use of vibrato, though requiring initial technical means, is more of an art than a very specific science (though I agree with the common notion that the pitch shouldn't go up.) This with the proviso that your fingers may not be able to sound like this or that player ever, or at least not right away; vibrato differs from player to player, even the best ones.

December 24, 2016 at 04:34 PM · Last week, this thread reminded me that I wanted to make a vibrato video that would explore some of these questions. It's based on the Simon Fischer exercises from his book Warming Up:

December 24, 2016 at 09:22 PM · Wow, that is the greatest Christmas present!! Thank you very much for making this video which so succinctly dissects and demonstrates the motions involved in a good vibrato-- Bravo!

December 24, 2016 at 11:03 PM · Sure thing Erin! And thanks to Simon Fischer as well!

December 26, 2016 at 06:52 PM · Dear Nathan,

Fantastic video. So clear. Thank you so much.

Best wishes,


December 26, 2016 at 06:52 PM · Dear Nathan,

Fantastic video. So clear. Thank you so much.

Best wishes,


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