Violin teacher tells me to only use arm vibrato in all positions

February 7, 2005 at 05:21 AM · I am currently learning vibrato and I was told to use arm-vibrato and not wrist vibrato, even in the lower position. Does that have any element of truth?

She has been teaching for quite a long time and was in a few orchestra's, so she has authority in that respect.

Is this merely a matter of preference, do professionals use wrist and arm vibrato, or just arm?

I find using arm vibrato difficult in the lower positions...

Replies (70)

February 7, 2005 at 06:15 AM · Greetings,

why limit yourself?

There are three different kinds of basic vibrato (arm, wrist and finger) and a well rounded violinist has mastere d all of them (perhaps ;)).

But then there are an infinite number of variations possible by combining them.

Nor are there any hard and fast rules about which produces a bigger sound (a claim made for arm vibrato fairly often- and then disproved by players like Ida Haendel who dont use it and hardly have a small sound). Nor are the claims that one is easier to control than another kind really valid. The problem with such claims is just one violnist doing the opposite of the claim will invalidate it...

Nor does the kind of vibrato need to selected in regard to what position you are playing in.

One criteria which I think has a little validity (but not too much) is that if you do a lot of orchestral work it is much less wearing on the body to do the job with small units which argues for a wrist vibrato most of the time. I often advise people to follow this route if they can.

There are many good discussions of vibrato on this list and I strongly recommend you seek them out. In some of them you will find players talking about not worrying too much about the hand per se and paying attention to the origin of the vibrato energy (for want of a better word) in the back. Teachers like Mr Bron also talk about vibrato a lot in terms of relaxation of the shoulder rather than worrying about exactly which unit is producing it.

You could get a copy of Fischers Basics and study his massive section on vibrato I think.

Ultimately, it is about the kind of sound you want at a given moment, and the more technique you have at your disposal the closer you can get to what -you- want.



February 7, 2005 at 06:21 AM · I second everthing Buri said.

But I'm thinking maybe your teacher wants you to get arm vibrato first and then introduce wrist vibrato? Are they planning to teach you wrist vibrato? Maybe you could ask.

I understood arm vibrato is easier, is this right, Buri? My old teacher taught me wrist vibrato; my new teacher added arm vibrato. She says finger vibrato may come soon.

February 7, 2005 at 06:45 AM · Greetings,

Nick, I think the same general comments can be said about the relative easyniss of different kind sof vibrato. Many people say arm is easier to learn, others say wrist. I am a little more in the second camp in the sense I usdually teach wrist first. That also brings us into yet another divide: those who belive vibrato should be taught and those who think it develops naturally. I am very much the former.

One point to bear in mind thta the original writer may not be fully aware of. Sometimesa teacher will begin teaching an arm vibrato because the production of the wrist vibrato is faulty in some way. It is posisble thta this is what is being done here, in which case there is merely a slight failure of communication rather than anything really dogmatic being applied,



PS Just a reminder that for every student who writes in about their lessons, there is their teacher reading. Or perhaps not...

February 7, 2005 at 12:53 PM · By any chance, might arm vibrato be easier to *teach* and thus be a good starting point?

February 7, 2005 at 02:16 PM · Hi,

I agree with Buri. Inge, the answer is no. Most people have a natural tendency towards wrist or arm. Personally, I find out which one and start from there. Ultimately though, you want a combination vibrato.

I think that the wrist vibrato is important in the whole because it insures a relaxed wrist. An exclusive arm vibrato can lead to tensions and problems also in using the wrist of the right hand by sympathy in some people.


February 7, 2005 at 03:21 PM · I like your attitude of starting with your student as point of reference, Christian. It may seem like the logical thing to do, but whether in the academic or the artistic world, I don't think it's always the case. Private lessons like private tutoring are individual-based, whereas in a classroom the student has to conform to the learning material and teaching style because he/she is part of the group. So why not consider the strengths, weaknesses, and natural inclinations of your student as you write.

February 7, 2005 at 05:06 PM · Having seen a number of students with rudimentary (or sometimes simply premature) arm vibrato, I lean towards the wrist camp, at least insofar as teaching it. The reason is largely that when a student is first introduced to vibrato, they're thinking of it as a conscious thing they must continually DO, rather than a natural instability - for lack of a better word - of the hand and wrist which makes it harder NOT to vibrate than to vibrate. Moreover, students of the violin generally do not realize how SMALL the differences between good and bad are. And how tiny the motions that are needed to achieve the former. The result of that conscious, overwide, forced vibrato - whether from wrist or elbow, is that the vibrato comes out with much too wide an amplitude, sounding rather like an old tenor about two decades past his prime. Wobbly and utterly inexpressive, only confusing the ear as to the pitch the violinist is trying to hit. The only thing that leads me to teach wrist vibrato first, rather than arm, is that it's easier to explain just how tiny vibrato really is, and just how unstable the whole hand is when suspended from the wobbly, slender pillar that is the vibrating finger. In the end, I try to get a small, steady, and relaxed motion from the student which, eventually, translates into a relaxed hand, vibrating as if by second nature.

But Buri is right in that, when I'm performing, what occupies my mind at all regarding vibrato is merely knowing that the vibrato is happening by itself, rather than being continuously kick-started by the arm or the wrist. For what it's worth, I probably end up playing quite a lot with arm vibrato, though I've never really bothered to dissect the point on videos and such. Hmm. A little homework assignment for myself, perhaps?

February 7, 2005 at 07:44 PM · I have found that for the most part, students that have a natural inclination towards arm vibrato are also the ones that have an inclination towards tension. In my experience, a student who starts with a wrist vibrato (I actually call it hand vibrato) will be able to learn an arm vibrato later on farely easily. I have not found the vice versa scenario to be true.

February 7, 2005 at 07:54 PM · Mariam, you've got a great point! When I tell the student to use the wrist, what you get is an in-out motion OF THE WRIST. It's the wrist that acts as a hinge, it's the HAND that does the back and forth! I'm going to try calling it a hand vibrato with a couple of young 'uns just getting to the point of learning to vibrate. Let's see if that speeds up the process any.

But no promises as to royalties if it works, I'm afraid! ;-)

February 7, 2005 at 08:08 PM · I'd be happy of they were either called wrist vibrato and elbow vibrato, or hand vibrato and arm vibrato. The latter would be fine. What you name is what you concentrate on, so of course if someone says "wrist" I'll try to move my wrist. I've been known to do stupider things. Why DO they call it "wrist" vibrato?

February 7, 2005 at 09:51 PM · Greetings,

yep. Kudos all round. I teach it as hand vibrato (a practice I started after reading Galamian"s comments to this effetc in his book). It does seem to make things clearer for many students.

No idea why it is calleda wrist vibrato.



February 7, 2005 at 11:25 PM · The cheeky part of me wants to phone up some teacher at random and ask, "Do you teach elbow vibrato?" and see if they're confused. Nasty thought, just nasty! :-)

February 8, 2005 at 02:45 AM · Languaging is everything. Lots of bizarre things happen when we call it "wrist" vibrato. I don't know who originally coined the phrase "hand vibrato" (maybe Galamian?), but it works wonders.

Here are some other languaging faux pas that make me grimace... "bow grip", "try to relax", and "press lightly". ???

February 8, 2005 at 03:40 AM · Greetings,

I also like the more esoteric ones like "try to feel the line of the music,'



February 8, 2005 at 04:45 AM · When I was a small child, my teacher told me to play an arrangement of a little Tschaikovsky piece: "Like you're weaving a tapestry." Now, I was a ten year old kid from the Bronx who didn't know what weaving was and didn't know what a tapestry was. But I was too shy to speak up. So I played it again and he said, with a satisfied facial expression,: "That's right, like you're weaving a tapestry!" The odd thing is that this sort of repeated itself years later, in the Milstein class. I was playing Mozart e minor Sonata and Milstein stopped me (I remember the exact spot...three sequences with trills in the first movement). He said: "Play it like a Gypeter...or some incomprehensible-to-me word that sounded like "Gypeter". Then he demonstrated. So, at age 26, and too awed by Milstein to have the presence of mind to ask him what that word was, I played it again, trying my best to imitate the demonstration. After which he said: "That's right, like a Gypeter." Maybe he was saying a Russian word, or other non-English word without realising it. He was fluent in several languages, and occasionally (though not often) mixed a word from another language into a sentence. But to this day, I don't know what word he said, or meant to say. However I remember the sound of his demonstration as if it were yesterday. He played the three sequences with very strong rhythm, staccato articulation and sharp accents, so they reminded one of the passage played on a snare drum. Does anyone know a word, in some language or other, that sounds like "Gypeter" and means snare drum?

February 8, 2005 at 05:22 AM · I think he meant, "like a gypsy."

February 8, 2005 at 06:04 AM · Heifetz said something about vibrato and that he didn't believe wrist vibrato was good because it put the hand/palm and therefore the fingers out of position. He believed that the hand should remaind positioned as one unit, and that breaking that continuity between forearm and palm was an incorrect way to create a vibrato. I believe he went so far as to say that in breaking that continuity, you were basically playing/vibrating out of position and therefore mostly out of tune.

Nate, am I right about this? I'm 99.9% sure this was Heifetz.


February 8, 2005 at 06:25 AM · Oliver, maybe the word "Gypeter" has some connection with word "Jupiter", the name of 41th Symphony by Mozart. I know Mozart's e-minor Sonata, you mean this place from development of 1st mvmnt where is descending sequence of trills? Maybe (have to check) there is similar place in Symphony?

February 8, 2005 at 06:49 AM · Scott--I'm quite sure he wasn't referring to gypsy playing, as the demonstration wasn't at all in that style. Also the word didn't at all sound like "Gypsy", or "Zigeuner", or "Tsigane", or "Roma".

Rita--It had occurred to me that the word sounds somewhat like Jupiter, except he accented the second syllable. Also he said "*a* Gypeter", which would have been "the", were he referring to the symphony.

February 8, 2005 at 09:24 AM · great. now everybody else will wonder what gypeter means for the rest of their lives too.

February 8, 2005 at 03:09 PM ·

February 8, 2005 at 03:12 PM · Hi Preston,

You are absolutely right about Heifetz. To add to that he tried making sure his hand in lower positions stayed centered in other words he avoided arching the wrist towards the scroll which too much wrist movement can do and inevitably pull the pitch sharp. This often will occur with an exaggerated wrist motion. Emil brought up a great point earlier of how small the actual vibrato motion can be to be effective. Often times I think some people work too hard at vibrato or at least harder than I'm willing to work for it! The vibrato motion really to me is no more than the size of a mouse's whisker.


February 8, 2005 at 10:45 PM · Oliver, if you pronounce the word "Jupiter" in Russian, you should make an accent on the 2nd syllable, or on the letter "i". If you would hear my pronounciation with my accent probably you would hear the same "Gepeter". About articles... it's so difficult to use them correctly... look how many mistakes in all my posts... though I try very hard not to do them. Sorry, I am talking a lot now while listening to 41th Symphony. In the main theme of 1st mvmnt, check 3rd motiff, same bow attack, as in those sonata's place. In 2nd theme, I hear the fragment (starting from 4th measure) which sounds similar to dotted rhythmic fragment from 2nd theme of Sonata. Yes, there are definitely connections between these two works. I found already more... Too bad, have to go working...

Nate, you are right. I heard already your own playing and like your ways to 'color' sound.

But I saw huge mice, so it depends...? :)

February 8, 2005 at 10:34 PM · Haha thanks Rita I wouldn't recommend vibrating quite as much as a rat's whisker :)

February 8, 2005 at 10:56 PM · Great advice about vibrato, Nate.

And Rita, thanks for the Jupiter info. I'm satisfied personally anyway.

February 10, 2005 at 03:20 PM · Hi,

Nate, good advice. Yes, eveness is more effective than amplitude sometimes... About Heifetz, I find that strange since I have seen him use a combination vibrato on video that had some wrist, and I have seen him use more wrist in the balance sometimes as well (like in the video of the Bach Chaconne)... so I don't know... Perhaps it was more an opposition to the exclusive wrist vibrato all the time which does indeed hamper the hand-arm unit.


February 15, 2005 at 10:49 PM · It so happens that I was correct. I asked her again to make sure, and she said that the wrist vibrato sounds artificial compared to the arm vibrato.

I have the arm vibrato down and have only to get comfortable with it with much practice.

One thing that was interesting is that she went on to display me a demonstration of "less is good", as she pointed out violinists abuse vibrato. She then played a passage with whole-step vibrato and told me "see?". I merely responded "thats the sound I'm trying to achieve"...

I guess maybe after hearing years and years of wide vibrato you can get tired of it??

What do some of you think of this?

February 15, 2005 at 10:54 PM · Greetings,

what is whole step vibrato?



February 15, 2005 at 11:16 PM · A whole step is an interval of a major second. A half-step merely being every minor second. It's a quicker terminology for intervals, but is usually only used for whole and half-step.

February 15, 2005 at 11:30 PM · Forgive me, I don't mean to get too technical, but my post would certainly seem pointless without the physics! (even though it may see pointless anyway). As I understand it, vibrato is the effect produced when a played string's length is uniformly and alternately lengthened and shortened. The lengthening and shortening is achieved by rocking the finger back and forth on the string in a parallel motion to the string. (this is true for all except finger vibrato I think).

So... does it matter how you rock your finger back and forth to produce the sound? I play with the hand technique. I can match amplitude with any arm technique user, and frankly I find arm vibrato too clumbsy to produce a consistant tone and it's highly inefficient. In my opinion, arm vibrato may look more impressive and fancy, but soundwise, who can tell the difference between either method if they are both done well?

February 15, 2005 at 11:34 PM · Greetings,

thanks Ed. But i am still at a loss to understand what whole step vibrato is. No such term exiusts in the standard lietrature of violin playing , nor have I ever heard it mentioned by prfessional players or teachers.

Please could you explain a litlte further?



February 15, 2005 at 11:34 PM · "So... does it matter how you rock your finger back and forth to produce the sound? I play with the handmatch amplitude with any arm technique user, and frankly I find arm vibrato too clumbsy to produce a consistant tone and it's highly inefficient. In my opinion, arm vibrato may look more impressive and fancy, but soundwise, who can tell the difference between either method if they are both done well? "

The posts above mention Heifetz saying that the wrist vibrato is everything you mention against arm vibrato.

One thing that I saw in a video is that Sassmannshaus teaches his students the wrist vibrato to start out with, but he uses the arm vibrato in one of his lessons, while his student maintains his wrist vibrato.

"I find arm vibrato too clumbsy to produce a consistant tone"

Perhaps getting comfortable is all it takes? I find wrist vibrato clumsy right now, but probably it will take practice to get comfortable.

So is Heifetz's authority enough to say that the arm vibrato is superior?

February 15, 2005 at 11:40 PM · Greetings,

thanks Ed. But i am still at a loss to understand what whole step vibrato is. No such term exiusts in the standard lietrature of violin playing , nor have I ever heard it mentioned by prfessional players or teachers.

Please could you explain a litlte further?




It happens to be used in the second-to-last bottom rung in the musical latter. Whole step vibrato merely means vibrato at an interval of a major second. I sense sarcasm but I can never be sure, thus facial expressions do note translate through mere zeros and ones.

February 15, 2005 at 11:42 PM · I want to jump in here with a non-educated statement: Any teacher who insists that you use only one technique is depriving you of all the subtleties of knowing various techniques. I would not give a "teacher" like that any more money. I think it is idiotic.

February 15, 2005 at 11:55 PM · "I want to jump in here with a non-educated statement: Any teacher who insists that you use only one technique is depriving you of all the subtleties of knowing various techniques. I would not give a "teacher" like that any more money. I think it is idiotic. "

Perhaps Heifetz would have refused to teach wrist vibrato? (uneducated as well)

February 15, 2005 at 11:59 PM · Greetings,

Ed, if you read my extensive postings over the last thre e years you will perhaps notice that I am never sarcastic to people with a genuine interest in finding the answer to a problem of violin playing.

In fact you are mixing totally different concepts (intervals and types of vibrato) and in doing so have created a term which is essentially meaningless. Hence my request that clarify what you are talking about.

There is no thing as whole step vibrato as a tehnique. the basic labels are:





These are somewhat helpful in two ways. tehy help to describe the way someonbe plays in this regard and they provide a concrete means of building up different vibrato skills in learning to play.

However, in my opinon, there does come a point where an awarenes sof body use and in particulr a relaxed left shoulder (a point Mr Bron frequently makes) are of primary concern.

Players such as Stern have commneted thta the primary impulse of the vibrato actually orig9inates in the back and the energy is transferred and regulated throuhg the fingertips.

Comments about one vibrato sounding `articifial` are actually meaningless. Aside from it being so subjective one cannot really imagine what is meant, it also disparages all the great violinists who use wrist vibrato primarily, not through a rather over emphasized choice but through instinct about what works best for them,



February 16, 2005 at 01:27 AM · Buri, I think Ed is referring to the amplitude of the vibrato. And Ed, even a half step amplitude will result in the over-the-hill tenor sound. If you want a vibrato with an even wider amplitude than that, I think there are issues here far beyond whether you seek to achieve such undesirable ends through the wrist or the arm. There's instead the issue of your trying to get a sound I can't imagine wanting to hear in non-parody playing.

February 16, 2005 at 01:30 AM · Correct, I was merely referring to amplitude. I pointed out that it would be at an interval of a major second. Sorry for the confusion, as I mentioned, half-step can even be considered slang.

Perhaps I was exaggerating, halfstep I believe would be the limit. Even then I believe many violinists view this as too much. I merely envision a slow half-note passage that would sound horribly dull with next to no vibrato.

I do feel comfortable with arm vibrato since writing this though.

February 16, 2005 at 01:36 AM · Ed, for vibrato I find that there are two elements to consider: amplitude and speed. Slower passages will generally sound better with a slightly slower vibrato, and one can always experiment with just how wide one wants it to be. However, even a half step interval sounds (to my ears, at least) as though the violinist is either venerably elderly or exhausted. Or both. In short, it lacks the vibrancy of a quicksilver vibrato combined with a spun and effortless tone.

February 16, 2005 at 01:45 AM · Emil,

Perhaps my ears are not accustomed to the solo violin and thus my expectancies are as a result of being inexperienced to the violin? In years perhaps I will see I am wrong?

That is what I assume from hearing more experienced violinists opinion on wide vibrato (even my teacher said it sounded like the senior citizen's orchestra club)...

February 16, 2005 at 02:01 AM · Greetings,

I guess now I am too old to grasp meaning without extensive elaboration. More prunes may help though.

this comment is interesting.

`I merely envision a slow half-note passage that would sound horribly dull with next to no vibrato `

You are quite right in pointing out that on the whole , slow passages are more beautiful with vibrato than without. But it is also worth keeping in mind that life without contrast is boring and therefore a white sound does have a place in violin playing, although ironically, Stern (who I cite d in my previous message) would take isssue with this - if his biography is to be believed. There are many place s in chamber music where this effect (?) from four player s is awesome, for example.

I also feel it is dangerous to assume that vibrato is central to beauty and interest of sound. If one`s goal remains to produce the most wonderful and moving , pure sound without vibrato (placing the use of the bow to the forefront) then vibrato adds a dimension that can separate the real artist from the journeyman, the poet from the prune salesman.

This is I think, the essence of the Misltein sound, for example.



February 16, 2005 at 02:48 AM · Buri could you explain a little more about what you mean by the Milstein sound. Are you referring to his non-vibrato notes? I have Milstein's Last recital on video. He does play some notes with no vibrato during the video. What is amazing, the tone is still beautiful without the vibrato. I can't explain it in words, but it does have some kind of effect playing a passage using vibrato, and at some point on some note not use any vibrato at all. Just to mention, I like Milsteins playing when he is older. He seems to play with more color and shading, just my opinion.

February 16, 2005 at 03:01 AM · Greetings,

in part I meant that he never hesiatetd to use a white sound. But my basic point was that the vibrato was added as an enhancement to beautiful bowing rather than being seen as the essential source of sound.

I think there is a tendency today to emphasize vibrato as the essence of tone production at the expense of bowing. Betwene this dichotomy there are players /schools of though that have a more complex view. Dounis for example, belived that the vibrato wa s an essential element of left hand relaxation and therefore the idea of bowing first would probably have been anathema to him.

I do cuurently have a young studnet with a very bold and dynamic vibrato but less consicousness of producing a pure sound with the bow and althouhg she gets away with it in more romantic (?) works it is quite a complex challenge to get her to play baroque stuff with purity and then add the sauce as it were.



February 16, 2005 at 08:04 AM · Buri said, "But it is also worth keeping in mind that life without contrast is boring" and then made a reference to Milstein's sound.

He is right. Milstein often used a white sound and his sound was based in his bow, not his vibrato (although his intonation was very pure and therefore contributed greatly to his sound).

I learned a very crucial lesson from Milstein. He would criticize people like Buri's student (which he mentioned) for playing "beautifully." That was not always a compliment coming from him. Think about it - if everything is beautiful then what is beautiful? You can only determine beauty by its extreme opposite. To play breathtakingly, you need ugliness to set off the beauty. Most music has that written in.

Ed: I posted a vibrato exercise in one of the old threads under "Technique" in the archives. Practiced slowly, I do use a half step modulation of the pitch for the development of a good wrist vibrato. It helps the finger to find the center of the pitch to practice it that way. But I also continue the initial foundation with rhythmic variations which increase the speed. When you increase the speed of the vibrato, you have to make the interval tighter.

Also, I LOVE a good slow vibrato. I learned my sound partly innately in my own ear, partly from lots of old recording listening, and lots from singers (who are being slighted in this and other threads, in my opinion).

Emil, normally I really agree with what you say, but this one I'll have to respectfully disagree. I'd pay a lot of money to go hear Placido Domingo (an aging tenor) sing a baritone role with fabulous sound usage and vibrato. ;-)

Many singers, like violinists, sing/play out of tune. But the great ones don't and it isn't their vibrato that is the issue. It is the intonation that is the issue. Vibrato only highlights that.

If there is one thing I can't stand it is vibrato that sounds like the performer has mistakenly touched the hot fence around a cattle pen! lol


February 16, 2005 at 08:10 AM · I agree with Buri... Vibrato is an ornament of expression. It's a condiment used to add flavor to a passage. I have more respect for the soloist who makes a work sound beautiful without vibrato than someone who has mastered all vibrato techniques.

Is it worth breaking down the ingredients of a condiment rather than enjoying the recipe created by the composer?

February 16, 2005 at 08:32 AM · YES, especially if you are a chef.


February 16, 2005 at 08:37 AM · Then I offer that no two chefs make the same condiment with the exact same ingredients.

February 16, 2005 at 08:39 AM · Of course - that goes without saying. But good chefs know exactly what they are doing and why. ;-)


February 16, 2005 at 08:46 AM · Touche, Lisa! Then do we agree that vibrato is a measure of taste when it comes to the player using it?

de gustabus non es disputandem. "of taste, there is no dispute"

February 16, 2005 at 08:53 AM · Well, if there were no dispute about taste, then three quarters of this board would disappear!

No, James, you and I do not agreed about vibrato.

I think every violinist has their own sound (or should have). A significant part of that sound comes from their vibrato. Most great violinists can recreate that same sound no matter what the quality of violin or bow they are using. They can do that partly because they use their particular vibrato to "summon up" the sound out of the violin.

For all your knowledge of physics (of which I have none, so have to assume you have it from your posts), I think you have come to very wrong conclusions about vibrato (and I am mostly going from what you wrote in the other column).

I agree with most of the violinists who wrote and stated that good vibrato starts with a true pitch and goes under the note. I agree with those who stated that the ear hears the highest pitch variation as the pitch. So I think that when one vibrates over the pitch of the note, it sounds sharp, and if one vibrates above and below the pitch, especially with a lot of speed, then they sound "plugged in" as it were (and very out of tune).

I aim for a very centered, smaller amplitude but not the really fast speed that you hear from some violinists and with a very rhythmic pulse which produces a "knocking" sound at the pitch. I use the backs of my pads with a lot of weight and most of the time the motion originates in my wrist. That produces a lot of depth and resonance and very definite intonation. After I get my violin vibrating to its maximum with my bow, then I can add that kind of vibrato and increase the resonance dramatically. It is fun! :0)

Then, to some degree, because that is my core sound, I vary it according to what I think is demanded in the music. But mostly I vary it by using it or not, and in a minor way, varying speed or amplitude. I can create more variation with my bow than my vibrato. So my vibrato is part of "my" sound and my bow is more what I depend on for my "musicality."


February 16, 2005 at 04:34 PM · I agree with Buri and Lisa.

February 16, 2005 at 05:28 PM · #$^*%@*& it... where are my cookbooks??

Again, sound scientific reasoning bows to intuition and perception.

Hey, who wants to go burn some witches?

February 16, 2005 at 07:09 PM · Hmmm, my teacher only taught wrist vibrato. Since he was the real deal (Auer descended) I can only imagine that he didn't think I was good enough for arm vibrato. oh bother... (low-self-esteem sets in)

oh well, I guess the wrist will have to suffice. Sometimes it seems that a big arm vibrato is de rigueur to look like a good violinist, but I have met many a wrist-vibrating violinist with a sweet tone.

February 16, 2005 at 08:02 PM · More likely he chose the one that suits you best, which is no judgement call of better or worse of any kind.

February 16, 2005 at 07:56 PM · The funny thing is, I actually play with an arm vibrato even though I teach a hand (wrist) vibrato! I've had to spend many hours in the past few years developing a hand vibrato that I can demonstrate for my students...basically, I can only use it for Book 1 pieces. I warm up every day with G Major Tonalization just to practice hand vibrato...the very same assignment that I give to students! What irony...

February 16, 2005 at 08:09 PM · I'm glad to see that the white sound is being "rehabilitated" , in that it may be regarded as a significant basis for tone production. Lisa's profound point about ugliness being dependant on beauty is often glossed over.There is nothing uglier than "standard beauty" .These ideas were not far from what Ysaye was perhaps driving at with his fuga in the first solo sonata's 2nd mt.The relationship between spoken and unspoken is where juxtaposed beauty may be said to begin .

Also the point of slowness of vibrato being contingent on calibration of rhythmic considerations is why the question goes back to why Menuhen had a time when he couldnt handle Capet's quartet's white passages.Capet was very aware of over-sugariness transplanting rhythmic integrity.

February 16, 2005 at 10:12 PM · Dear James,

'sound scientific reasoning' very often works hand in hand or is guided by intuition. That is what Einstein meant by imagination being more important than knowledge.

I also note that one of the tenets of scientific reasson is proof. You haven"t offered any- you merely describe one aspect of vibrato and claim this explains everything.

Rather like taking an elephants tail, prioving it is grey, made of x number of cells (all 'sound scientific reasoning') and then claiming this to be what an elephant looks like.

Can I recommed some mor eprune oriented cook books...



February 16, 2005 at 11:51 PM · Wouldnt having a great uncolored sound merely be primarily from the instrument, and not so much from your bow technique?

I'm a firm believer that a proffesional cannot make a 20 dollar plywood violin sound good. Vibrato will probably make him sound four times better, to mask the sound, but nonetheless, the trebly screeching will still emerge.

February 17, 2005 at 12:27 AM · Greetings,

Ed, not really. Without beautiful bowing you can only cover up so far with the vibrato.



February 17, 2005 at 02:36 AM · Ed,

That was the point I was trying to make: a great player (and even good ones!) can produce their own sound no matter what instrument they play. I have seen that many, many times.

When I pick up a violin, first I search for its sound - how much speed it needs, how much weight it can take, where the best sounding point is for every string, how the notes are centered for intonation - the spacing between fingers. I try to find its own resonance. Then, as soon as I find it, I make it mine. I can turn that into my sound at that point. I think most good players do that instinctively. I like a certain depth and a certain kind of resonance, so I get that whether it means I need to use more bow speed than I do on my violin, or more weight or whatever. Of course, the better the violin the easier it is to get those results, but they can still be found with most violins.

I think people have their sounds and then find the violin that is easiest and most responsive for their sound and sound production method. But I think those violinists could get that sound from any violin.

Vibrato doesn't mask that - it enhances it. It is just another tool I can use to coax the violin into making the sounds I like.


February 17, 2005 at 03:55 AM · So... does this mean we can't burn witches?


February 17, 2005 at 04:04 AM · Einstein got evoked.

February 17, 2005 at 04:19 AM · Greetings,

why prioritize the burning of witches as opposed to, for example, politicians, environmental despoilers and crappy violin teachers?



February 17, 2005 at 04:24 AM · Lisa, Thanks for what you wrote. I am looking at violins to buy and your description is giving me great ideas about how to test drive.

February 17, 2005 at 04:53 AM · If we burned all the crappy violin teachers, who would be left to pass on the glorious tradition of violin playing?

February 17, 2005 at 05:35 AM · Buri,

I've posted on the vibrato topic in a couple of different threads... But I don't recall claiming that I know all the answers to what makes great-sounding vibrato. I believe the point I was trying to make above was that it's possible, no matter what technique you are able to use, to produce interesting vibrato (the average person can't tell the difference). If it's scientific evidence you crave, look up my post under the "vibrato query" thread where I discuss a scientific phenomenon known as the doppler effect and how this may explain some of the characteristics of vibrato and perception.


ps- The topics discussed between this thread and the "vibrato query" thread are fundamentally different. So don't think those are my only views on the subject either!

February 17, 2005 at 06:16 AM · James,

Average people CAN tell the difference. The way I teach vibrato is to first get the student to explain to me what vibrato is - that can take a whole lesson as they explore putting into words what they think they hear. Then I play a flat tone, then vibrato under the note, above the note and both. I ask my listener to choose. Everyone can hear the difference. We all have ears (even witches, my pretty! LOLL). They may not know how to put what they hear into musical terminology, but they can hear.

And Nick,

I was lucky with my violin. I looked for violins 25 years ago (before you were born!) with a decent, but limited budget. I tried many, many violins. I was looking in NYC, mostly at Jacques Francais' shop. Rene Morel was helping me and knew my playing. Finally, I was about to give up and he called me one day and said, "we have your violin!" After trying so many, none that I liked in my price range, I didn't really believe him, but dutifully trudged down to the shop. He had my violin!! He knew my sound and matched me up to a "T". :0) Keep looking. You'll find it. These days there are so many really nice modern instruments that you should have a wide choice range. Good luck.


February 17, 2005 at 07:02 AM · I 'starred' you, Lisa, because I found that to be a very appropriate comment. I can certainly take to heart your view on making your "own sound" when it comes to vibrato. I never took lessons in vibrato myself. I developed my own technique without tutorial supervision. I did so because I was an impatient little rascal who wanted to sound like he knew what he was doing. Ah... those were the days... But honestly, ever since I've attained some semblance of vibrato at all, I haven't given it a second thought. Until I started reading these threads, that is :)

February 17, 2005 at 08:37 AM · James:

Vibrato is worth a lot of thought!

I think that people hear and experience vibrato very differently than your explanations of its physics in the other column.

Vibrato is used to ornament a pitch - therefore the pitch must be recognizable. So if one were to play a simple scale without vibrato and play it very well in tune, then the addition of vibrato should not disturb that sense of that intonation at all. Try that experiment. Play a scale without vibrato and record yourself. Get the intonation exactly the way you want it. Then add the vibrato that you think is OK. Wait a day and listen to both. Compare the intonation with vibrato to the scale without vibrato. What do you think? Can you still hear the same intonation as before? I think that would help you to understand where some of the professionals that responded in this column are coming from.

Lisa ;-)

May 12, 2005 at 03:01 PM · I remember hearing some stories about acrobats in a circus, what you call those people walking on a rope in mid air? They always want to look dangerours, almost falling down, in order to build up tension among the spectators.

I honestly think vibrato is just this, if you play exactly in tune, it will not sound exciting. Vibrato is just to make it a little bit out of tune, to make it look dangerously "almost" out of tune, and yet in tune.

And if your teacher would like to teach you how to do vibrato, hmm, then I wonder how I would teach someone to drive a motor car, just to "look dangerous"? Just a joke.

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