Improving vibrato

November 21, 2005 at 01:53 AM · hi i'm having a slight problem..

I've already learned vibrato, and i can do vibrato,

but the problem is.. whenever i do vibrato, it's just not satisfactory to hear..

i dunno what is my problem, i mean when i do vibrato i'll make sure it will go below the actual pitch.. but somehow it is still doesn't sound good.

Any help?

P/s : Don't recommend me any book because living in Malaysia where $1 equals to 3.8 Malaysian currency, it is just a dream that will never came true and nearly all music store in my town only have suzuki and strictly srings series. :)

thank you

Replies (9)

November 21, 2005 at 05:33 AM · vibrato is probably more complicated than you think. you don't need a book but you should have a metronome. set it to about 80 or 90 at first. put your first finger on D on the E string (fifth position on E string) and gently use your arm and wrist to roll the first knuckle (the one above your fingernail) of the finger back and forth like eighth notes. make sure you aren't pressing too hard- it shouldn't snap back and forth but at this pace you should have it under control and use the full range of the knuckle. then move on to triplets, 16th notes, faster settings on the metronome, etc... practice one tempo with all the fingers and then move the tempo up. make sure you use the pad of you finger and your first knuckle and are pressing with the minimum pressure required to depress the string. use all the strings as it is slightly different on each string. as you move to faster tempos or 32nd notes you will not use the full range of the knuckle and it will get progressively smaller. (you might want to put your third finger down with your fourth if you have a weak fourth finger.)

this excercise will probably take a couple months before it really sets in. it develops all vibrato speeds and widths. when you are comfortable with it you will realize you can get different "colors" by using a different part of your finger (pad-tip) and different strings. use your widest and slowest vibrato for quiet playing on the G string, your fastest narrow vibrato for playing fortisimo high up on the E. erik friedman used to say that vibrato was intended to "protect your sound" (although it is obviously for expression as well). this translates into faster vibrato allowing you to apply more pressure with the bow and generate a larger tone. listen to a recording and see how different vibrato widths and speeds are used...thats all i've got.

remember that it takes a while to do this and you will not see results immediately. even after you master vibrato make sure you practice without vibrato so that you can't hide your intonation mistakes from yourself...

November 21, 2005 at 06:13 AM · Greetings,

d is 6th position. (Speaking as someone who writes letters and numbers randomly...)

Brian`s exercise is very good and alternative practic emethods are not usually much different from this. I think the whole basis of this advice/exercise is the crucial point that the first knuckle is generally considered to be `where the action is`. However, I think this is actually only part of the picture. Vibrato originates in the back so the essential impulse depends on a free flow of energy through the left shoulder. If this is tense in anyway then whatever work you do with the fingers, wrist, forearm etc is going to be largely artificial so you nee d to pay a great deeal ofattention to what you are doign with your whole body.

The interesting thing about vibrato is that it can be dissected technically as we are doing but it is also somehting that needs to be realized at an artistic level to be effective. That is, one should have sense of the phrase or color you want and let that dictate the kind of vibrato you use or its speed and width. For example, it is very common to finish pharse ending with a nice tapering bow stroke but leave the vibrato at the same intensity as the peak of the phrase. This has the effect of shouting at long distance...

I slighlty disagree with Brian about slow/wide versus fast/narrow. He is right but the other possibilities are slow/narrow and fast/wide. The player shpoudl investigate all these extremes ot find out what color they need at a given moment.

Another common error is confusing dynamic and intensity. Dynamics are produced by the bow. Vibrato is not intended ot turn a piano into a forte or fortissimo. Thus you would be well advised to thoroughly master a phrase in terms of bow speed , distibution, sound point, pressure etc before thinkng about adding vibrato.

Then , paradoxically, you can usefully do the reverse. Even out all the musica; and expressive tyings you are doing with the bow so that your playing becomes somewhat robotic. Then add the phrasing and dynamics as much as you can through all four permutations of vibrato speed and width. Having explored the left versus right situation just playingthrough the passage may then give you the musical result you were searching for,



November 21, 2005 at 08:06 AM · there are many ways to have bad vibrato: the tense arm vibrato, The quavery finger vibrato, the wailing wrist vibrato. It takes a nice balance of all of them to make good vibrato.

In any case, can you be more specific about your problem? is it fast? slow? how is it unsatisfactory?

November 21, 2005 at 01:32 PM · Brian and Buri thanks for your advices, i'll make sure i follow your advices.

Joseph, i don't know how to explain it but my vibrato is somewhat.. expressionless and doesn't sound pleasant, it is not wide enough. Maybe i should practice with a metronome to keep it in tempo. Another question, how to portray emotion using vibrato in some pieces?

November 22, 2005 at 02:38 AM · i think you might have taken my excercise a little too literally. only use that to develope the range of vibrato- when you actually play, vibrato shouldn't be rhythmic like in the excerise. once you have the technique behind the vibrato you have to feel how to apply it. use it to add "color" and shape phrases to be exactly what you want. again it is used to protect your sound as well, so when you want a large, intense tone you should use an intense vibrato (i did not mean to say fast and slow, although that is part of it, but intensity is a much better word). i know people say that you shouldn't tense muscles and should stay relaxed, but i find for a very intense vibrato my bicep usually tenses up (the trick is remaining relaxed enough to continue playing technical passages). this is very similar to how your bicep in your bow arm probably tenses when you play flying spiccato or very fast up bow staccato and rely almost entirely on your wrist. listen to recordings to see how other people apply it, but ultimately it is up to you to use your technique to make a phrase/piece sound how you want it to.

November 22, 2005 at 02:59 AM · it is a mix of speed, quality, and timing. For example, vibrato can me used to accentuate a note.

The easiest way to express your-self is through vibrato. Once you become comfortable with vibrato you shouldn't think about vibrato (unless you decide, ok, I'll vibrato on this note to emphacise it), instead, you should let your emotins guide your vibrato. If you feel charged with energy then you should let that energy express itself with a very fast and intense vibrato. If you feel chaste then you should make your vibrato slow, gentle, and almost non-existant.

The key to achieving this is to practice vibrato at various speeds. it experimentation. Start with a big wide vibrato and gradually increase speed untill you have a very fast narrow vibrato, then slow back down. Once you're comfertable with vibrato at all speeds and intensities making it expressive should be relatively easy.

Oh, and I disagree with Brian, you should minimize tension. Some will happen, but you should generally consider it bad. Don't just let it happen b/c you're probably too tense right now.

November 22, 2005 at 04:07 AM · Hi Azam. From reading your profile, it looks to me as though you are progressing at a good rate already.

As you may know there is still a very old debate on vibrato. Some of the famous violin pedagogues said that you couldn't teach it. By that they didn't mean that it couldn't be taught at all, only that when properly achieved it is a sign of maturity, confidence, and accomplishment in a violinist.

I think most of the above comments are good. Definitely relax and definitely feel the music. It is not necessary to use vibrato on every note. In fact there is very little worse, imho, than hearing (even accomplished violinists) use vibrato on every note. It sucks the life out of a piece.

I'd suggest moving away from some technically challenging pieces (like the Paganini caprices) to some slow pieces (the Meditation or the Legende or even the slow movement of the 1st Paganini concerto). Play more music. Play with others. Relax and let the music come through. The vibrato will follow soon enough.

November 22, 2005 at 05:32 AM · It would be very impressive if a one year student could play Wienowski, Paganini, or the Meditation from Thais. They're all quite difficult.

I'd suggest the Chorus from Judas Maccabeus from Suzuki book 2 (if you happen to have that) or any other very slow easy piece. Ashokan Farewell, Ave Maria, maybe a Handel sonata or La Folia or something if you're more advanced.

November 22, 2005 at 09:03 AM · Yes, scratch the first sentence of the last paragraph I was reading the wrong profile. Sorry.

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

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

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

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal
Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings


Violin Lab



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