Arm Vibrato

December 29, 2005 at 06:01 AM · I'm looking for exercises for mastering arm vibrato. Does anyone know any specific exercises to improve this technique? AND when doing arm vibrato what physical aspects must be taken into account (i.e Should wrist be locked in a fixed position? what joint in the finger should be moving the most? What role does the elbow play? etc.)


If anyone has Fiscer's Basics; could you please explain "Rivarde's exercise" for vibrato???


Replies (24)

December 29, 2005 at 06:47 AM · what is Rivarde's exercise? I quickly skimmed fischer's and didn't see it.

December 29, 2005 at 07:24 AM · OH OH OH SORRY everyone, Rivarde's exercise is from Carl Flesch's "The Art of Violin Playing Book One". Ppl who have the book say its on page 168.

So What is "Rivarde's Exercise"?

December 29, 2005 at 08:37 AM · One exercise you can do is move your fingers and arm up and down the finger board, like polishing your strings. Then hold your fingers on the fingerboard, still moving your arm. Remember to relax the whole time. It wont work, just like hand vibrato, if your muscles are tense. Your fingers must be flexible, and don't bend your wrist. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the elbow has much to do with vibrato. Also, when you shift into high positions on the E string, use hand vibrato. Some people even finger vibrato!

December 29, 2005 at 10:44 AM · Greetings,

Rivardes exercise is where the first joint (the one nearest the fingertiop) is rythmically flattened and then rel;eased by the application of slight pressure. Nothin else moves. The point behind it is thta if this joint is stiff then the speed and amplitude of the vibrato cannot be regulated. In Basics it is the exercise where one does it first without presisng the string down abd then gradually adding pressur eon the string while keeping the same feeling of looseness and comfort in the joint.

This exercise is for people with stiff fingers. It is not for peoplke with loose joints that already collapse,



December 29, 2005 at 04:25 PM · Naturally I have developed the arm vibrato and have a very difficult time with wrist vibrato which I see most violinist use. My teacher keeps saying that it doesn't matter, the other will come with time, but I have'nt seen this happen yet. When speaking of the arm vibrato, which my teacher has a beautiful sound, he says that the motion comes from the forarm, keeping your arm and wrist in line with each other and imagine someone has attached a string to the middle of your forarm and is pulling it and your arm springs back. The first joint of your fingers must be very relaxed...but the back and forth motion comes from your forarm. I would love to hear tips on the wrist vibrato!!

December 29, 2005 at 06:00 PM · Caroline....just like you...I have developed a natural arm vibrato, but I find that after learning how to do wrist as well, I am in more total control of my playing and my see, my arm vibrato sounds very fast and fiery and can be very sweet, but when I want a "wide" vibrato sound (i.e. perlman or oistrakh) instead of the fiery & virtuosic vibrato (i.e. chang, mutter) I use a WRIST vibrato.

For the wrist vibrato you have to be completely relaxed. Let go of all inhabitions and be loose. That is the first key. Then what worked for me was putting an apple between the bottom of my wrist/palm against the violin adn that made me use my wrist only.

From there I made the intonatio changes with my wrist and fingers by tempo incriments...first quarter notes, then eighth, sixteenth, 32nd if you can, then full vibrato. It takes some time to develope a new kind of vibrato (probably 2-3 months MINIMUM) but I assure you, it is WELL WORTH IT!


and click on the masterclasses link on the left...

(hehe...I learned my sautille and ricochet string crossings from this site...and my teacher was hurt ;D...have fun!)

December 29, 2005 at 06:09 PM · Wrist vibrato is really hard to master especially if you're used to arm vibrato. Like Patrick said, you have to be relaxed. There should be minimal pressure of the fingers on the string, and the initial energy of the vibrato must come from a bigger muscle. Stern said for him it comes from his back, even though his wrist only moves. When I imagine the vibrato coming from my back, or area around the shoulder blade, then my arm and wrist are really relaxed and I get a great vibrato. You should try it. It might take some time to get it down of course.

December 30, 2005 at 12:42 AM · Greetings,

keep in mind that a pure arm vibrato or wrist is extremely rare. An example of the former might be Francescatti and the latter Haendel to some extent.

I think we separate the two (there are others) in order to facilitate teaching them but although this has some advantages it tends to lead to a conception of vibrato as originating in too restricted an area and even some lack of approriate movement in another. IE 'I use an arm vibrato' may in some cases imply a stiff wrist or vice versa. One way out of the dilemna is to work on boith using the stabdard exericses (which are just about all covered in Fischer's book).

But another vital way of appraoching the problem is as Enosh mentions above. The real origin and therefore difficulty of vibrato lies in the back and subsequently reqiures great freedom for energy to move through the shoulder arm, elbow, wrist, fingers etc. If there is ther slightest problem with the set up and tension in the shoulder then working on either arm or wrist is rather cosmetic. This is incidentally, the advice Zakhar Bron give son the subject.

Szeryng was quite opinioted on vibrato too. He maintained that a combination of arm and wrist is the most effective. This is very often achived when both types (in as far as they actually exist) are worked on. It is more a question of ration than two differnt types,



December 30, 2005 at 06:02 AM · great post Buri, and I agree...The times that my tone and vibrato sound great are the times when I combine the two vibratos. It is also more comfortable that way.

until next time!


December 30, 2005 at 06:15 AM · Kevin, though I don't use it myself, I've taught arm vibato, especially to smaller violists, using the Turci method, wherein the scroll of the instrument is held against a wall, in playing position, and the biceps muscle is flexed. Certainly it's begun slowly with control and being certain to oscillate below the pitch, with the hand/wrist position pretty much rigid.

Then, gradually reduce the pressure on the wall, shifting balance to the chin/shoulder rest arrangement. Best wishes.

December 30, 2005 at 07:56 AM · Thanks Peter, I will take your advice on board. One question i'd like to ask is how long roughly does it take one switching from wrist to arm vibrato take (to become satisfactory that is)???

December 30, 2005 at 12:00 PM · Greetings,

two shakes of a lambs tail,



December 30, 2005 at 04:00 PM · Kevin,

The whole technique of vibrato is to activate the first joint of the finger. Whether you use your arm or your wrist to do this is all relative.

Most people get a wider vibrato from using the wrist since there is more swing to the movement.

The motion of the fingertip is a kind of rolling motion. When you pull back with either your arm or your wrist, you are straightening your finger slightly and altering the pitch a little flat. As you move forward with either your arm or your wrist, you are bending the finger back to its orginal position and pitch. If you work backwards from the finger tip, you may find it easier to relax your arm. Think of the finger tip rolling back as it slightly straightens and then rolls forward back to its original position by bending slightly. Your finger, wrist and arm all move in sync. I would take it very slow at first and use long bows. Maybe start in 3rd position first finger on d on the a string (it seems to be a pretty comfortable position for most violinists. Take long slow bows, play quietly (piano)a big sound is not necessary to practice vibrato. Start slowly and let your finger tip roll back as you pull your forearm back slightly, then let the finger tip roll back to positon as you bring your forearm forward. You should here a definite wah wah wah wah. The whole idea of playing slowly and quietly is to eliminate tension and get you to relax naturally. You can then try the same exercise with 2nd finger e , 3rd finger f# and 4th finger g all on the a string in third postion.

As you get comfortable with this feeling you can speed up a little at a time and try different dynamics with the bow (piano to forte or forte to piano, all forte).

December 30, 2005 at 07:35 PM · Hi Kevin,

In an arm vibrato, the more you release the wrist, the slower and wider the vibrato; the more rigid the wrist, the faster and narrower (only because the whole hand tends to become tighter) the vibrato. As has been hinted at, there are two kinds of arm vibratos: 1) motion is generated from the biceps/triceps; the shoulder is held fairly still - this vibrato becomes more important in higher positions, and has the potential to be faster (because it's tighter, not allowed to swing as much); the forearm draws an arc slightly downward; the elbow stays fairly still (i.e. although it opens and closes, if rested on a surface it doesn't move around much) 2) motion is generated from the shoulderblade/collar; the whole arm punches forward (toward the scroll) and back; elbow moves forward and back; this is (has the potential to be) the slowest, widest, most released (luscious)vibrato.

So far in this post we've been talking solely about arm vibrato, with the important distinction between keeping the wrist rigid, or letting it swing (what some have called a wrist vibrato), and thereby amplifying the motion of the elbow (or shoulder). And a good way to develop it has already been mentioned; i.e. start with a shifting motion, gradually narrowing the interval until you get down to a minor 2nd and then finally, with the finger pivoting down from a single pitch.

If you really want to be fanatical about it, you can do something like this:

mm quarter=60

1) in quarter notes, shift an interval of a fourth" bflat-eflat-bflat-eflat (roughly, depending on the size of your hand, i.e. where you're palm touches the upper bout)

2) in eighth notes, shift a major third

3) in triplet eighths, shift a minor third

4) in sixteenths, shift a major second

5) in sextuplet sixteenths, shift a minor second

6) in thirtyseconds, vibrate

7) regular vibrato

8) get faster by narrowing the swing of the wrist, keeping the shoulder/collar relatively still (though not locked)

9) get slower by releasing the wrist and releasing the shoulder/collar, so you get a punching out motion toward the scroll and back

N.B. Some people have difficulty releasing the wrist so that the hand gets dragged behind it on the shift up; the main cause is a rigid baseknuckle of the thumb (located near your wrist). Incidently, this is the same reason why some advocate a rotating motion in vibrato, rather than allowing the hand to swing back and forth from the thumb.

To learn to release baseknuckle and wrist, try this apart from the fiddle:

1) Hold left hand in front of you, (as in playing form but so that the thumbnail faces you).

2) Hold thumb with right hand.

3) Swing the rest of the hand back and forth from the elbow (left and right in this position, later 'away' and 'toward' on the fiddle), releasing the wrist so that it pulls out and in with each swing.

4) Hold thumb and 1st finger (then 2nd, 3rd, 4th), and again swing back and forth, allowing the baseknuckles of thumb and finger, and wrist to release together.

5) Do the shifting exercise again (from above) with the fiddle, and pay attention to how the hand gets dragged up and down by the arm. Sliding up, the finger curls because of friction; release its baseknuckle with the baseknuckle of the thumb, along with the wrist and the hand drags behind the arm. Sliding down, the finger extends; again, release base knuckles, and the hand drags behind.

6) With the released feeling of the wrist/baseknuckles, vibrate freely with the side of the 1st finger sliding along the neck freely. (Some recommend that you keep a space between 1st finger and neck, but at the expense of losing vital sensory info from that area of the hand. Also, notice that this hand posture makes the thumb tighter than leaving the hand in a more neutral position, with the side of 1st finger hugging the neck. This is the other solution (perhaps a better one than the rotation) to those who vibrate with a rigid thumb-baseknuckle).

The secret to a fluid vibrato is in the release of the base knuckles, which allows the finger to curl and extend, and the wrist to swing, amplifying the motion of the elbow (or not, as you require - some people never let the hand swing back).

Contrary to what's been said, the hand vibrato is generated from the forearm, about the wrist itself. Learning this vibrato may help you release the wrist in an arm vibrato (although it often does not for many). The hand is thrown back from the forearm and simply springs back; again feel release in the baseknuckles; also keep the elbow released. Some people (e.g. Zuckerman) never allow the wrist to bend back beyond straight, so their wrist is always held bent foreward slightly (in both hand and arm vibrato - not recommended for shorter arms). The hand motion becomes the follow-through motion of the arm vibrato. As mentioned above, Saussmanhaus teaches it (exclusively) on his website The hand vibrato is useful as a generic vibrato in maintaining a warm sound (as opposed to white sound - no vibrato) - not too fast or slow, not too wide or narrow - without as much work as the (potentially) more expressive arm vibrato. Being able to do different types of vibrato becomes more important for people with small hands and/or thin fingers. And hand vibrato may help with injury prevention for some.



December 31, 2005 at 01:45 AM · Greetings

>Contrary to what's been said, the hand vibrato is generated from the forearm,

Not really. That appears to be the point of origin but the arm is a much larger unit that extends across the back and down to the waist at the opposite side. That is why vibrato is often referred to as originating in the back (by Stern for example). The problem is that it is rather diifcult for beginners to feel this holisitc view of the origin of vibrato and its manifestation at the are aof forearm or wrist. Thus it is an issue that needs to be coinsidere dand explored by teachers in their own playing and then even as the student works on basics like fingertip control, good forearm rotation (a point often ignored) and so on , the over all structure and flow of power must be contsantly evaluated and explicated to the student.



December 31, 2005 at 06:04 AM · Hi Buri,

I understand the concept of vibrating from the whole arm. But it is possible to use smaller muscles of the arm to generate a motion while leaving the larger muscles passive. This occurs in both left arm and right arm motions. For instance, it is possible to play a detache from just the fingers, also just the hand, the forearm, the whole arm. During a finger detache, there is no active motion in the biceps/triceps, the active muscles are in the forearm and hand. That is not to say the larger parts of the arm do not move. They do move passively in response to the smaller motion generated by the smaller muscles. In this way a lot of energy can be spared in playing short strokes. (The short stroke can also be generated from the upperarm about the elbow - in which case the upperarm is active, the lowerarm is passive.) Similarly, it is possible to generate a vibrato using the smaller muscles of the forearm, while leaving the larger muscles of the upperarm, shoulder, and back, passive, yet released. Of course, if those larger muscles are held tight, they will not move. If they are released, the response to the motion in the forearm can be felt throughout the arm, shoulder and back, as a passive motion. This selective muscle use (what comes naturally to the 'geniuses' of the world, including the Tiger Woodss, and the Michael Jordans) is what is difficult to master in all technique. Of course it's not an either/or, especially in performance. The muscles are mostly used in infinite combinations. But it sometimes helps to know what does what.

Hope that clarifies my previous statement.



December 31, 2005 at 06:19 AM · hell with what anyone says...Do what you feel that comes natural to you. Your own natural vibrato that produces the kind of sound and tone that you desire/prefer is something that will never let you down!

December 31, 2005 at 06:31 AM · That's fine for those with the natural vibrato, Patrick, but what about those who are asking the questions, or those with the natural vibrato who lose function in their arms because of overuse, not simply overplaying, but overdoing while playing? 'Natural' can be double edged.


P.S. Sorry I overlooked the fact that you did talk about the wrist/hand vibrato in an earlier post - I only remembered the Saussmanhaus website.

January 1, 2006 at 11:35 AM · Does vibrato movcememnt originate in the back? What does that mean? Does it mean that the first muscle to move is in the back? Or does it mean that the back is not totally fixed but that the movement of a finger affects you all the way down to the back? If so , why not say the movment originates in the soles of your feet? Or does it mean that a whole lot muscles move at the same time, but that nothing moves at a greater distance from the finger tip than the back?

Incidentally, the little book by on vibrato by Werner Hauk from the seventies (translated into English) comes up with a theory that vibrato originates in the back, and is a natural impulse in violinists (as, it is argued, it is a natural implulse in singers) which must be allowed to flow. The book is mainly interesting for its thorough survey of literature on vibrato up to the time it was written.

January 1, 2006 at 11:24 AM · With arm vibrato, when the arm comes towards you, does the pitch of the note go DOWN? Or UP?

With loose wrist the pitch goes down, and with stiff wrist it goes up. If the wrist is loose the hand and finger angle drop back as the forearm comes towards to the body.

(A similar thing happens when using the kind of finger vibrato which varies pressure of fingers - pitch goes down with increase pressure if the wrist is loose and the hand is allowed to drop back, but the opposite can happen if the wrist is locked OR if the finger vibrato is combined with a wirst vibrato which actively brings the hand towards the player as the finger pressure increases).

But which is typical of good players who use arm vibrato?

January 1, 2006 at 09:49 PM · greetigs,

when you throw a ball, what is the difference between imagining you throw from the hand or forearm and and imaginig the origin to be in the back or legs?



January 2, 2006 at 02:18 AM · I don't know if there is a difference imagining how you throw a ball, but I do know that there is an actual difference. If a pitcher threw 100 fast balls, winding up from the legs (like a major league pitcher), he'd be much more tired than if he'd just tossed the ball around using only arm muscles. Or, if one were throwing a pingpong ball, it would be quite tiring (even harmful from the danger of 'throwing out' the arm) to do so using the whole arm, from the shoulder, as opposed to flicking it from the elbow or the wrist.

January 2, 2006 at 07:59 AM · Greetings,

yes, that is why I used the word "imagining."



January 2, 2006 at 04:01 PM · So Buri, would you also agree that there is an actual difference between vibrating from the arm and/or back, and vibrating from the forearm?



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