Vibrato Tips and Advice
I'be been playing violin for nearly a year now and my teacher has started me off on learning vibrato! I'm excited but also struggling and was hoping someone could offer some advice or techniques to help pick up the movement.
Good for you - and your teacher! Are you working on an arm vibrato or a wrist (or hand) vibrato?
She said that she tends to use a mix of the the two, I think it is arm vibrato that she has set me off trying.
It is the arm position that makes it easier, just as it is with guitar.
Vibrato on the cello may indeed be a little easier to acquire than on the violin, but to get the sort of vibrato that a cellist would, for example, use in a concerto to aid projection in the concert hall will nevertheless take a lot of work over a period of time. Same applies to the violin.
As far as I know (which might not be too much), most teachers try to teach wrist vibrato first. The reasoning, I think, is that arm is easier to incorporate later. Something good to think about is: "What is moving during each vibrato 'stroke' and by how much?" For example if the back of your hand is moving a farther distance than the tip of your finger, then your fingers need to be straightening out and then bending again. If so, then which knuckle should bend most?
Trevor, I do tend to find that I am quite tense whilst playing and I think that tends to come from the position we hold the violin still feeling foreign. I guess I'll have to work on that a lot more than I am at the moment.
May I quote from myself? It's a bit long, though. But it works!
I really like the image of the motion being like an underwater plant, helps me visualise how relaxed the movement should be. I'm at the point now where I think I've firmly got the movement down at a very slow speed, I just need to work on speeding up (however I will wait to do that with my teacher).
Yes, speeding up the motion without stiffening or tightening.
Developing a good classical (there are others) vibrato technique requires tremendous patience. I ‘ve read a lot of articles/discussions on it on the internet. Some people say they learned it in a few weeks/months. They’re lying, and their teacher would probably say it’s still far off. Not saying this to discourage you, but it’s at least one year of very serious practicing to get it to start sounding acceptable although 6 months of intense practice will also yield noticeable results but nowhere near a pro level. Probably 2-3 years before it reaches at a true professional level. That’s every day working on it! Every discussion I’ve had with high level players confirmed the same thing. It takes a looong time!
I think I'm going to have to take it eve slowly because when I have tried doing it at speed I ended up with a lot of wrist movement but no vibrato, baby steps I guess.
What usually happens is this:
To be fair-and if it's any consolation-the infant/young virtuoso kids that can play almost anything usually lack on the vibrato department or its artistical application. It's something not merely technical, but that takes years of musical experience in its judicial use. The "eureka!" moment for vibrato may take more than a few years, even having the proper motions in place.
"a lot of wrist movement but no vibrato"
Vibrato- It's still a controversial topic best not learned on-line or from books. Whatever the mechanism, the result should be the same; the finger-tip rotates, pivots. It is not a sliding motion, contrary to what at least one book teaches.
This is a topic that interests me a lot, but I do want to add one other important point that the OP raised that is very relevant to adult beginners: the instrument feels very foreign.
I respectfully disagree, Denis.
Fair enough, but you yourself say you’re an adult returner, therefore you played as a child. I would invite you to carefully reread what I wrote.
I have to agree with you Denis. It can be a certain amount of inflexibility that happens naturally as we age, add to that some of us are not quite as lithe as we might have been and stuff just gets in the way of that upper left arm.
I find this series of videos by Max Baillie very useful for vibrato:
My violin teacher didn't just tell me (a mature adult - ahem!) to relax; she taught me how to relax. This process was over many weeks, extending into months, but it worked. In retrospect, I believe there was Alexander Technique at the root, although I don't think she mentioned it explicitly at the time.
It took me six years before I had anything resembling a decent vibrato. In trying for a secure and stable hold, I was gripping the neck between my thumb and index finger to the point where my hand could hardly move. I'm better now, but I could still use some improvement. It's a paradox - you have to relax your left hand enough for it to move freely, while keeping it firm enough to hold the strings down and stay in position.
I like Susanna's exercises: they complete my whole-arm, underwater-plant motions with some good "impulse" movements, a bit like an arrow arriving in a tree-trunk with a "boyoyoyoying"-like twang.
Just a word about YouTube links. If you go to share>embed>copy and use that link the video should appear here ready to play.
Some violinists say that their vibrato starts in the fingertips, but I find this is more of an impression gained when a successful vibrato has been developed.