When to vibrato
Does anyone have a good info on vibrato history or changes in teachings based on location? I was mainly taught to use vibrato sparingly to emphasize certain notes. My current professor and a fellow colleague seem more in the boat of every note gets vibrato.
Is this a regional thing where it seems to different from Europe, to america (or even different parts of America) or more of a modern vs. traditional?... although I don’t know which one would be the more traditional.
Modern western violin playing makes heavy use of vibrato. Build yourself a playlist of something you know thoroughly like Mozart 3, with three or four top violinists and you can listen just for vibrato. Repeat with a baroque piece and something more modern like Franck Sonata or Lark Ascending. A week or two of keen listening will convey to you the state of the art with respect to vibrato better than the union of a few dozen random opinions. I am partial to violinists who use great variety in their vibrato such as Mutter. I do not care as much for the motorized, constant vibrato of Stern or Grumiaux.
I was taught, coincidentally and exclusively, by students of Galamian. They were all in agreement on the subject and taught continuous vib, but of different character depending context. Not as much vibrato for Baroque, more for romantic. I was also always warned of the perils of the 'dead' note, which is where you vibrato every note in a phrase except one and that one dead note ruins your career as a violinist.
"I was also always warned of the perils of the 'dead' note, which is where you vibrato every note in a phrase except one and that one dead note ruins your career as a violinist."
I like to feel that my vibrato is waiting to happen at any instant: then I have complete control over its presence.
My practical guidance is when the conductor in orchestra tells us he needs a lot of vibrato, or not to do it at all. Away from the orchestra I please myself.
I personally think the ideal of vibratinrg every note is ridiculous.
Ridiculous? A good vibrato is often an organic
Shouldn't be noticeable? But...it IS noticeable. Violinists can be very well-known because of their vibrato. For example, many of us can recognize Heifetz immediately because of his vibrato. The young Stern's vibrato is one of my favorites. In fact, Stern, in his autobiography, says that three things are needed for professional success: Vibrato, bow speed, and bow control.
My teacher defends almost constant vibrato. According to him, vibrato is not only for expression or emotion, but also for volume and projection. Especially the narrow and "subtle" vibrato. He encourages me to follow that habit to increase contrast in the dynamics.
I think it's justifiable to simply say that the modern audience wants to hear a certain type of sound, and that's one that's almost constantly vibrated. We may sometimes disagree, but that's the modern sound.
I'd say vibrate whenever you can - after all you can not vibrate anytime you want. It pays to develop the ability by using it whenever you can. (When you get old enough it gets harder and harder!) If you are in a small room and the sound gets too big, reduce the vibes (smaller amplitude).
It's a good point--some really fine old violins sound great with a minimum of vibrato, and some newer or inferior ones really need it. I don't know what's going on acoustically, but it's a "thing."
Back then everyone vibrated every note and this made it of course much easier to differentiate between people since people tended to have their 'signature' vibrato. Nowadays there is a bigger focus on varying the vibrato and sometimes even vibrating only when necessary. As a principle this sounds great, but it's very difficult to enforce upon yourself because SO MANY violinists nowadays have a habit of not vibrating 1st + 4th finger in slow - medium speed cantibile passages, and also not vibrating the note after a shift. Another really common one is if you have 2 or more notes in a down bow and then need 1 note to recover to the frog in the same time frame, many people will not vibrate the up bow note out of physical convenience because using vibrato forces you to slow down the bow.
Continuous vibrato has been the fashion for a long time. At one time, (from Leopold Mozart's book) vibrato was considered to be a type of ornament. Now non-vibrato on selected notes is a special effect, and can be surprisingly expressive. One thing to be careful about; if the notes are are faster than the vibrato, about 5 cycles per second, they will sound bent and sloppy, turn off the vibrato. Our model for what to do with vibrato can be the good singers, who don't have the technical problems of fingering.
A couple of thoughts.
Don't know. FWIW, vibrato is so important to the oboe that it takes about 6 months of constant practice to achieve a good diaphragm vibrato (I've been there and done it). Vibrato helps in tone production and intonation. So if you do it right, it's part of the music's soul. As a musician you just have to use your own judgement along with all your other faculties.
James very interesting contribution and nice to see that top soloists also have "non vibrato out of inconvenience" it makes me feel slightly better :-) your answer is, in my view, the perfect answer to the question posed by the OP. when to vibrate? exactly in those cases where you would do it if the note would not be inconvenient to vibrate!
Scott, notice how all the violinists you cited as being recognizable for their vibrato, are from the old generation?
This all sounds like a lot of trying to reinvent the wheel. I have heard a bunch of vaunted and hyped Isabelle Faust recordings, and they sounded mannered and bizarre. Her tone is an impediment to expression. There are different approaches like there are different tastes on the listener's end, but I don't know what you mean about "modern school" - Maybe people really aren't emphasizing the bow in creating musical phrasing and continuity, but is this really the modern school? There are plenty of soloists that use sparing vibrato, and there are many currents of interpretation. Bach is always being played differently. Sure, there are soloists that have heavy vibratos and still have an ugly tone (and I've heard a number of them live), and their problems ARE likely in their right hands, but that doesn't mean that turning off their vibratos are going to solve their problem.
"Period performance is a fetish just like all kinds of different fetishes people have in music, and thoughtful performers may take bits and pieces of this and that and add tools to their arsenal, but I get the sense that a lot of period performers just couldn't bother making a nice sound, so they decided to call themselves period performers."
I think we should be very happy hearing the opinions of a young passionate high-level violin student like Roman here on this forum (at least Roman that is what I understand you are). I think the model of singing a melody from all your heart (while imagining you can actually sing!) and feeling where you would put the vibrato, is a very good and natural one. It's all about musicality. In a sense, if there is a note that we really want to vibrato, I gather we will feel the urge to finger it in a way that we can actually do it. Of course there will be compromises if our technique is limited. Roman also thanks for the tip on the other thread about the Paavo Jarvi Beethoven interpretations. They are indeed very good.
Who's offended? Not everyone can make good music, and people can be all kinds of enthusiastic about music, but that doesn't make them good musicians. I've never heard a period performance group and not wished that they wouldn't apply the lessons that musicians have learned to bring the art forward in the last 200 years. And all this HIP is just guesswork. We don't have recordings of people back in the day. We can also guess that with recordings in the last 100 years, people play a lot more in tune then before - I would actually be willing to bet on that one - So if you want to be REALLY HIP, you should also probably not play as in tune.
Just wanted to unequivocally state that, as much as I love the old-school violinists-and I *really* do-to say that every modern violinist sounds the same as each other is merely an exaggeration. Do a serious comparison, rather than be led by personal bias.
I enjoyed James Dong's post and it got me wondering about pros and concentration. Obviously, Szeryng wasn't some slouch who couldn't do vibrato with his fourth finger, especially with time to prepare! Why then? Lazy? Not really concentrating on every note? Intentional "interpretation" moment (I doubt it.)
One of my favourite pieces of vinyl was Heinz Holliger paying six Vivaldi (trio?) sonatas, and in one of them he plays mostly loud throughout the piece, then on the last very long note he crescendos; then when he's as loud as he can get, he finally adds vibrato and it sounds twice as loud. Fabulous!
Scott, at least I made clear, rational, logical aruments as to why I have the opinions I have.
Vibrato can and should be expressive, but I suspect more than 90% of expression is in the right hand.
Attributing expressive capability solely to one hand or the other is sort of dogmatic. While I can see that perhaps too many teachers overemphasize the importance of vibrato and under-emphasize the importance of singing with the right hand, I think it's about a 50/50 split.
We don't have recordings of people from Bach's day, but we do have recordings of Joachim.
Erik, I certainly don’t think it’s a 50-50 split, that would be a gross over exaggeration of vibrato’s effect. I think the split is more somewhere along the lines of 80-20 or more in favor of the right hand.
btw, to the OP, this is a very good article:
I'd say that in theory if we add up to total amount of variables controlled in each hand, it would lean towards right hand 60/40
Maestro Joachim had a different vibrato than others in his own era, I would bet. Same as today. So it's hard to make a valid study on "the way it was done back in the day" when the standard is not set in stone as such. Not even Leopold Mozart has the last word on vibrato on his time. Same for Auer. And the treatise writers of their time. Vibrato varies between different Auer pupils, and Auer did study with Joachim.
Here's what Auer says about vibrato.
He can at times contradict himself depending on the writing/book you are discussing and his timeline. Moreover, his famous disciples didn't avoid vibrato as much as some would have you believe.
I have listened earlier to the Joachim recording of the Brahms hungarian dance. It is true that vibrato seems to be thin but it also is clear that the expression with the bow is huge, no matter how poor the recording quality is. I am not trying to make a point here, just observing the obvious that Joachim was clearly a master.
Roman wrote, "And when you do vibrate, it shouldn’t be noticeable. Vibrato is a way of adding color to the sound, it’s not the sound itself." Well I just listened to your Mozart 4 on YouTube. Well played! However, I must say your vibrato was noticeable!
It's not quite so simple as mere taste though.
Vibrato is frequency modulation masquerading as amplitude modulation. Just my opinion, but I think the best vibrato is not perceived as an up-and-down change of pitch. It's pulsations of intensity. The ear hears the sound dropping out momentarily instead of dropping in pitch.
As a teenage classical violin student this track totally changed my life:
Violin vibrato is definitely frequency modulation. Wind instruments use amplitude modulation - I spent 6 months on the oboe practising crescendo, diminuendo, crescendo, diminuendo with constant pitch, slowly at first, getting faster. In theory singers should do the same, but some of them sound pretty bad to my ears and as though they were emulating violin vibrato. I suppose it may be possible that the left-hand's fingers' pressure on the strings varies inadvertently, which might lead to amplitude changes.
Chris thanks for the link to that very interesting webpage by Esther Visser!
Thanks from me too, Chris. Great article!
The other end of this particular string is the violinist who can't switch off his vibrato when required. I have in mind a violinist in the firsts of one of my orchestras some years ago, a player of senior years, vast experience and technique, and formerly a respected CM for three decades in one of our best amateur orchestras, who embarrassingly found he was unable to turn off his vibrato in an important vibrato-free passage. After a discussion with the conductor he agreed to fake that passage inaudibly, a ploy which worked in the performance.
Also worth a read, linked from the Visser article:
Just to say that Auer's most well known pupils, Heifetz, Elman or Seidel, were famous for their vibrato!
It's a little hard to tell with the recording quality, but it sounds like vibrato to me
Christian is right about fetishism.
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