Arm of hand vibrato first?

December 5, 2018, 12:40 AM · Watching the crazy techers teach vibrato-video got me thinking, which is the more common way of teaching vibrato: wrist-vibrato or arm-vibrato first? I mean in the video its mostly wrist-vibrato and finger-vibrato, right?

Me and my girl have been taught arm-vibrato so far only, so the wrist-vibrato obviously looks so tense to my unexperienced eyes.

So which were you taught first and which do you teach first? And was it easy or difficult for you compared to other learning stuff? Is there any connection with the age of the student; if adults learn wrist-vibrato first better for example? Im thinking in the lines of younger children having more flexible and relaxed joints than adult starters.

Replies (13)

December 5, 2018, 2:37 AM · I got taught arm vibrato but couldn't do it at all. For me it felt so forced and my violin would shake a lot.

Then I tried wrist vibrato and it clicked. I play with my thump lie completely under the neck, so it might be why wrist vibrato feels natural

Edited: December 5, 2018, 2:53 AM · I've heard two different takes on this:

Some teachers say that they start children on wrist vibrato first and adults on arm vibrato first, because it's easier for adults to start with larger muscles while children with their extra flexibility are more able to start with wrist vibrato.

One violinist I've encountered on social media has observed something different: people with longer arms tend to favor arm vibrato, while people with shorter arms favor wrist vibrato.

As an adult learner, I learned wrist vibrato first, and while I eventually added an arm vibrato to use in certain situations (lower strings and double-stops), I have an easy, relaxed wrist vibrato and a relatively tense arm vibrato. I switched to viola very early on, so when I started learning vibrato my arms were short for the instrument. I was self-taught when I learned wrist vibrato and more than 10 years later had a teacher work with me on developing an arm vibrato to add to it.

December 5, 2018, 8:19 AM · I taught myself an arm vibrato when I was in middle school (my teacher hadn't started teaching me vibrato yet), and I apparently learned it well enough that no one really commented on my vibrato until my grad school professor encouraged me to learn wrist vibrato to add variety. I still use primarily arm vibrato, but have recently been working on developing my wrist vibrato more.
When I teach vibrato, I usually introduce easy exercises for both types initially. I find that most people have a natural propensity for one or the other and that one is easier for them to learn first. If they are doing one type well, I usually let that be their vibrato for awhile and after a couple of years start encouraging them to develop whichever type is less natural for them. I think most good vibrato is a combination of wrist and arm depending on the music/context, so it is good to learn both, but I think it is best to start with whatever comes most naturally first. I would say that a slight majority of my students find arm vibrato easier to learn, but I have a few who have developed a beautiful wrist vibrato with minimal coaching.
December 5, 2018, 9:13 AM · They are both equally useful tools.
I mean, good luck doing an arm vibrato past the octave on the E string...
I just let my vibrato develop naturally and it seems to have worked, because it was always something my examiners complimented me on. Maybe I was lucky, but I would suggest not the think about it.
December 5, 2018, 9:57 AM · Teachers should mostly be careful that neither is tense (neither wrist or finger vibrato are tense, despite what it may appear), and that it sounds good, not justs merely "passable". It is a skill that requires patience and musical experience/knowledge to master, as it's not only being able to do one (or all) of the types, but varying its usage according to passages even within the same work (and often, there are many possibilities, but also certain "no-nos" a player should follow.) But coming back the first point, it must be relaxed so that it can go as fast or slow as it needs to be, without any hand strain or squeezing of the instrument.

Adults can learn either too, from what I have seen. I would start with wrist myself, as it appears as "the most difficult", and it's often harder to teach wrist after arm later, but there are cases in which the violinist is so content with his/her wrist vibrato, that arm vibrato doesn't come as naturally to him/her.

(I am personally allergic to wobbly, permanently very slow arm or wrist vibratos. I would avoid those unless the music requires them, which often it doesn't-which doesn't mean it's "wrong" to develop speed slowly as one first starts to learn vibrato use.)

Edited: December 5, 2018, 11:53 AM · Arm vibrato uses more energy than wrist vibrato in direct proportion to the relative masses of hand and arm. My experience has been that with age it becomes more difficult to perform arm than hand vibrato.

I was taught arm vibrato that I thought served me well until some mishap caused partial paralysis of my left arm and had at age 55. For a year after that any vibrato was impossible - in fact any violin playing at all. Since then I have worked on developing wrist vibrato that seems most difficult in 1st position but easier in 2nd to 4th. In 5th position and above what I call a "finger vibrato" seems to work as well as ever. For some reason I don't yet understand I find wrist vibrato easier on viola than violin. My cello vibrato returned starting about one year after the paralysis - but that is a totally different set of motions.

I think there is an "optimum" vibrato mode for each person and that is the one to start with. To get to that stage in learning to play your instrument it is important to have a teacher who understands how to develop your left hand technique from the start so you will be "free" enough to move properly for the best possible vibrato from the beginning.

It becomes obvious, from observing many great violinists that the approaches to vibrato are very individual and personal and so are the results.

December 5, 2018, 1:38 PM · For teaching vibrato, I start with the motion of the finger, with the fiddle held like a guitar. If the finger tip is not rotating, there is no point in what they do with their arm or wrist.
December 9, 2018, 1:47 PM · My vibrato looks like a hand vibrato but is in fact the tip of an integrated "underwater plant" wave motion in the whole forearm.

I teach it to my students, who then adapt it..

So, arm motion, "homing in" on a flexible hand & finger motion.

December 9, 2018, 3:16 PM · Interestingly I was never "taught" vibrato. It simply appeared on day. Mine is more finger/wrist based and does not involve the entire arm. Is it "perfect?" Nope. It adds the color that I want to add when I want to add it.
December 9, 2018, 9:35 PM · I figured out vibrato on my own too. My childhood teacher encouraged me to do that. Then, 30 years later, my adulthood teacher had to rebuild it from scratch.

Most teachers I know teach wrist vibrato first.

December 10, 2018, 3:39 AM · I hope my mother's carpal tunnel syndrome isn't hereditary!
December 10, 2018, 10:09 AM · I teach wrist first when the student is comfortable in 3rd position.

It's kind of a gamble because some can do wrist, and some can't (I never really could). However, the wrist vibrato may, in the beginning, encourage the finger joints to open up and get used to a wide, controlled motion.

I find that often, students who start their own arm vibrato just squeeze the whole arm and have a bad tension vibrato that's too fast and uncontrollable. But then again, they could do that with wrist...

December 14, 2018, 8:21 PM · Personally I find wrist vibrato a lot easier than arm. But I ended up using arm vibrato more because it looks more dramatic and ‘violinistic’. I think that’s why most soloists on stage tend to emphasise arm vibrato a bit more. I never saw a soloist who use almost exclusively wrist.

Some people say it’s easier to have wide vibrato with arm but I don’t know.


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