Vibrato - one myth and one truth
Good morning and Happy almost 2019! I’ve been collecting thoughts and myths about vibrato, from the perspective of a teacher and a player. Finding that It is extremely awkward to teach vibrato and equally difficult to examine my own...
So, just for fun and sharing ideas, please share one myth (could contain some truth) and one golden truth about vibrato. I’ll start-
Myth - always on everything in romantic music.
Truth- you should have a wardrobe of vibrato; just as we wear different shoes with different outfits, each piece needs the appropriate vibrato.
Myth - don't vibrate fast and wide in Mozart
Hmm. I would prefer opera singers to imitate violinists!
Myth: No vibrato before Haydn.
Adrian - if everyone practices vibrato under the pitch, but the sound is on either side, what would happen if we practised the vibrato centered? Would it be sharp?
Mattias, yes, I think so.
Funnily enough, as of last year, I ONLY practise vibrating above the pitch. This is the way electric guitarists vibrate, with around a 90% above/10% below ratio. Zukerman and Gitlis are close behind with around 65-70% above/35-30% below. These violinists are surely famous for their vibrato (amongst other things of course), I find that this way of vibrating is much more impactful.
James, I think it's timbre again. When the guitarist's finger goes over the fret it doesn't press right down and the tone must be momentarily less clear, and less loud.
Yes sorry, with my last sentence I actually meant a lower pitch of 60% or more!
"But in any case, a soloist's vibrato must allow his/her tone to stand out from a basically noisier accompaniment."
Paul. Here are my thoughts.
Another vibrato myth that absolutely grinds my gears.
I have heard some cool senza-vibrato passage work from string quartets but I agree it's something that should be used sparingly and not automatically when one is playing pp half-notes.
"Should orchestral violinists therefore play with less vibrato, so that the soloist will stand out more?"
Another myth: Notes should start and finish without vibrato.
I saw the experiment with the spectrum analyser to show the "it all happens below the note" thesis, but I can't remember the detail. One should note the important difference between "play below the note" and "if you play on what your ears tell you is the note, a spectrum analyser will show that you are playing below the note".
Myth: finger vibrato is bad, limited, and outdated. A well-meaning vibrato video on YouTube I saw a few years back spoke about it in no glowing terms, urging players to stick to arm/wrist types. For the record, I favor wrist vibrato for my own playing, so I am not advocating finger vibrato as the "correct vibrato." Thus...
Adalberto, I'm wondering what the target audience of that video was? Finger vibrato is a fairly advanced technique, and maybe the person in the video was speaking to intermediate players who shouldn't be trying these types of things.
Myth: vibrato is a change of pitch.
"Guitarists vibrate up in pitch only because, on the fingerboard, they can only do it that way because of the frets."
Scott: my percentages are obviously estimates, however I think it is clear that different people have different 'default' percentages. By using the slow down function on youtube, I can hear in x0.25 that Zukerman has a higher upper-lower ratio than the average violinist.
I must ageee with Mr. Cole in that going up pitch is not only unnecessary, but also a risk, and thus a skill I do not recommend developing. Many of the great soloists who do this often do not sound right themselves when their vibrato becomes too aggressive (which may be subjective, but the pitch going up too much *is* noticeable and distracting.) In practice, some of the "normal" players I have seen going up pitch do end up sounding like wild electric guitar vibratos, which are fine in context, but to my perhaps lacking ears sound very much too wild/out of control for Classical, and worse, like a caricature of non-desirable vibrato in a singer (and out of tune to boot.) I have heard many otherwise fine players mar their playing by such lack of control, and since it's not necessary in my view, I dispense with these "percentages" altogether.
Andrew Fryer wrote: I saw the experiment with the spectrum analyser to show the "it all happens below the note" thesis, but I can't remember the detail.
Famous soloists are not necessarily the authority on teaching vibrato to students who may not have the same abilities. I've studied with several good teachers who were/are orchestral players, and they said the same thing as Scott about going below the pitch.
I used the Intonia program to record my own vibrato on the middle finger, starting "non vib" and increasing the motion behind the note. On the screen the forward motion increasingly overshot the target pitch, no doubt due to its momentum.