Continuous Vibrato

April 14, 2019, 7:49 AM · Hi all, my teacher just introduced to me the concept of continuous and vibrato, and I have a few questions pertaining to this:

1. How does one develop a reliable continuous vibrato? Are there any particular exercises that can be recommended?

2. The context in which my teacher introduced continuous vibrato was Mozart 5 (the Adagio section), but I was wondering if it was appropriate seeing that a majority of recordings by various soloists did not feature this.

3. I noticed that continuous vibrato was used mainly by the great old school violinists like Heifetz, Oistrakh etc. On the other hand, its usage among younger violinists is a rarity nowadays. Does it mean that continuous vibrato is obsolete in any way?

Thanks a lot!

Replies (5)

Edited: April 14, 2019, 8:13 AM · Just practise with vibrato and it will come on its own.

Don't worry about how other people play it. Make the sound you want to hear.

As a side note, a continuous vibrato may project better over an orchestra in a hall.

April 14, 2019, 10:48 AM · It is not obsolete. Just an artistic choice whether it's applicable on any given work and phrase within it.

The reasoning behind learning continuous vibrato is that random non-continuous vibrato is not an artistic expression, but merely a technical limitation. Thus, one should not try to look for excuses for not developing this skill properly by focusing on those artists that switch vibrato on and off throughout a piece.

I have been to this sort of recital, and while I understood the musical reasons behind their "senza vibrato" in many phrases, to my ears it ocassionally felt like too much. Still, it's their musical choice, and to be respected. (They are not incapable of continuous vibrato.)

It's easier to have continuous vibrato and afterwards learning when to stop it for musical purposes, than to not having it at all. Scales can be great tools to develop both skills.

Edited: April 15, 2019, 10:48 AM · The entry about vibrato near the end of this link is as close to a good, brief science-based description of how and why vibrato "works" as I have seen:

As far as "continuous vibrato" is concerned it clearly cannot possibly apply when one is playing more than 5 notes per second and would be pointless at some speed approaching that.

Personally, I like to hear hear vibrato used "sensitively" and developed for expressive ("emotional") purposes, but I think the linked article (if you think about it) makes it clear why vibrato can be essential when the situation involves one solo violin vs. a 100-piece symphony orchestra -- (or a 1/2 ton grand piano) and how that works.

Edited: April 14, 2019, 12:25 PM · Continuous vibrato is an artistic option, not usually appropriate for early music, but that Adagio in Mozart 5 is a good place to use it. Andrew is right; don't vibrate on notes going by at about the same speed, or higher, than your vibrato, 5-6 /sec. If there isn't a full cycle, those notes will sound bent. How to learn it?- two suggestions. On a scale, slow, long tones, put rests between the notes, start the vibrato before the note, then continue, follow-through, the vibrato after the note. 2) Synchronize the change of notes with the vibrato; drop a higher number finger in when the vibrato is moving up. Likewise move to a lower note when the vibrato is moving low. It's easier to demonstrate than describe. Hope that makes sense.
April 15, 2019, 6:50 AM · I find that in fast passages there is no time for vibrato, but that the finger-falls initiate a slight quiver without affecting the perceived pitch. The hand is ready to vibrate at any time. Or not..

Vibrato "bulges" on each note are infuriating. But longer vibrato swells and fades can be independent of bowing or fingering.

I think the "humming-bird" vibrato was born in the age of noisy mechanical recordings where the real "shimmer" of the tone is lost.

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