Vibrato! I'm very confused!

June 30, 2019, 1:51 AM · Hi everyone,

On a complete and random whim (no idea why) I went online at the end of last year, and ordered myself a violin. Then I called a local violin teacher and booked myself in for lessons.

It had been a struggle to get a even a semi-decent tone for a while (I practised only an hour per week so that explains that!) until about 3 weeks ago (when I started practising two hours per day). I've made a lot of improvement in tone, but of course, you all know how someone who has been playing for a few months sounds.

HOWEVER, something interesting happened, and I'm confused. Even though I'm following my teacher's pace and plan, and even though I know I have no business messing about with vibrato, or even thinking about it, a couple of days ago something stupidly exciting happened.

I spent approx an hour a day for two weeks trying very hard to get a vibrato movement going. Looked at a few exercises on my own, and practised them (just for a laugh). Felt like the most awkward and impossible thing in the world. Thought I was going to break my violin because of how the whole thing was shaking, and my left hand felt like it would get cramp from the effort.

Well, a couple of days ago I suddenly managed to play what felt like a faint and very inconsistent vibrato, and my hand was completely relaxed. Not musically pleasing, and by no means good technique, but I was so happy I nearly cried! Suddenly I was able to get a very rough and musical approximation of it, on a piece that I've been practising (In a Garden).

Question is, should I forget about it at this point and leave it to when my teacher things I'm ready? (She's a very very experienced teacher). Should I bring it up with her?

From everything I read, I should not even be trying vibrato for years yet, but here I am and I've found that I'm enjoying this so much. Due to travels etc I won' t be able to have a lesson with her for close to a month. What to do?!

Replies (8)

June 30, 2019, 2:43 AM · You're fine, as long as you keep practicing the fundamentals that your teacher told you to practice, and your budding vibrato does not get in the way of doing the things the way your teacher told you. It is actually not abnormal that a violin student develops a vibrato of their own just by imitating more advanced students, a kind of vibrato envy, in the school where I learned the violin as a child long ago this was the normal situation. Then the teacher may have had to correct it a bit of course. The most important thing is, like you wrote yourself, keep your hand and your joints relaxed, and if your joints are not flexible yet, first work on developing that because it is a necessary condition for vibrato. Enjoy!!
June 30, 2019, 6:46 AM · There's nothing wrong with learning and doing new things aside from what you're being taught, I would mention it to your teacher and show him/her your progress.
June 30, 2019, 6:53 AM · Advancing technique is fine just make sure you don’t do it very much. Because you might think that the motion is a faint and inconsistent vibrato. However it might be technically flawed and only your teacher can tell. Keep practicing your fundamentals because I promise violin playing is so much more fun when you can make a sound on the instrument you enjoy.
June 30, 2019, 8:38 AM · If you have a lesson only after a month, I would not proceed with your vibrato. Things with violin are so very very hard to relearn.
June 30, 2019, 9:37 AM · I would forget about vibrato for a while.

The reason is that there is good possibility that you are not using the correct action, and a teacher will have to have you un-learn what you've done. I see it all the time--students that have "mastered" the "squeeze hard and shake" vibrato. Takes forever to fix it.

Practically every aspect of playing the violin is non-intuitive--you can't do something based on what "feels right" as a beginner. What seems right at the beginning may turn out to be very limiting.

Here's what I find problematic:
1. You've started lessons with a teacher
2. You don't seem to trust the teacher because you're on the internet wondering whether to bring up something with that teacher.

If you trust the teacher, do what she tells you.

June 30, 2019, 11:21 AM · I don't think it's harmful for you to come to a forum like this one to ask questions about your technique or progress. But I agree that you should not stray too far from what you are being taught because that tends to short-circuit the training you are paying for.
June 30, 2019, 2:17 PM · I usually find that students who self-introduce vibrato early on end up morphing their hand frame to allow the movement. Thus, their intonation quickly gets much worse because the consistency of their hand's setup is no longer reliable. Not only that, but a host of other issues can pop up as a result, such as tightness or over-looseness. So to put it simply, what you're doing is probably going to hurt your progress. It's not so much about having to unlearn the vibrato later, but about how it affects your hand frame now, particularly in the fragile early stages of learning.
June 30, 2019, 3:00 PM · Thanks for all the responses, everyone! Pretty much in line with what I was thinking.

I'm taking lessons once per week now, perhaps twice when I have time. And yes, I'm very much paying attention to the things that I'm being taught. This was just a little side project to see if I could get my head around what was going on with a vibrato.

My teacher is great, 100% trust in her, and I'm in no hurry. I was merely surprised that I even managed to produce a rough sound where two weeks ago it felt utterly impossible.

She does watch me like a hawk, to the point where my hand position is scrutinised a great deal. I'll leave it for now, and focus on the basics.

PS very much enjoying the violin. Much more fun than I had though beforehand!

Once again, thank you to everyone for your responses. Good to get opinions from others who have more experience. Helps guide where I am (in addition, and second only to, my teacher!)


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