On Relearning Vibrato

August 17, 2019, 7:12 PM · I am a rising senior and entering my 10th year as a violinist. I have been facing a lot of shoulder pain recently and have deduced that it is due to how I do vibrato. When I learned vibrato as a younger kid, I think I may have been very impatient and it is proving to be a problem.

My violin shakes as I do vibrato and I believe it is due to the fact that I use my entire arm and shoulder rather than letting the motion come from my forearm. To compensate, I have developed the habit of clenching my neck and shoulder together to stop the violin from shaking. I want to relearn the technique but I have no idea how. It obviously will take a lot to do it but I don't know where to start.

Is it even possible to fix ten years of habits? Has anyone seen any success in something like this? How do I go about doing this? I am working on some pretty intense repertoire (Mendelssohn E minor concerto) right now. Do I need to move away from this to relearn the technique?

Replies (4)

August 17, 2019, 7:43 PM · If you're planning to fix a fundamental issue like this, the first thing you have to do is back off the high-octane repertoire. Get your teacher to teach you how to do wrist vibrato. You may want to use it exclusively for a while, and then learn how to "arm it" selectively rather than continuously. I also had a shoulder pain for a while (in the top of my upper arm actually) that I'm pretty well convinced is vibrato-related. For me it was enough to be careful not to overdo vibrato while practicing (many things are practiced better without it anyway), but your mileage may vary.
August 18, 2019, 3:56 AM · Vibrato is a complex subject with many aspects. If your teacher cannot guide you to developing a loose and flexible vibrato, and it is no option to try a better teacher, then you could get the book "Basics" by Simon Fischer which has an entire chapter on Vibrato.
August 20, 2019, 8:43 PM · I've had to relearn vibrato twice, and it's normal to have to refine it over a lifetime. The first time I had to stop vibrating all together to get rid of the "old" way. Your situation sounds more like you need tweaking, not totally relearning. Take a look at the following playlist of vib exercises for my studio to see if any of them help you to learn a more relaxed way:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcsxEkYPwGvyeAZLJpyArQwGMPTFBwQvh

August 20, 2019, 11:17 PM · I "ditto" the idea of switching to a wrist vibrato. Injury to 3 of my cervical vertebrae when I was 55 forced be to completely stop playing violin for a year until I could work my fingers again and my arm vibrato was gone forever. It has taken a long time to come up with a wrist vibrato (works better for me on viola) but I can get it going after about 30 minutes.

Working a "finger vibrato" in the higher positions (5th and above) may help loosen you up enough.

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