On Relearning Vibrato
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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