We figured out why my vibrato is atrocious!

November 9, 2019, 9:50 AM · So as some of you may remember, I posted about my completely losing my vibrato last year and not being able to get it back.

I was thinking I needed to get the neck of my violin fixed, as it's waaay too thick (which is true) and thought less weight on the instrument would allow my arm to be less tense, but a new violin didn't help at all.

I referred to my partner at school (she teaches 5/6 grades and I teach 7/8 grades) and she asked me to show her again. Turns out, I'm getting all sorts of tension in my tricep and forearm because I'm trying to use the outside corner of my finger instead of the inside corner! I don't know why I started doing that, but such a simple thing has been the bane of my existence for almost a year.

She brought me back to the beginning of learning vibrato and gave me an exercise where I put my scroll (carefully) to the wall so the instrument is essentially weightless, allowing my hand to be totally free, and rocking backwards almost a half step and back in half notes (eventually going to quarters/eighths/triplets), making sure the whole hand goes back and the finger straightens out (but not so far that the knuckle collapses). She said no vibrato in lessons or rehearsal at all for at least a few weeks.

I've already seen a huge difference! Yay!

Replies (11)

November 9, 2019, 10:04 AM · What you have described is how I try to teach my students explaining that it takes a LONG time to develop a good vibrato. Instead of rocking back and forth from quarters to triplets and 1/16ths I have them set their hand in third position (shortens the arm stretch) on the A string and set the metronome at around 70. Then after you progress with all the fingers on all strings with move the metronome up step by step. One teacher friend tells her students to practice it on all strings 5 minutes a day. All of them have developed even, beautiful vibratos.
November 9, 2019, 10:49 AM · Please edit the title to iswas when you can, and thanks for sharing!
November 9, 2019, 12:22 PM · I am glad it is working out for you.

However I cannot visualize this problem you had: outside corner of finger vs inside corner of finger. Were you vibrating forward?

No offense intended-just trying to figure out the issue without a video (no need to present a link.)

If anyone else understands, feel free to comment.

Some vibratos I like, others I do not love, but the important thing is they should all should be relaxed-even those fast and "tense sounding" ones recommended in many passages.

Best of luck with everything.

November 9, 2019, 12:23 PM · Thank you J, I will! It's already gotten much better, but I haven't taken it off the wall yet. It FEELS so much better.

Pat, do you make them do quarter notes at 70? Mine was so bad; it was fast and uncontrolled, and sometimes I'd move and it wouldn't even sound like I was vibrating. All because it was the wrong part of my finger!

November 9, 2019, 12:25 PM · Adalberto, I thought I was going backwards, but the part that was on the string was almost the right side of my finger tip rather than the left. My hand has nice form when I play, so there's nothing weird going on there, but I must have been going forward for that part of my finger to be in contact. My partner recreated it and it was exactly what I was doing. Really weird!!!
November 9, 2019, 1:18 PM · As an amateur, may I add one issue, and that is the flexibility in the first finger joint below the fingernail. That joint ultimately is what translates your hand arm motion to the fingertip and the string.
Soooo, how about taking just a few minutes a day to place each finger straight down on a table or desk, and wiggle that joint back and forth to increase flexibility. Don't press hard or do anything that creates discomfort in the fingers.
Just a minute or so for each of the 4 fingers. Don't take my word for it. Try it every day and see what happens in a week or two.
Edited: November 9, 2019, 6:33 PM · Perhaps it's me, but I always had difficulty understanding the exercise described above, except perhaps for the index finger. All the other fingers can only go sideways in increasing degree as you move toward the pinky, not back and forth. I can understand the exercise to develop flexibility and reduce tension in the first finger's joint, but the motion itself for most other fingers isn't really back and forth in line with the finger. Doing so would move the 3rd finger for e.g. at an angle sideways accross the finger board rather than in line with it for maximum tonal change amplitude. Does that make sense?
November 9, 2019, 8:25 PM · Roger - my teacher has asked me to increase the flexibility in all of my finger joints for improved vibrato. I don't have the adequate language to describe what's happening with my vibrato though.
November 9, 2019, 8:48 PM · Are we discussing arm or wrist vibrato ? Do they not require different techniques and methods of practise ?
Edited: November 9, 2019, 10:59 PM · I tend to think more middle of the finger pad, fairly central, but some folks like the thumbside corner (what I think you're calling the inner corner). Right-side alignment is definitely wrong.
November 13, 2019, 11:20 AM · Nice Kristen, after you have perfected your vibrato in a few more weeks, your students will be able to benefit from your new skill!


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