Moving from arm to hand vibrato
I have a young student who's fairly advanced -- just started the Mendelssohn recently. He has a developed arm vibrato which he can do with a lot of intensity. I'd like him to develop a wrist vibrato (or hand vibrato), and am wondering if others have taken any of their students down this path, and if so, how did they go about it?
There was plenty of good stuff in this recent thread:
Can your student control speed and amplitude of his vibrato? If so, why mess with it? If not, I would focus on developing the ability to control and vary the vibrato. That could result in modifying the arm vibrato more towards a hand vibrato, if such modification is helpful.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, as the adage goes.
Ever the contrarian, I think it's worth developing the wrist vibrato. I am unable to produce an arm vibrato that doesn't introduce tension (which you can hear, and might be more a ME problem than anything), and I think the wrist vibrato is inherently less tense (not that there aren't big players that make it work). Even besides, it's a good tool to have in the arsenal, and while it might feel like a tough remediation, developing the wrist vibrato shouldn't degrade the existing arm vibrato.
Learning vibrato (from an old discussion)
Don't forget that first finger joint next to the nail. I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this. If it isn't flexible enough, then all of the arm, hand, and upper finger movements may not translate the vibrato movements to the finger tips enough.
As a young student I was taught both, and I was always told that both are useful for different reasons, situationally. I am thankful for this because I have found this to be true.
'Both are useful for different reasons'. Can you explain why you would use wrist or arm vibrato and not the other in a particular piece ?
For me; mostly arm vibrato in the lower positions, and mostly hand/wrist vibrato in the upper positions. Otherwise, the hand would bump into the fiddle in the upper positions. Arm vibrato uses the larger, stronger muscles in the arm, but can be too fast, tight, lock up. Wrist vibrato tends to be too slow, and is hard on those small joints in the wrist. Learning both helped me. "Finger vibrato" is a misnomer. The muscles that power that rotation at the finger tip are lower, in the arm.
Joel: I wasn't referring to "finger vibrato." It's just that if that one joint before the finger tip has no flexibility whatsoever, then it may very well limit the impact of any kind of vibrato. No? So what is the role of that finger joint in any kind of vibrato? It just seems to me that it has not been addressed in these discussions.
Even if the tip joint were solid (as it might be for some people with arthritis), you mustn't forget that also the flesh at the finger tip is soft and supple and mobile. The entire arm from elbow to skin at fingertip is an elastic system (like a bow's combination of stick and hair), none of which should be intentionally rigid. Those slo-mo demos of tip joint flexion that people invent to demonstrate "finger vibrato" are silly: the fingers aren't even at the correct angle to the strings for that to be possible!
I was taught a wrist vibrato and I'm mostly happy with it. It's not great but then neither is the rest of anything else I do on the violin. I find arm vibrato to be something I use when I need a real jolt of intensity.
I generally ended up teaching both, but usually with some context, and only after their primary vibrato was nicely developed. There are a lot of situations where arm vibrato simply won't work. I also find that in an intense piece of music, switching between wrist/arm can give certain muscles a quick break.
I do a similar alternation between right elbow and wrist in those dreadful pages of orchestral tremolos..
Brian Kelly wrote " 'Both are useful for different reasons'. Can you explain why you would use wrist or arm vibrato and not the other in a particular piece ?"
I think a violinist could use more of an arm centered vibrato when playing chamber music with a violist or cellist. Might be desirable.
Thank you for that information Michael.