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Vibrato - de-mystified
Vibrato - classes of vibrato
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
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Worldfiddler
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February 20, 2015 - 3:29 pm
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My take on vibrato - I know there are literally hundreds of Youtube clips on the subject (some dreadful btw), but some excellent ones from the likes of Todd Ehle and Professor Kurt Sassmanhaus.

Really, there's not a lot to it. It's the attempts to de-mystify it that often fail.

When the explanations are all reduced to simple mechanics, it all becomes a lot easier to understand.

Starting with the 'arm' vibrato - it could just as accurately be called 'elbow' vibrato, because that is where the motion starts from. The elbow joint.

How's it done? Starting with a simple fingered note that you are already bowing - for vibrato, all that is required is that you alter the pitch of the note downward very slightly, then return to the original pitch.

How?

Keeping the finger pressure on the note the same all the way through the cycle :

1 - Try to pull the violin away from your chin, keeping your finger on the note, same pressure all the way. Two things will happen - you'll feel the need to increase the chin pressure to counteract the pulling action of you left hand, *and* your finger will have rolled back slightly.

2 - Now push the violin back to its original position. Your chin pressure can now go back to normal, and that pushing action will have restored the violin back to its normal position, and your finger to its original position too.

That's the entire cycle - there's nothing complicated about the actions. They are both very simple and straightforward. If you maintain the chin pressure so the violin *does not actually move away from you*, all you are left with is your fingered note, changing pitch downward slightly, then coming back to its original pitch. From a mechanics aspect, that's all there is to it.

From experience, where people fail in vibrato can be for a number of reasons, eg :

Trying to rock the finger back and forth, constantly collapsing and straightening the top finger joint (often moving the thumb too).

Rocking the finger from side to side (electric guitar style).

Attempting to break from the wrist, and ending up by persistently collapsing and re-positioning it.

*****************

I like to think of only two types (or classes) of vibrato - depending on the end action of the finger on the string.
Traditional arm, wrist and finger vibrato is one type (hear me out!), and the "other" type of finger vibrato.

Arm, wrist, finger vibrato - they all have a very similar effect at the business end, where finger meets string. The motion is very similar, but the mechanical pivot / source points are obviously different. It's still a rocking motion whereby the ball of the finger rolls away from you, then back to its original position. It's the speed and width of this action that determines how the vibrato will sound.

Finally, the "other" type of finger vibrato - called 'impulse' or 'jackhammer' vibrato.

Step 1 - the finger touches lightly on the string, just making contact with the fingerboard.

Step 2 - the finger is now pressed hard down on the string.

It's just a 2-step cycle, where (theoretically) only the volume of the note changes, not the pitch. Like whanging the volume control of an amp up and down.

In practice, there's often a very slight change in pitch, which adds to the overall effect.

*****************

 After years of years of playing and hearing others play, I have narrowed vibrato down to two types or classes.
 .
 Class *one* : arm, wrist, finger vibrato (I shall qualify this later). .
 .
 Meaning, my criteria is the end result, which is pretty much the same : constant finger pressure on the string, and the action of the left hand 'pulling' the violin away (of course the violin does not actually move away, because it's held firmly in place by chin pressure), resulting in the fingertip rolling (not sliding) downward slightly, causing a drop in pitch. 'Pushing' the violin back restores the fingertip position, and the original pitch. That's the full cycle.
 .
 People differentiate between arm, wrist and finger vibrato, but to me they are all used to the same end, although obviously the pivot points are different for each one.
 .
 Class *two* : the 'other' finger vibrato I'm aware of is the 'impulse' or 'jackhammer' vibrato, where (theoretically) the finger rests lightly on the string, is then pressed down hard, then pressure released again, with the finger maintaining contact with the string all the time. The result is a variation in volume only (again, pitch can change fractionally too).
 .
 It is my belief that class one vibrato can be achieved when pivoting from the elbow alone, so that the wrist and hand stay straight and always in the same position. The speed and amplitude of the vibrato can easily be varied using this method.

Mr Jim dancing

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Daniel_Shaped_Object
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February 20, 2015 - 9:19 pm
Member Since: February 20, 2015
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MrJim,

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this post. As a new player, I can't do vibrato yet, but I had watched many videos trying to figure out the mechanics of it. I was trying to work it out, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what I was even supposed to be *trying* to do.

Then, last week, I stumbled across your 2010 video on YouTube titled "Vibrato Mechanics" where you described the action as trying to pull the fiddle away from you and then pull it back, and it actually clicked in my brain. I get it now.

I still can't *do* it (yet!) but I get it. Thanks to that video, I finally understand what I'm working towards, and it's now mostly a matter of practice, coordination, and muscle memory. But I don't doubt that I'm going to be able to do it.

So yeah. Thanks for this post, but most importantly, thanks for a video you posted nearly five years ago! 

-Daniel

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coolpinkone
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February 24, 2015 - 3:28 pm
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Mr. Jim!!!

I love love your very detailed and easy to understand break down of vibrato mechanics.  Thank you for sharing.  

I so so so so hope that I have some sort of vibrato break through.  I believe it is time for me.

crossedfingerscrossedfingerscrossedfingerscrossedfingerscrossedfingerscrossedfingerscrossedfingerscrossedfingerscrossedfingerscrossedfingerscrossedfingers

Thanks for your help and of course everyone here on the forum that helps also.

:)

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Daniel_Shaped_Object
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February 24, 2015 - 9:31 pm
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Been making  attempts at vibrato. I am able to get the sort of "siren" effect by making the motion slowly, but I've noticed that when I try to feel the motion coming from my elbow, my violin shakes quite a bit. When I try to feel it coming from my wrist I get less shaking. 

Does anyone find that they are more naturally inclined to originate the motion from one place rather than the other?

The reason I'm asking is because having the motion come from my elbow makes logical sense to me (my conscious mind likes this concept), but in practice it feels more awkward. Specifically, when I try to make vibrato come from my elbow, my immediate reaction is to clamp down tightly on my chin rest and all of a sudden everything is just flooded with tension. 

I mean, I realize that you do have to increase pressure on the chin rest (Mr Jim even specifically mentions that) but I can tell that what I'm doing is just too much. Should I follow my instincts and do what seems natural (feeling the motion from my wrist) or should I disregard that and keep working to feel it from my elbow?  And what do people do in regards to neck tension when vibrating from the elbow?

coolpinkone, do you relate to any of this?  

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Worldfiddler
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February 25, 2015 - 11:03 am
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Daniel (love the new name, btw!)

I would be inclined to persevere with the elbow business, if only to show yourself that's it's not difficult once you get the correct pressure and coordination. No need to worry if it feels tight at first.

I'd go this route - continue as you are doing now, with your 'wrist', but aim to get it straight and upright. Once your vibrato feels relaxed, try just stiffening your wrist a fraction - this will tend you make the pivot point transfer to the elbow.

Don't worry if it's not working right away, so long as you are happy with the vibrato sound. When this point is reached, then you can be thinking about making more adjustments (trying to get the vibrato wider or faster, for example).

Just remember not to go above starting pitch at the end of the cycle.

Take it nice and slowly. Don't worry if it sounds like a siren at a slow pace - it's supposed to :) Really, it is. There is slow vibrato, fast vibrato, but once it goes below a certain speed, it will sound like "ee-aw-ee-aw." That's normal.

Mr Jimdancing 

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coolpinkone
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February 25, 2015 - 11:32 am
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@Daniel_Shaped_Object   I am not sure If I can relate to exactly what you are talking about.. but I can relate to NOT DOING VIBRATO.facepalm

I tried hammer action last night.  I also tried to do the pulling the violin out.  The pulling the violin out causes me to need to grab the neck of the violin.  

I have just spent a ton of time preventing myself from gripping the violin.  I have my violin wedged pretty nicely between neck and shoulder.

I  am not killing myself over it  (YET>>>>>dazeddazeddazed)

I have some movement... but it is not vibrato yet.   The hardest part for me is that I feel the vibrato coming.. I feel the movement about to happen.. My mind is willing it to happen...exactly

I have waiting three years...  I am going to keep with all the tips and exercises that have been provided.beg

They day it is recognizable it will be the SCREAM HEARD ROUND THE FORUM, WORLD, Galaxy!!   ;)

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Daniel_Shaped_Object
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February 25, 2015 - 5:51 pm
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Worldfiddler:  Thanks for the advice. I will keep working on it. Sooner or later I may  yet stop feeling as though I am bludgeoning myself repeatedly in the neck with the end of my violin. But until then, I'm willing to suffer for my art.   ;-)

 

coolpinkone:  

coolpinkone said

@Daniel_Shaped_Object   I am not sure If I can relate to exactly what you are talking about.. but I can relate to NOT DOING VIBRATO.facepalm 

LOL!  Too funny. You made me almost spit iced tea through my nose.  

coolpinkone said

They day it is recognizable it will be the SCREAM HEARD ROUND THE FORUM, WORLD, Galaxy!!   ;) 

I hope to hear that scream soon!  Let's keep at it, shall we?   :-)

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