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Don't we use vibrato too much?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (4 votes) 
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RandomFiddler
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August 3, 2022 - 6:00 am
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Most violinists tend to vibrate on every note, except when the note is too short to have any vibrato. I feel like this shouldn't be the case. 

 

It isn't that this almost constant vibrato is BAD. Vibrato greatly improves the tone of the instrument and is a wonderful expressive tool.

 

Still, isn't it odd that we use it whenever we can? Isn't it a bit like playing everything loud? Or playing every line détaché?

 

Basically, my opinion is that a more sparing use of vibrato might be a better option. If you pay attention to singers (not the operatic type, mind you), you'll notice that they use vibrato as an occasional embellishment. I think we could learn a thing or too.

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Gordon Shumway
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RandomFiddler said
  If you pay attention to singers (not the operatic type, mind you), you'll notice that they use vibrato as an occasional embellishment.   

I sort of agree with your basic assertion, although I might qualify it ("it depends on the type of vibrato"), as you do with the above comment. In baroque music we read that vibrato was an occasional embellishment, or even a type of ornament, but we have to be careful with historical writings, as their word "vibrato" might not mean exactly the same thing as ours - after all, modern uses of the words vibrato and tremolo can vary. Sound is subjective. Forums are a form of writing, and require care in interpretation.

So it's possible that vibrato is simply insufficiently varied, rather than overused.

I've said before, start with fast vibrato, then slow it down - slow vibrato is harder. Perhaps few people bother learning slower vibrato - they have other things to learn first, such as continuous vibrato between separate notes (this can induce a "constant vibrato syndrome"), and then perfect intonation, which in theory should be possessed before someone learns vibrato, although vibrato is also a good aid to fine-tuning your intonation.

Err, welcome to the forum, btw. There's an introduction section somewhere.

Andrew

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RandomFiddler
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August 3, 2022 - 8:59 am
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I like what you said about vibrato being 'insufficiently varied'. The 'sameness' might the real problem. There's room for a lot more variety.

I don't think I've ever heard slow violin vibrato. It's almost always fast, isn't it?

Out of curiosity, I just took up my fiddle and tried some slow vibrato. It sounds a little odd. I guess my ears aren't used to it.

Oh, I seem to have made a little discovery. Slow vibrato sounds better when it's fairly wide. Also, I think it sounds better on the lower strings.

And it's nice to meet you, Gordon. :)

Am I required to do a public introduction?

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Gordon Shumway
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RandomFiddler said
Am I required to do a public introduction? 

I'm not sure, but it would be polite - see what a mod says.

Andrew

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damfino
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For me, I hear the violin like a voice, and think of vibrato for spaces where it would be placed if one were singing the music. I personally don’t use it a ton. I play Irish fiddle, and it is used but probably not as much as in other styles. 

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ELCBK
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August 3, 2022 - 6:38 pm
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@RandomFiddler -

I'm prejudiced, because I don't play in an Orchestra. 

I can understand using vibrato on everything for a consistency of timbre, but I LOVE ringing tones - they sing to me. 

The notes that don't sing need help - and IMHO, people should have a variety of vibrato in their toolbox... I still have a ways to go.

Overall, I have to go with my gut feeling of using vibrato as an expression tool - instead of every note. 

60e3600607d7f8ac8739c49df99d7e32--nursery-decals-nursery-rhymes.jpg

 

- Emily

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AndrewH
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It always depends on context. If I'm playing Mozart, I'll use vibrato sparingly, and a narrower, faster vibrato when I do use it. If I'm playing Brahms, then a continuous vibrato is sometimes needed. The speed and width of the vibrato should vary to emphasize the phrasing. 

One thing I think needs to be avoided is a tense "twitch" vibrato that starts off fast and dies quickly before the end of the note. That's extremely common in self-taught vibrato and it's why I generally believe in working on vibrato slowly first and speeding it up.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

I definitely appreciate your great tips! 

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Jim Dunleavy
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Yes, vibrato needs to be varied and appropriate to the moment and the music. I hate plastered-on continuous heavy (wide) vibrato on every note.

 

And while I'm on, modern opera singers are even worse offenders imo.

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Gordon Shumway
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Let's add a little more complexity.

Correct vibrato profoundly affects the timbre of your instrument. You'll hear the difference when you practise it. You should be practising to hear the timbre alteration - the hand movement is merely a means to this end. Quality of hand movement is essential for this. The slower the vibrato, the less it affects timbre. So that you won't hear it and you won't get quality of movement. With fast vibrato you will hear the difference. Then you will know what you are aiming for in slow vibrato.

Singers are a different kettle of fish. Diaphragm "vibrato" is mostly about amplitude variation, whereas violin "vibrato" can only be frequency variation. But there are singers who attempt frequency variation in their voice. Their degree of success is frighteningly varied. I spent 6 months developing diaphragm vibrato on the oboe under the supervision of an LRAM. People such as self-taught saxophonists develop throat vibrato because they don't have a teacher. Singers presumably use their throats to emulate pitch vibrato. James Gallway diagnoses his vibrato as throat vibrato, which surprises me. It would seem, if he hasn't misdiagnosed, that he wasn't given any formal training in it at college.

AndrewH said
It always depends on context. 

It's the same with trills - slow music demands slow trills. You save the "doorbell trills" for fast music.

Andrew

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stringy
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August 4, 2022 - 8:22 am
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In answer to op.

How else can you cover up bad intonation, lol

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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Jim Dunleavy
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As a flute player, I'm used to using diaphragm vibrato; this definitely affects both amplitude and frequency because it affects the speed of the air stream.

I assume the same thing is true of the voice when using diaphragm vibrato (you can definitely hear the frequency variations in vocal vibrato).

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Jim Dunleavy
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stringy said
In answer to op.

How else can you cover up bad intonation, lol

  

 

Many a true word! lol

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Gordon Shumway
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Jim Dunleavy said
...diaphragm vibrato...definitely affects both amplitude and frequency because it affects the speed of the air stream. 

The end result almost certainly works out that way, but that's not the theory.

On the oboe one crescendos by blowing harder which makes the note sharper, but also one relaxes the embouchure to neutralise the pitch increase, as well as facilitating greater reed vibration. Diminuendo is the reverse of this - tighten the lips, which sharpens the note, and reduce the air flow, which flattens it.

You then practise regular cresc, dim, cresc, dim, slowly for zero pitch variation and then gradually speed it up over 6 months. I don't know if it would be practised this rigorously on the flute. I'd imagine it is more easily achieved.

So in theory there's no pitch variation, but, as we probably both agree, at top speed it's probably unavoidable, as the lips don't come into it any longer.

I feel pretty sure that the worst operatic warblers don't achieve the effect by diaphragm alone. I'd have thought it was a vocal chord thing. Maybe I'm wrong.

==========================

Incidentally, when we did Prokofiev's Duenna in 1979, my oboe teacher was first oboe and I was second, and he said that in orchestras in the tuttis he didn't bother with vibrato.

I asked about this in my community string orchestra, and the conductor likes everyone to use vibrato to maximise the richness of the sound.

Andrew

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Jim Dunleavy
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Yes, same on the flute, crescendo by increasing air flow while relaxing embouchure to stay in tune. It becomes automatic.

The standard way to learn vibrato is to go 'hoo-hoo-hoo' continuously using the diaphragm muscles and gradually speed it up over time (usually using a metronome). It took me an age to learn it, and almost as long to use it properly when playing actual music.

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RandomFiddler
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stringy said
In answer to op.

How else can you cover up bad intonation, lol

  

Lol 

 

I don't really think vibrato CAN cover up bad intonation, because if your vibrato is wide enough to make the note sound 'ambiguous', people's ears will probably still hear that something isn't quite right. 

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RandomFiddler said

Am I required to do a public introduction?

@RandomFiddler I see you already did an introduction. You should have received a Welcome Email from me. The email provides links to other parts of the forum, etc. If you didn't get it, please check your junk folder. If it is not there, let me know and I will send you another.

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AndrewH
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My orchestra's conductor asks for minimal use of vibrato not only in Haydn and Mozart but also in most Beethoven, because he tends to prefer a HIP approach to Beethoven with faster tempi and lighter textures. We use a narrow vibrato at key points in slow melodic lines to set them apart from the orchestral background, and at cadences in the faster movements. (Yes, this does mean, when we played Beethoven's 5th, the famous opening was played at a brisk tempo and non vibrato.)

In later Romantic music, varying vibrato becomes an important tool: for example the intensity of a long sustained note can be increased mid-note by increasing the width of vibrato. We've been asked to "crescendo with the left hand" a number of times, commonly when a crescendo is marked but the dynamic level needs to stay within the piano range.

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