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Vibratoless

Hand Vibrato questions

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1. Do you initially stop the string in tune and then move the hand back (and then forth) OR do you stop the string with the note flat and move the hand forward to the in tune position (rolling into the note)?

2. Is the hand vibrato possible with the ring and pinky fingers and on the g-string OR do you have to switch to arm and finger vibrato in certain situations?

I've been practicing vibrato 2 hours every day for 3 months and its still a problem to get beyond the slow mechanical back and forth motion that isn't a real vibrato that can then be developed. There has been moments where it really felt like I had broken through only to be let down next day when it just completely disappeared. I'm 45 and wondering if age plays a factor and if practicing 8-10 hours a day (I put the scroll against the wall) will make a difference.

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The note must be in tune before you start to vibrate (in other word you have in tune-flat-in tune-flat etc..)

2 hrs of vibrato each day in the best way to injure yourself, especially if you are an adult :)

I heard V. Mullova explaining that as a young violinist she was only able to practise 2 hrs a day (that is before taking the train to go to school, because she had no time after that) and in an interview Milstein was explaining he could not understand how you can train more than 4 hours a day.

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The note must be in tune before you start to vibrate (in other word you have in tune-flat-in tune-flat etc..)

Yes, starting on pitch and then rolling the finger backwards (slightly flat) is the way I learned vibrato. You don't go to the sharp side of the pitch.

If your vibrato disappears from one day to the next, it may be because you are concentrating too much on the physical motion you are producing, as opposed to the sound you want to produce. Remember what the tone sounded like when you had the vibrato you liked, rather than trying to remember what your hand or arm did, and let your hand/arm do whatever it wants to do to produce that tone. Remember also that the finger doesn't need to roll very far to get a vibrato effect.

If you're not doing one already, you might try doing an arm vibrato, instead of a hand vibrato or finger vibrato. In the arm vibrato, the whole forearm moves slightly, and the hand and fingers go along for the ride.

As Robert has suggested, hours of vibrato practice a day is too much. A few minutes each day is plenty. Remember, tension is your enemy. Keep fingers, hand and arm supple and relaxed.

If your favored, primary vibrato is a hand vibrato, that kind of vibrato is possible anywhere, with any finger, including 4th finger on the G string. Any kind of vibrato is possible anywhere with any finger.

But try using an arm vibrato as your basic vibrato.

Remember, regardless of the kind of vibrato you use, that a little bit of vibrato is enough. If you're having trouble getting fast enough, it may be because you are trying to cover too much pitch change, too much finger/hand/arm movement with your vibrato. The bigger the movements of your vibrato, the slower it will be. Keep movements small to speed your vibrato up.

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I've been practicing vibrato 2 hours every day for 3 months and its still a problem to get beyond the slow mechanical back and forth motion that isn't a real vibrato that can then be developed. There has been moments where it really felt like I had broken through only to be let down next day when it just completely disappeared. I'm 45 and wondering if age plays a factor and if practicing 8-10 hours a day (I put the scroll against the wall) will make a difference.

Blimey! I suggest you take up Irish traditonal fiddle, where we don't use vibrato.

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Previous responses are correct in that you should play the pitch in tune and pull back from there to vary the pitch for the vibrato. Make sure the fingers are placed with good curvature and well relaxed as you pull back with the hand at the wrist, your top most finger joint should open up and then bend again as you let the hand spring back into the natural upright position. Notice it is a pull back and release motion, but it has to be completely relaxed and natural feeling, it is very difficult to break down the motions. I have my students try for a wide, slow, very loose vibrato - like an over the hill soprano might have - because the tendency is to tighten up and have a forced nervous vibrato. From this slow wide vibrato you develop the various possible variations varying speed and width. Arm vibrato is actually easier for most people to learn and is useful for most everyone if doing double stop work, but it requires much more effort and energy and uses the larger less nimble and precise muscles in the arm, but is a motion more easily learned. Think of writing keeping you wrist stiff and using the whole arm to move the pencil rather than the wrist, this is the difference between hand and arm vibrato. Joshua Bell uses an arm vibrato, but the vast majority of major players and orchestra players use a hand vibrato. And Joshua is so incredibly physically gifted that he would be able to play using any technique. He does so many things 'wrong' (by that I mean what would be wrong and hurt my playing if I did them). Hand vibrato is very worth the effort to learn. BTW it took me 3 years to get it between 7th and 9th grades, but once it finally set in it it made my sound stand out from others. I was natually tense so it took a long time to understand the relaxation part.

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Thanks everyone for the great responses.

I'm still confused on how to speed it up in a controlled fashion. Fischers 'Basic's chapter on Vibrato states the vibrato is only one active movement, which is FORWARD to the in-tune note. The backward movement is like a rebound. In other words, 'forward-forward-forward-forward', not 'forward-back-forward-back'. Mine is definitely the latter which is why it is always slow. But I don't understand how the vibrato is initially activated upon stopping the string because it is supposed to be in tune first with the nail joint bent, right? In the chapter on 'Left Hand', Fischer states that Fingers are often rolled rather than 'pressed' into the string, especially the first note after a rest.

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Hi Vibratoless

A couple of thoughts

Paul Rolland has an exercise for beginners that I still find useful after 45 years. Bring the left hand up to the shoulder of the instrument and then tap rhythmically with the fingertips on the top of the instrument. You can use different combinations of rhythms and fingers so it's great for rhythm games with youngsters BUT it's also developing both flexibility and control in that same (or similar) wrist movement in the vibrato. For further variation tap on either side of the fingerboard which helps in flexibility for getting over to the G string - or C sting for the Viola.

I remember reading something Heifetz said (I'm paraphrasing and from memory!) that great players don't automatically play better in tune - they just adjust the intonation more quickly; almost instantaneously. So you need that flexibility when first hitting the note. Then once you are bang in tune the first vibrato movement is back but it is a kind of rebound. Perhaps that is what Simon Fischer is getting at.

Also, yes you can def. do it over on the G string! But you may need to get the that left elbow right underneath the instrument towards the centre of your body - but don't hurt yourself!

Like everything it's flexibility and listening - and don't forget finger vibrato like skiingfiddler says!

Remember at the end of the day it's all for the sake of the music!

Stick in and practise as much as you feel comfortable with!

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Try practicing hand vibrato in the third position where you can position the base of your hand against the rib of the violin.

I have trouble with hand vibrato (in 1st & 2nd positions) these days and try to revert to the arm vibrato (in the low positions) I was originally taught over 60 years ago - but that is even harder at my age. I do a great finger vibrato in 5th position and above.

If you can succeed with the hand vibrato in 3rd position try moving it down to lower positions to see if you can "rotate" around the same fulcrum without the ribs to support you. You may have to change the way you use your left thumb and position your left hand in the low positions - you will need to develop a certain independence of left thumb from the rest of the hand. Just about the nicest hand vibratos I have seen and heard were women with small hands, who could actually get their left thumb under the neck - smooth as silk.

Good luck.

Andy

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Just about the nicest hand vibratos I have seen and heard were women with small hands, who could actually get their left thumb under the neck - smooth as silk.

Andrew, you are a sage, but I respectfully disagree that this is an example of good vibrato practice. My phlosophy (handed down from much greater teachers than me), is that, as much as possible, you use one hand position for a given string and position (position here as in 1st, 3rd, 5th etc) . If you must rotate the thumb around and under the neck to vibrate (or, what many people do, move the hand out from the instrument/neck) then you cannot have an instantaneous vibrato and will play with a lot of dry notes or have dry spaces at the beginning of many notes, not because of choice but because of technique limitations. It will also make it harder to play in tune since the extraneous hand motions will make the fingerboard a moving target. You should be able to vibrate from your basic playing position. If you can't, you need to rethink your left hand position or look for tension issues. I have to fix a lot of students who were taught to use a 'special' hand position to vibrate, its extremely counterproductive and their vibratos are never good when they come to me. All technique should be geared toward simplicity and ease of playing, minimizing motion and maximizing accuracy. If you are properly relaxed, then you should be able to easily vibrate without moving the hand away from the instrument. Now perhaps some people with very small hands may need to do this, but I had a viola student with tiny hands who developed a beautiful vibrato without resorting to this. My most successful approach is to teach it as a relaxation motion. Like shaking a tense hand out.

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Dr. S,

I have to admit that for me, with my XL glove-size hands, that sort of hand position would be possible only with a chin-cello, but for these small-handed people, who do play professionally - violin and viola (unlike me) it is a gorgeous sound. I wonder if their violin position some use derives from their viola position. What do you think?

Andy

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Getting bogged down in what the finger is doing does not help.

Any golfers will know that thinking of the hands during the swing completely messes up the stroke.

The best way to learn the action of vibrato is below; amazingly effective IMO

Take a box of matches in the left hand and hold them in the palm of the hand

raise the left arm into playing position, then shake the matches from the forearm.

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Getting bogged down in what the finger is doing does not help.

Any golfers will know that thinking of the hands during the swing completely messes up the stroke.

The best way to learn the action of vibrato is below; amazingly effective IMO

Take a box of matches in the left hand and hold them in the palm of the hand

raise the left arm into playing position, then shake the matches from the forearm.

Excellent Idea!! I agree, this has been a mental exercise, but I do tell my students that ultimately it is a feel that they have to 'discover'. I try to give rules and explain what we are tryin to achieve as far as feel, but it is the only part of playing, I think, that I don't have a comprehensive, step by step methodology to help students learn. Just patience and persistance. I am not saying that there is not a method out there that works, i just have not encountered it. I've have seen many methods, i just don't believe any of them really help a lot.

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Dr. S,

I have to admit that for me, with my XL glove-size hands, that sort of hand position would be possible only with a chin-cello, but for these small-handed people, who do play professionally - violin and viola (unlike me) it is a gorgeous sound. I wonder if their violin position some use derives from their viola position. What do you think?

Andy

I really don't know. I can't reacall really noticing anyone who plays like you describe professionally, but that in no way means they are not out there. I will be more observant of our petite players and see what they do. In fact I will be sitting right behind one in a concert this evening, an amazing and agressive player in a tiny package. Don't know if she ever plays viola though.

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Having been vibrotless for many years I can relate to your question and username.... Here are some observations that worked for me.

- getting a good vibrato is a process that will take time and there are no shortcuts

- burn the Simon Fischer book or put it on craigslist and let some other sucker take it off your hands....that is what I did

- watch the vibrato sequence on violinmasterclass and do EXACTLY what the teacher says at each step in the process....do not cut corners

- watch the David Finckel cello series on vibrato and do exactly what he suggests as exercises

- watch the violinlab videos on the topic

After the year or so that it will take to unlearn your bad habits and relearn it correctly, you will have a nice wide wrist vibrato beating at around 5-6 beats per second

It worked for me.

Tom

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I agree with Tommy - the bottom line is patience persistance. You need to know what you want it to sound like, and never lose the ability to hear what you DO sound like and keep tweeking. I knew a professional violinist who was considered one of the best players in the area. He was in his early 50s and spent some real time and effort reworking his vibrato. It was great to begin with, but got even better and more versatile.

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Putting a small crunched up towel in a corner at the correct height to receive the scroll of the violin as you stand toward the corner, will offer a steadiness to help ease the practice of vibrato. Only practice from the beginning for no more than five minutes. Make it count as you begin to learn to hold the note in pitch and then move the hand back, very very slowly from the start, to lower the pitch by about a 1/2 step.

Practice every day, once a day like this. Over time, your progress will dictate in your actual playing.

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Putting a small crunched up towel in a corner at the correct height to receive the scroll of the violin as you stand toward the corner, will offer a steadiness to help ease the practice of vibrato. Only practice from the beginning for no more than five minutes. Make it count as you begin to learn to hold the note in pitch and then move the hand back, very very slowly from the start, to lower the pitch by about a 1/2 step.

Practice every day, once a day like this. Over time, your progress will dictate in your actual playing.

Ken and Tommy,

My gripe about the way vibrato is taught is that learning the motion slowly exactly as it is observed and preventing the forearm (as in hand vibrato) from moving does more harm than good. It implies that an isolated tiny motor exists in the hand somewhere that must be turned on and does work by moving the hand back and forth controlled via more/less energy given to it. My experience has led me to believe otherwise.

1. Rather than closely replicating the movements as would be in a working hand vibrato, I had to in development utilize exaggerations (buckling the wrist outwards and up and then caving it in while maintaining the finger on the string) which had the effect of a) producing a wave motion that is the basis of an oscillation rather than a moving back and forth and B) activating the entire global chain of muscles throughout the arm/wrist/finger.

In other words, the concept that the motor is the arm/hand was false. To me, the arm/hand regulates the oscillation and differentiating between an oscillating motion and moving the hand back and forth was key.

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There are several kinds of vibrato sound, and several ways to produce the movement & to learn. I am a big fan of Steve Redrobe's DVD Violin Secrets of the Masters. At one time he was a somewhat controversial contributor here, but that is neither here nor there.

I like the Kreisler sound (have you listened to his vibrato slowed down?). I have thought around, practised around and read around this issue a lot. Steve's teaching is IMO very helpful for the kinds of violinists who would like to learn to create the older, especially pre-war sound (or very individual violin sounds varying from player to player, Kreisler being an outstanding example), or at least include that kind of sound in their toolkit. Some advanced violinists (which I am not) have followed it. Others will feel that this kind of old-fashioned sound is best avoided, and Steve's teaching, which is not mainstream, is not likely to appeal to them.

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John, I'm squarely in the camp that says Redrobe is a snakeoil salesman. I don't know what his woodpecker analogy has to do with any kind of vibrato on the violin and since there are no camera shots of the fingerboard when he plays its impossible to figure out what he's doing which is the whole idea I suspect. The rest of the video is a joke too.

For example, I would assume a lot of players find Redrobes recommendation of the small circular pad and the higher position of the violin both lacking in terms of support and comfort compared to a metallic shoulder rest. Certainly the quality of play from shoulder rest violinists is quite excellent so I don't know what Redrobe is arguing. There are definite pro's to using a shoulder rest (eg. controlling the tilt) but I find it less comfortable than just holding it up with the left hand which Redrobe does not recommend. Fischer in his 'Basics' book even recommends taking off the shoulder rest to practice some of the exercises in the chapter on shifting.

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John, I'm squarely in the camp that says Redrobe is a snakeoil salesman.

Can you hear the difference between the 'pulsing' vibrato of Kreisler

And the 'waving' vibrato of Vengerov on the same piece

?

If you find Vengerov is using arm vibrato, try the youtube clip of Anne Sophie Mutter on the same piece, for a modern sound which clearly invoves hand vibrato. I posted Vengerov because his sound is so lush, and far closer to giving Kreisler a run for his money in terms of sheer sound than Mutter IMO, so it seemed a fairer comparison.

If you don't hear the difference, or if you prefer Vengerov or Anne-Sophie Mutter vibrato, Steve Redrobe's vibrato teaching has nothing to offer you. I like both sounds, though I find Vengerov's vibrato here a bit sea-sick-making. Many older players had that 'pulsating' sound which Kreisler exemplified. Few living players have, though some do, eg. David Nadien, check him on youtube.

If you do like that old-world sound, you will find very few modern teachers who can produce it or teach it to you (although this teaching is in a violin manual of the 1890s, which is downloadable on the net I think....it is by no means invented by Steve, it is an older way of doing things which is either a 'lost secret' or 'rightly forgoetten' depending on how you look at it). I guess the answer is to find a violinist whose vibrato you like, and learn their technique.

Incidentally Milstein produced this kind of pulsating vibrato sound but not with the method taught by Steve, with a more conventional hand vibrato with superb quality, control and precision. Also a great model for you to learn, if you can find a teacher who can teach it. There are a few out there.

I can tell you that Steve's vibrato looks like it is coming from the wrist (and he does sometimes use conventional hand vibrato too, which looks the same but sounds different). A camera shot of the fingerboard would not tell you what the muscles are doing inside the hand. The appearance is misleading, exactly the point made by the old 1890s violin manual. But I have had a few teachers show me vibrato, and I would say the different mechanics they teach affect the sound, even though the onlooker cannot always see what is going on.

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If you find Vengerov is using arm vibrato

I do, and it is beautiful. Hand, Arm and Finger vibrato are all areas that are utilized in different ways by different players. I believe each of us should explore them all, allowing sufficient time and practice to determine each's usefulness in our playing. Oh how important it is to have a qualified teacher(s) to help us during our discovery of each of these vibrato techniques.

Ken

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Physioligically the hand vibrato is actually a wrist vibrato since the hand moves only because the wrist moves.

I am not an advanced player and still at the beginning of vibrato learning but when my teacher asks me to be in control during exercises I find that I have to switch from hand/wrist vibrato to arm vibrato when I want to slow down the vibration movement. So I guess I will end up using hand vibrato for fast and arm vibrato for slow.

As for Kriesler pulsating vibrato I must admit that for this Thais Meditatition piece in particular it sound really too dated for my taste.

Anyway, a good player should be able to have the widest range of vibrato and be able to use it at will.

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I think it's funny that someone with a username of vibratoless and who posts on this very topic is so quick to dispute/negate any suggestions on how to become non vibratoless.... interesting that some people just can not be helped....

John the Kreisler vs Vengerov video very interesting. I like the Kreisler....something hypnotic about his playing imho.

Tom

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