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learning vibrato


fiddlewallop

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Hello all,

I am teaching myself vibrato currently. I can vibrate with my second, third and fourth (pinky) fingers. However, I have a lot of trouble vibrating with my first finger. Does anyone else have trouble performing vibrato with their first finger? Are there any tricks I can use to overcome this obstacle?

Thanks,

FW

++++++++++

Try to roll your finger back and fort. Shake your palm.

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Usually the fourth finger has the weakest vibrato simply for geometrical reasons. In my experience your best bet is to try to analyse very carefully what is happening from your neck down to the finger tip and to be absolutely sure that your efforts to vibrate are not causing you to tense up. Think about releasing the muscles to allow the vibration rather than using them to cause the vibration. Sorry it's a bit difficult to explain.

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Usually the fourth finger has the weakest vibrato simply for geometrical reasons. In my experience your best bet is to try to analyse very carefully what is happening from your neck down to the finger tip and to be absolutely sure that your efforts to vibrate are not causing you to tense up. Think about releasing the muscles to allow the vibration rather than using them to cause the vibration. Sorry it's a bit difficult to explain.

I agree as a beginner it is hard to release the muscles in fear of dropping the instrument and takes time to find the comfort level, but it is do able.

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Great. Thanks guys. It's strange, for me the hardest finger to perform vibrato on is my index finger on the first note of the E string. I can perform vibrato on that string if I totally change my hand positioning by sliding my thumb way over underneath the neck, but it's quite an awkward position, and I definitely feel as though my hand is quite tense. When I do this positioning, I destroy the natural position that your hand is suppose to be in, with the V space between your palm and your thumb. Ya, it's definitely hard to describe these things via a forum. I guess my best bet would be to find a teacher or violinist friend to give me a hand.

Thanks again all!

FW

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It's all about relaxation. You should not have to alter your hand position to vibrate (assuming it is a good hand position), but should be relaxed and flexible enough to vibrate from your regular position. I wish there was a magic pill or description, but ulitmately it is something that every player has to figure out for themselves - despite having wonderful guidance, the feel of a good vibarato must be discovered. Just try to relax such that the hand and fingers are loose and flexible. Start the vibrato on pitch and roll back. Arm vibrato is often learned more easily, but a hand vibrato is less stressfull and more versatile once learned (though a good arm vibrato comes in handy when playing octaves). Joshua Bell uses an arm vibrato but most concert violinists use a wrist/hand motion. Firmly establish what sound you are trying for, and let your ear guide your progress. I tell my students, especially those who are tense, to develop a very wide and fairly slow vibrato that is very loose, then from there learn to tighten it up and control both the speed and width to get the desired sound and learn to vary it at will.

It took me two years to develop my vibrato.

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Great. Thanks guys. It's strange, for me the hardest finger to perform vibrato on is my index finger on the first note of the E string. I can perform vibrato on that string if I totally change my hand positioning by sliding my thumb way over underneath the neck, but it's quite an awkward position, and I definitely feel as though my hand is quite tense. When I do this positioning, I destroy the natural position that your hand is suppose to be in, with the V space between your palm and your thumb. Ya, it's definitely hard to describe these things via a forum. I guess my best bet would be to find a teacher or violinist friend to give me a hand.

Thanks again all!

FW

After the fourth finger the first is the next hardest because although it is strong it is off vertical when placed on the finger board. This is at its worst in first position and vibrato is further impeded by the proximity of the pegs. Try practising up in fourth or fifth position where you can get the finger close to vertical, then when that is going well move down a position and so on. As Dr S said, this is not something you learn quickly. The next challenge is to keep it going so that it is applied where it is needed rather than where you can manage to do it.

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Oh wow. That puts things into perspective a bit more.

Yes - unfortunately, that is not really unusual either. And to be honest I still work on it 35 years later (just like everything else I guess). I was tense too, trying to force it and muscle my way to a vibrato. I find it takes people fighting tension much longer to develop a good vibrato - if they ever do - some do not, but just settle for a very fast, narrow, uneven, skittish vibrato.

On the other hand, my naturally more relaxed students developed very nice vibrato's quickly and easily.

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One thing I noticed myself is that if I am getting a good fat relaxed vibrato for any period of time, my left bicep gets fatigued. I think that for myself keeping the left arm up in the air from its own support and not letting the arm weight transfer to the finger resting on the fingerboard/string is a key technical item. This seems particularly true for the first finger.

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  • 2 weeks later...

One thing I noticed myself is that if I am getting a good fat relaxed vibrato for any period of time, my left bicep gets fatigued. I think that for myself keeping the left arm up in the air from its own support and not letting the arm weight transfer to the finger resting on the fingerboard/string is a key technical item. This seems particularly true for the first finger.

Thanks Tommy. That makes quite a bit of sense. I never contemplated that aspect of vibrato before. I think my arm weight and finger vibrato have fed into one, probably destroying my ability to perform vibrato. (Well, that might not be the sole reason. :) I think I need more practice as well.)

My arm certainly does get fatigued after playing for more than 15 to 20 minutes.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I experience the very same problem, the first finger being the most difficult to obtain a vibrato. I can just about get some sort of wobble going but it's much easier with the other three fingers, including the pinky. Then again it's early days for me too and as I'm largely playing Baroque, probably not all that pressing.

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This isn't going to help anyone, including me. I'm more or less just thinking out loud about a problem that I have never been able to solve.

Some people have wonderfully expressive and flexible vibratos but most don't. Brilliant observation, right? :-) I know that an individual's vibrato CAN be improved and saw students of one teacher who had exercises and ways of thinking that led to good, or better, vibratos in his students. His name was Broadus Erle. I'm sure there are others.

I knew one violinist that could play the most difficult technical passages with complete authority but if he had to play a whole note with a nice sound got nothing but a billy goat's bleating. It was tragic, and he never could improve it.

Most people fall somewhere in between, it seems. I think if we took a poll, we'd find that most of us are dissatisfied with our vibrato, and manage to just work around the problem with changes in fingerings for example.

My opinion is that one's vibrato is a result of a muscular affinity that you either have or don't have, and the best that can be hoped for is to improve things to a small degree. I think the best example of having the right muscles (for want of a better term) is Nigel Kennedy. His vibrato just rolls out perfectly. I just don't think that can be taught. I'd like to be wrong, and if someone can direct me to a teacher or a method that would allow me a vibrato like Nigel's, I'd be happy and grateful.

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I think you are wrong. A teacher can only guide you, you have to do the work. It requires intelligent, DILIGENT practice and relaxed muscles. When I resumed the violin after decades of absence I couldn't do vibrato. My teacher, who vibrates constantly and apparently effortlessly, insisted on vibrato. It was easier to learn than to be yelled at

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How about this exercise -

Set your metronome to 60 bpm

Put your first finger on note D on the G string (4th position)

Roll back (collapsing the knuckle closest to your fingernail) to C#, then back to D. Easy pressure on the tip of the finger.

D, C# (1 cycle) per beat

D, C#, D (triplet; 1.5 cycle per beat)

then 4 (2 cycles)

then 6 (3 cycles)

then 8 (4 cycles)

Next try it on the other strings, staying in 4th position.

Next try it in 3rd pos. Then go down to 2nd pos. Then finally down to 1st pos.

Also, I wonder if your E string tuner is turned so that you have maximum room to vibrate. If it's in the "flat" position, it limits range of motion. It should be roughly perpendicular to the neck.

I would practice this in 15 minute sessions.

stay loose,

Steve

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Steverino,

I'm sure there is some value to these type of exercises - learning to stay relaxed while doing the motions, but really, I have had very little success with them. Even in my own learning, the feel at full speed is just so differnt than the slow motion vibrato. The important thing was to have what I want in my ear and knowing that relaxation is the key. i suspect that these exercises are slow twitch based and vibrato is more a fast twitch driven motion. The paradox is doing a fast twitch motion in a relaxed state. I think of it as a fast twitch motion to bring the hand up to top of pitch then releasing and letting it reflex back. Of course it get much more complex quickly, a really lush intense vibrato is driven throughout, but it most effectively learned wit from the fondation of a relaxed motion. The fact is that not a high percentage of players, even among professionals, have that really lush soloistic vibrato with the ability to color and vary it at will. The ability to know what you want, then objectively be able to hear what you are getting relative to this is a very important key along with tremendous patience and perseverence. I have some students get it in months and yet others never do after years - always the stubborn tense students who just will not learn to relax.

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15 minute sessions on vibrato might be a bit long for someone just starting out on vibrato. I think I might be one of the lucky ones in that I could get something going (of sorts) pretty much from the first time I tried it. If I practice it for much more than 5 minutes it tends to get worse - probably because I tense up. Short sessions are probably better, at least in the early stages.

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Steverino,

i suspect that these exercises are slow twitch based and vibrato is more a fast twitch driven motion. The paradox is doing a fast twitch motion in a relaxed state.

I find it a bit like tremolo on classical guitar. It is difficult to learn but when you can do it the fingers go into a sort of auto-pilot. However, the more you concentrate the harder it is. You can't learn to run by walking faster, it's a different process. Well that's how it was for me , I'm sure others have a different experience

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You can't learn to run by walking faster, it's a different process.

Perfect analogy - yes that describes it wonderfully!

But yes Steverino, I'm sure there is some benefit in the exercise - if only to help the student to figure out how to relax the joints and integrate the motions, and I do have my students do it, but the feel of a full up vibrato is just completely different. At some point you have to make the leap from a fast walk to a slow jog and it is just a completely different thing.

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I find it a bit like tremolo on classical guitar. It is difficult to learn but when you can do it the fingers go into a sort of auto-pilot. However, the more you concentrate the harder it is. You can't learn to run by walking faster, it's a different process. Well that's how it was for me , I'm sure others have a different experience

++++++++++++

Go to "youtube" to see the demonstration. Good luck in learning. It is certainly fun to do the execises.

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