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Hi there,

 

I started practicing vibrato since the day I got my first violin, almost 4 years ago. As I went on, it got much better/easier obviously, and I went through a dreaful time where my intonation and vibrato was problematic, so ofcourse, the sound was horrible for a while (I later read the best is to have good intonation first, then move onto vibrato).

 

My question is:

Some days my vibrato seems fantastic to me. It feels as if it just happens naturatlly, no tention, no effort, I dont even focus on it. My hand just does the movement on its own. Other days, I just cant seem to get my hand moving properly. It feels as if the muscle controlling this motion just wont cooperate. It feels as if I have no strength in that arm/hand. The duration that this happens for varies, sometimes being a day, sometimes being a week.

 

Why does this happen? How can you overcome those "weak" days? Ive heard people saying if you get one of those days, put the violin in the case, and close it for the day, then try the next day. Is this the best advice? Is there something else I can work on to "push through"?

 

I know it takes years to develop a "singing tone" on the violin, and years to develop a great vibrato. Just thought someone might have advice regarding this. :)

 

Thank you.

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Kallie, I am sure you are doing just fine and are being hypercritical. ( and in a big hurry ? :) )

Usually, being overcritical could be the explanation :P However this time it is a physical thing. Sometimes I just cant seem to do vibrato. The hand just wont move. How can I practice to overcome this? Does anyone else have those "weak" days? My vibrato also gets weaker the longer the practice session, however I think that is just due to the muscle not being properly developed yet. (Im right handed, so naturally the left arm is weaker)

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View from left field. 

 

So, on days you don't have your vibrato going for whatever reason, why not play soulfully without it?  I understand that its use is fundamental in modern European classical performance practice, but it was not always thus, and it is not truly necessary.  Ask Leopold Mozart.  It is arguable that you can ruin 18th-century and earlier music with it.  If you must use it, find a way to play where it emerges naturally.  If it becomes something you have mastery over, and not just the-way-it-is-done, then it's yours.  My two cents.

 

Paul 

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Usually, being overcritical could be the explanation :P However this time it is a physical thing. Sometimes I just cant seem to do vibrato. The hand just wont move. How can I practice to overcome this? Does anyone else have those "weak" days? My vibrato also gets weaker the longer the practice session, however I think that is just due to the muscle not being properly developed yet. (Im right handed, so naturally the left arm is weaker)

 

The "standard" way used to be d/stops as far as I can remember.  I suggest you don't worry too much - vibrato comes by itself when everything else is right. Give it a bit of time : these on and off days are rather the norm. 

What might be happening ( hope not ! ) is that you are learning violin by yourself and that makes it 10 times harder to ....keep an eye on bad habits creeping in. But I'd say that if on some days "works", you don't have a 

problem. It just needs time.

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I would hazard a guess that vibrato, like other physiological elements of playing is want to change, develop and eventually deteriorate through one's career. Personally I have noticed changes, maybe not from day to day as you mention but certainly over the years. In some ways I hope it has changed for the better, but I also have had to come up with new ways of managing vibrato after a shoulder injury.

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I can't say I've gone through that phase ever since I had learned vibrato so I don't know if this would help, but maybe because it hasn't come across as a problem, it would be worth mentioning? 
Anyway, from learning vib and even now as part of my own practice I exercise different speeds, always starting from 4 vibrations and increasing it, that generally just builds up your versatility for repertoire and if you think about it, your overall quality/strength of the vibrato.

I personally think you could be overthinking things  :P  But try this exercise. I think it might just be a fluency thing so you just need to make it more of a habit (and a good habit at that) by incorporating vibrato exercises into practice etc. 

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I like the way the Strad puts together these cameos. This week Michael Tree offers something for viola teachers where he speaks about vibrato as well.

 

"Vibrato makes viola players different from violinists A faster, narrow violin vibrato can sound pinched on the viola. We have to cover more area and use a wider action."

 

I always think violists have more to learn from cellists than fiddle players when it comes to vibrato.

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I would like to hear from people who remember how they learned vibrato, as kids.

 

I know of one teacher, Broadus Erle, who was known for helping his students develop their vibrato.   His students did have quite good vibratos, though they seemed a little contrived to me; in other words, not organic.

 

All I remember is putting the arm into position without the violin and moving the arm back and forth.  Then there were the Rivarde exercises mentioned in Carl Flesch.  And somewhere I have an exercise book dedicated to it (which didn't seem very good).   Everything else is a blur.   

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It's definitely a blur for me too.  I was very young.  Suzuki Book 2.  Maybe age 7.

 

I can vaguely remember asking to be taught.  I think the action was modeled for me and I just copied what I saw and heard.  Learning to control the vibrato came years later.  I don't think my vibrato had any particular style until I started learning Mozart concerti.  Listening to Grumiaux inspired me to refine my vibrato palette.

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I thought vibrato was a little contrived... and in retrospect, my teacher’s vibrato probably was.  

 

I remember my earliest days on the violin, thinking if my elbow was pushed any further to the right, my left arm would fall off, and a weird bow hold, with the little finger tip on the end of the button.  I’ve never encountered that since.

 

My best early memory is of my brother showing me how to carry the case with the lid against my thigh, so it wouldn’t accidentally fall open.  Must have been a cheap case!  The other was of his description of the legendary and mysterious tool called a sound post tool.  Nobody ever saw one, but we knew what it was for... and hoped we would never need one.  

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