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Michael_Molnar

Vibrato

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On 1/18/2017 at 10:24 PM, Bill Merkel said:

I doubt it ever wasn't used.  I've read lots of things condemning bad vibrato but I don't recall anything condemning all vibrato.  The viol family was fretted which prevented vibrato, and the frets disappear with the emergence of the violin family in the early Baroque.  Renaissance music is performed w/o noticeable vibrato, corresponding to that.  You might ask a voice professor about vibrato historically.  I'm not sure it's possible to sing without at least some natural vibrato.  The intervals and methods of Renaissance composition might discourage vibrato, in the same way music of our time demands it.  If the violin origins were in the Middle East or Asia I'd expect crazy foreign vibrato immigrating with it and maybe that's really what the ancient treatises are condemning.

I don't think frets prevent vibrato,after all we hear it on guitars.  Vibrato can be done by pressing the string with a a down and up motion after the string is in contact with the fret.

Vibrato was used as an ornament during the Baroque period, if not earlier.  And a form of vibrato can be done with the bow, especially with the Baroque-style bow.

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When I read the original post, I misunderstood it.. I thought it is another way to help "open" up a violin just  like the "speaker" mod stuck on the bridge of a  violin and put inside a large tupperware while music was played via the speaker...  :)

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On 1/21/2017 at 8:14 AM, Will L said:

BTW, I believe the teacher who taught those Aspen students was Broadus Erle.

I wrote this recently and corresponded with a fine gentleman who makes me believe it was indeed Broadus Erle.  He said I could post what he wrote to me regarding Erle:

"Broadus Erle believed in developing a wrist vibrato if one had too much of an arm vibrato.  He also often spoke of vibrato as having many different functions — for both intensity and release.  He spoke of developing a range of both widths and speeds, and also believed (and I agree) that it’s the top of the oscillation that is the perceived pitch — not the mean (the middle).  He taught vibrato to young players by having them put their left hand, palm down with fingers curved in relaxed manner, on a table and lift the fingers as a unit from the wrist, leaving the thumb on the table.  I would add that the fingers as a unit should lift and move to the right (over the thumb), and not just straight up, because that is the motion that is needed when playing in normal position.  He would advocate rhythmic exercise in this position with varied gotten rhythms.  
 
"He also advocated finding a resonant bow sound (on a single, sustained note, for instance) before adding vibrato, and possibly releasing a little bow pressure as vibrato was added."
 
This is from Mr. (perhaps Dr.) Daniel Stepner.  Thank you, sir.

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Something I was doing got me listening to old recordings on yt, which I hadn't done in a long time, and never specifically for vibrato.  The early 20th seems to me like: Joachim uses lots of portamento and no vibrato at all.  Sarasate used a not real strong but maybe continuous vibrato and no portamento.  Ysaye used no portamento, and little vibrato, but when there is vibrato it is very strong and distinctly an ornament.  So there's a lot of diversity.  More than exists today. I don't know if it was personal or national, or etc.

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I was reminded yesterday that Bremner complained about Geminiani's teaching continuous vibrato.  

Ref: Robert Bremner's 'Some thoughts on the Performance of Concert-Music' (London, 1777) which is the preface to Schetky's Six Quartettos, Op. 6.

If anyone knows of an online version, I would like to read it.

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A topic I am interested in.  Too bad it at least partly degenerated into a "how too vibrato' thread. 

There is another quote from Leopold Mozart - in a letter he asks something like:  "Have you heard this new fad from Italy that sounds like the braying of sheep."  I always assumed he was talking about vibrato - period, but he may well have been talking about continuous vibrato, obviously done poorly as well.   In soloist playing I have always wondered if and how much vibrato Paganini used.  I know that in orchestral playing it was often forbidden.  I think the last holdout to allow vibrato by it's members was a German Orchestra and it was in the 1950s or 1960s that it finally relented.   Not too long ago, there was a conductor going around and for his concerts he would teach his orchestra to play without vibrato, and perform, not Renaissance or Baroque works , but symphonies by Beethoven and Brahms.   I never heard a concert, but have been told it was quite effective and interesting.  Most people do not know how to play without vibrato - you need to get up more on your fingertips and attempt to affect a cleaner stop of the string - as close to an open string sound as you can get,and intonation is very, very important.  But you can achieve a ringing vibrant harmonious sound that goes fuzzy once you start to vibrate - especially in small string ensembles, such as quartets.  Many of the really great quartets use non-vibrato often in certain passages.  My quartet at conservatory used this in a chorale section of a Mendelssohn String Quartet to a most marvelous affect, but it took tremendous work to tune it to where it needed to be.  Even today, vibrato should be used as an enhancement.  And the player needs to have a widely varied ability for vibrato, from slow and small to fast and wide and every combination in between.   

As far as how to learn it, I too never found anyone who could really explain it, but I was fortunate to have developed a very nice ability here, my best tips - relax relax relax, and start at the top and vibrate downward or back (pitchwise) - for two reasons - the ear hears the highest pitch in determining intonation, and if you don't put your finger down at the highest point of the vibrato, then when you fail to vibrate, you will be flat. I know quite a few violinists that put their fingers down vibrate up to the note, they sound flat all the time - especially up high or in fast passages where they cannot vibrate on every note. 

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Hmm, tried to edit my post above to clean up the too many typos, but the

edit function does not seem to be working - my apologies.

 

- ah, it let me edit today.

 

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On January 22, 2017 at 7:35 AM, gowan said:

I don't think frets prevent vibrato,after all we hear it on guitars.  Vibrato can be done by pressing the string with a a down and up motion after the string is in contact with the fret.

 

Modern classical guitarists (nylon strings, metal frets) use a vibrato motion similar to that of cellists, but with a different logic. The fret fixes string length for each note, so instead of rocking the finger to alter length, guitarists rock the finger to alter tension; rocking towards the bridge reduces tension and so lowers pitch, and vice versa. The player is actually pushing or pulling a bit of string over the fret with each oscillation.

I don't know whether the old lute and viol players (gut strings, gut frets) used a similar effect, but I wouldn't rule it out.

The effect we see rock guitarists use-- squeezing the string along the fret-- can only raise pitch, and only works well with metal strings.  (So a "vibrated" C natural is done by playing a B natural or even Bb and raising it to C, then wobbling the C.)

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And Addie:  thank you for that interesting monograph.  Another good academic discussion of vibrato is in Ruth Rodrigues' 2009 Birmingham thesis, Selected students of Leopold Auer: a study in violin performance-practice.  It is available for download.  A 50+ page chapter is devoted to discussion of vibrato and close analysis of its musical uses in a number of old recordings by Auer students and others.  (I don't think this has been mentioned here;  if it has, sorry to duplicate.)  Of course, it doesn't answer the question we began with, but gives us lots of angles to think about.

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On 2/6/2017 at 6:06 PM, Addie said:

Full view USA only.

That has some interesting info.  Such as if something as getting tired, that's where there's tension.  Other stuff too.

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I've always wondered if vibrato also developed along with string sections getting larger as a way of covering wonky intonation. If you have 24 string players playing in unison with no vibrato wouldn't intonation be more of a problem?

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Vathek, I would think the long tradition of vibrato-less choral singing works against that idea.  There hasn't been much said in this discussion about vocal vibrato, which a priori would seem to be the model for instrumental, and which likewise seems to appear first as an ornament before becoming generalised. 

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5 hours ago, vathek said:

I've always wondered if vibrato also developed along with string sections getting larger as a way of covering wonky intonation. If you have 24 string players playing in unison with no vibrato wouldn't intonation be more of a problem?

Good point.  The smaller the group the narrower the vibrato might be a good rule.  Think how weak two violins often sound; and I assume that can be attributed to neither being in tune with the other, especially if the vibratos are wide.

It seems self-evident that the wider or slower one's vibrato is, the more time he is off-pitch.  In a section I don't think it's a matter of covering up wonky pitch, however, even though to an extent it does.

I played in a "semi-pro" quartet where the 1st violinist had a very wide and soloist-ic vibrato and it didn't help.  (But his intonation was also a problem, so it was hard to pin it all on his vibrato.)  

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On 2/6/2017 at 6:06 PM, Addie said:

There is a somewhat interesting book on the topic here:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015025420350;view=1up;seq=5

Full view USA only.

That book mentioned that beginners can vibrato great -- if someone else is holding the violin .  The same effect happens if you hold the violin on your shoulder with your right hand.  That might benefit somebody's practice...

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