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Cello Lessons: Advanced Vibrato

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Vibrato is one of the most important
expressive tools that
we have as a cellist.
And it's actually kind of underorganized,
often times when people learn it.
We might think of it as sort of a rotation
like you might have when you're
turning the doorknob, and that can
lead to a sort of sound like this.
Totally beautiful.
But the subtle shades of vibrato are often
not accompanied with really good
exercises to train the coordination.
However my life was changed when
my undergrad teacher Richard Erin
at the Cleveland Institute of Music
showed me this exercise for vibrato, and
it's built on the fundamental idea that
vibrato is a variation on the trill.
The trill and vibrato are functions
of the same muscle group.
And primarily this is gonna be
a function of the full forearm.
We're never really gonna
vibrate just a finger.
By itself.
But the whole arm is gonna vibrate.
Let me demonstrate how this works.
So if I was gonna take first
finger on the D string,
I want to trill just to second finger so
it would look like this.
Notice for this trill the whole palm
is pushing the finger into the string and
the full forearm is moving with the palm.
And so that every time the palm comes
down, the second finger hits the string.
The idea would be then,
that I could put down any finger.
I could put down third finger.
Or fourth finger.
And notice my arm motion doesn't change.
My arm doesn't care.
Which fingers being put down.
It just keeps moving.
In this steady oscillation.
We're gonna come back to that idea.
But it's worth practicing
a little bit on it's own.
What I don't want you to do
is just move just a finger.
Like if my finger goes up and
down, but my arm doesn't move.
That means I'm using just my finger muscle
in order to play.
And I want you to use the full arm so
that the palm is throwing
the finger into the string.
Okay, so with that idea of the trill,
then the vibrato becomes a variation
where it's the same exact motion,
we just simply refrain from
putting the upper finger down.
So I'll trill again,
second finger and first finger.
If I stop putting the second finger down,
I'm left with the vibrato.
But the vibrato is
still at the same speed.
In order to develop this feeling,
I'm going to alternate playing the trill
of the second finger and then vibrating
and I'm gonna be focusing on my arm.
My arm movement not changing at all.
If you looked at my arm while I do this,
ideally it won't look any different
depending on whether my
second finger is down or up.
So I'll do this with
the metronome at 70 so
I can keep my rhythm consistent.
[SOUND] Three and four, and a.
I'm just gonna
keep alternating.
To see how consistent I can get my arms
Whether or
not I put the upper finger down.
Often times when people are trying
this exercise for the first time,
you can see your arm kind of actually
stops its oscillation right at
the transition from trill to vibrato.
It might look like this.
You kind of like stop and restart.
See if you can avoid that and you can keep
the oscillation down, up, down, up, down,
up, down, up, down, up,
super consistent through the alteration.
Let's try it together once
more with a metronome.
[SOUND] Three and four and.
work on
that for
The next step is to work
on different rhythms.
So that was, let's call that eighth notes,
now I'm going to do triplets
at the same metronome speed.
So you'll hear the triplet
speed in the trill first.
And then just the vibrato.
See if you can
hear this subdivision
in the vibrato.
Now I'm gonna
do sixteenth
One-y and a two-y and a.
See how
even you
can get it.
Those are the three main speeds I would
practice your vibrato at and you can
do it at different metronome speeds.
And the part of this exercise that
originally blew my mind is that obviously,
by doing at these
different rhythmic levels,
it trains different
speeds of your vibrato.
However, if I start trilling
to different fingers,
if I was trilling from first
finger to third finger,
that actually starts to develop
different widths of our vibrato.
So if I trill to the third finger,
it's actually a wider oscillation.
And you'll hear that in the vibrato.
So with the metronome again.
Three now with third finger.
Now it's just vibrating.
You wanna imagine putting the third
finger down even when
you're just vibrating.
you really get the full
width of the vibrato.
You can try that, obviously,
at all the speeds as well.
And now the widest vibrato would
be first finger to fourth finger.
I'll always start with the trill,
starting from the upper note.
Three, four.
So really,
really wide
However, if I transfer that
maybe up here to the cello and
I did it extra fast you'll see how it
can transfer to a really musical sound.
So I'll do it up here.
Fourth finger, first finger, three four.
exercise is kind
of a permutation
You can start from any finger and
trill/vibrate to any of the other
fingers for different widths.
And we were just starting only
from first finger so far.
But you can do these trills from
second and third finger as well.
And as long as you have a metronome
to keep you honest, rhythmically,
you can go through
the different subdivisions,
working on different speeds,
working on different widths.
And if you practice this you know,
maybe for a month or so.
Not every permutation at every practice
session, but over time exploring
all the different combinations
you can do on different strings.
You're really gonna develop
a really subtle coordination and
ability to access very
specific types of vibrato.
And that's gonna come up
in your melodic playing.
You know instantly, because
the stereotypes of like a bad vibrato,
is sort of a type of vibrato
that's either on or off.
It's like.
You know there's no gray scale,
there's no gradation.
To the vibrato.
But this is gonna give you
a lot of middle ground,
a lot of width options and
a lot of speed options.
And I think after you explore this for
a little while,
you'll be very happy with
the quality of your vibrato.