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Elevate Your Violin Vibrato

Once you find your vibrato is close to becoming second nature, it is time to get out of your comfort zone. Richard Amoroso can teach you how.

All violinists tend to have their own default vibrato, much as we each have our own voice. We may even come to realize that our default vibrato is the same as that of our favorite violin soloist. However, to truly develop toward the same virtuosity of our violin hero, we need to expand our proficiency.

To get a feel for where your preference lies, start by counting 8 vibrato rocking motions within a 60 beat metronome setting. This is approximately the low end of an effective vibrato speed. Gradually work your way up to higher speeds until you hit your natural vibrato- then proceed to work the faster side of the spectrum.

In addition to speed, there is another element of vibrato- the “width” or degree of tonal variation. Take some time to explore this variable, as well, till you have thoroughly examined the entire spectrum from subtle narrow vibrato to the widest still tasteful vibrato you can manage. It is important to be able to vary both width and speed, as each string carries the vibrato sound differently. The thicker G string cannot tolerate the same narrow quick speed of vibrato that the E string can without sounding pinched. So, even in the same portion of a musical piece, you will need to vary both of these elements as you move between the strings.

The next challenge is to avoid unintended “dead” notes. Though it may occasionally be artistically correct to play a note without vibrato, you want the event to be a choice and not an accident. The most common accidental dead notes are when the pace of the piece is just slow enough to allow for vibrato. This may lead to one or several notes being played without vibrato before you remember it. It is much easier to consciously intend all possible vibratos and then select occasional dead notes, than to make dead notes the default and have to remember the vibrato. Only disciplined practice makes perfect.

Beyond the technical capability that is associated with vibrato is the importance of understanding when to use it and what type of vibrato is appropriate. During the Baroque period, vibrato is largely inappropriate, though a narrow subtle vibrato may occasionally be inserted. Baroque composers include JS Bach, Vivaldi, and Telemann. On the other hand, the Classical period composers, of which Mozart is an example, call for a tastefully wider, but still fast vibrato. The compositions of the Romantic era, with Tchaikovsky, Wagner, and Schubert, can withstand an even more expressive, slower, wider vibrato.

The bottom line is that the mark of a refined violinist is an even, varied, appropriate vibrato. It is not beyond your reach! It just takes practice and awareness. Richard Amoroso can teach any violinist how to perfect their playing, get lessons from him now.