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Quarantine Practice, Ep. 21 - Ramblings about Vibrato

Essentials, every now and then - vibrato. Vibrato is a bit of an elusive subject, as everyone has different rates of nerve conduction. Slowing down, quickening the vibrato can be trained though.


I’ve always struggled with a vibrato that would spazz out, many times unfavorably so in regards to the specific character of a phrase - especially when the adrenaline rush hits. Over the years, I’ve learned to not “slow it down” per se, but rather develop specificity in how the mind conceives the motion at hand.


I’ve realized that it’s more helpful to un-categorize finger, hand, or arm vibrato, as the impulse I believe comes from the finger pad. The distal joint ideally is flexible. The questions in turn then are: what are the active and passive movements in vibrato? Are there differences in the pressure the finger has on the fingerboard? How does one achieve continuity and evolution in vibrato?


I’ve experimented a bit, and I find that thinking of vibrato as consisting of an active, forward impulse initiated by the finger pad / distal joint followed by a passive, rebound movement back helps. The pressure as such changes - leaning into the string as the finger goes forward, and releasing a bit as the finger moves backward. Essentially, the springy nature of the string (which is suspended) is at work and facilitates the vibrato. Speed and width perhaps depends on how the mind conceives of the motion and which participating joints are more actively involved. Generally, the narrower the vibrato, the smaller the joint, and the less active the bigger joints - vice versa for a wider vibrato.


Doing some nitty gritty but mindful work with vibrato - leaning my wrist against the side rib to encourage the isolation of the hand from the larger parts of the arm. Focusing on feeling that precise, active forward movement. Different rhythms used (dotted rhythm, inverted dotted rhythm, quavers, triplets, semi-quavers). Haha, I’m also paying homage to David Oistrakh my releasing my head from contact with the violin to eradicate any emerging pockets of tension. Closing eyes to tune into my tactile and kinesthetic awareness.


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1 Comment

Thanks for sharing this kinesthetic journey of discovery! I‘m a jazz violinist and have a vibrato more in common with a saxophone.🤣🤣

I‘m trying to actually add more Violin Vibrato in my playing ! You are a jewel 💎 Thanks again!

Owen Valentine

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