Have you always wanted to learn the vibrato violin? Below, violin teacher Naomi Cherie S. provides a detailed tutorial on how to do vibrato on the violin…
Playing vibrato on the violin can greatly enhance your sound by infusing your notes with emotion, beauty, and intensity. It’s the icing on the cake that really makes your playing shine!
The standard for an advanced player or professional, vibrato violin comes from moving the arm and/or wrist back slightly toward the scroll, and then back up toward the bridge.
While you might be eager to learn vibrato violin, it’s a very complex skill to master. Below is a tutorial on how to play vibrato on the violin as well as some tips to help determine if you’re ready.
Am I Ready for Vibrato Violin?
You may have heard famous violin players using violin vibrato in movies, at the symphony, or at live concerts, and thought to yourself, “Hey! I’m ready to add vibrato to my playing!”
Prior to embarking on this new journey, however, please note that it is incredibly important to make sure you have a very strong foundation so you don’t become overwhelmed and frustrated.
Before learning vibrato violin, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have good form, proper left hand technique, and a strong bow hold?
- Can I play through songs and read music fluidly with very little mistakes?
- Do I have a decent amount of hand strength built up and can I get through songs without my hand and arm muscles becoming easily fatigued?
- Have I developed a good ear for intonation and enough muscle memory in my fingers to get the notes in tune most of the time?
If you confidently answered “yes” to all of these questions, congratulations! You’re ready to move to the next level and start adding vibrato violin to your skill set.
While professionals make vibrato look easy and effortless, it can actually take some time to master– anywhere from a couple months to a couple years depending on the player.
So the main thing to remember is to be patient and not give up.
How to Set Up Your Left Hand For Vibrato Violin Exercise
Having correct left hand technique is imperative to making the vibrato mechanism physically possible. Below are various steps to ensure your left hand it properly set up.
Looking at your left hand while in playing position, the thumb should rest against the side of the neck in a straight or slightly bent pose, as if you were giving a thumbs up sign.
Your fingers should be curved and hovering over the fingerboard. Think of the fingers as arches or “little rainbows” sitting on top of the fingerboard.
A common issue for students is that they allow the palm of their hand to rest on the violin neck. The only parts of your hand that should really touch the violin are the fingertips, the thumb, and a bit of the side of your first finger.
If you find the palm of your hand touching the neck, straighten your wrist and remember that your wrist position should remain in a neutral straight pose most of the time.
When you place your fingers on the string, they should be standing up nice and tall so that only a small point on your fingertips make contact with the string (not the entire pad of your finger.)
If you find that you cannot easily get your fingers to stand up on the fingertips, it may be necessary to permanently adjust your overall left arm/hand form.
You may need to bring your elbow in toward your chest and let your thumb slide from the side of the neck more toward the underside of the neck to allow yourself to hoist your fingers up and get off of the finger pads and onto the fingertips.
Special Vibrato Violin Exercise For Beginners
Once your left hand technique is in order, you’re ready to start your daily vibrato exercise!
Keep in mind that it is important to do this exercise every day so that you can build momentum and develop the hand strength and muscle memory that you will need.
At first your hand may feel weak and tired, but with time it will become easier. Make sure you only do this exercise for 5-10 minutes in one sitting, so that you don’t overdo it and strain your hand.
Let’s get started…
Start with your left hand in normal playing position– good form, fingers hovering over the fingerboard and your first finger (index finger) standing tall on the fingertip.
Place your first finger on the D string where you’d normally place your first finger in first position.
With your bow, play this note for four counts. Then pivot on the ball of your finger and go into the “back” position with your finger and entire hand making a shift toward the scroll.
Although the motion is driven by your wrist, you should feel your whole hand putting momentum into the movement. Play for four counts.
Then begin alternating and counting like an aerobics instructor would in whole notes; for example, up 2, 3, 4 — back 2, 3, 4…
You should hear a shift in tone with each movement from “up” to “back.” That’s because your finger is changing what part of the string it is placed on to create the vibrato violin effect.
- Next go to half notes: up 2– back 2…
- Then quarter notes: up, back, up, back…
- Then eight notes: up, back, up, back (double time!)
And finally, double that last speed and go into sixteenth notes: at this point you’re just switching back and forth as fast as physically possible.
Your hand should look like it is waving at yourself. If you’re able to do this then you’re officially playing vibrato violin.
Most likely it will take a few weeks or months to work up to doing this successfully, but with lots of patience your fingers will build up the muscle memory and flexibility.
After a while, give your hand a rest and shake it out and let your fingers stretch. Then go to the second finger and do it all over again on each finger.
Most people find the second finger the easiest finger, while the pinkie finger is more challenging since it is weaker and shorter than all the other fingers.
Give lots of extra time for your little finger to adjust. Once you’ve completed the violin vibrato exercise, move on to the next string and go through the whole thing on all four fingers on all four strings.
The big key here is to start off slow. While you’re learning, always start with whole notes and work your way up to sixteenth note speed.
That will give your hand some time to get warmed up and get used to the motions gradually.
Once you’ve become comfortable with your basic wrist vibrato, you can explore other violin vibrato styles; for example, arm vibrato which is the same, but with more momentum driven from the entire arm to give you really wide slow poignant vibrato.
Eventually you can develop a hand vibrato too, which focuses on a more delicate and controlled approach.
You can also experiment with the speed of your vibrato, such as fast intense motions for an upbeat, energetic song or strong slow weepy vibrato for a sad, slow or emotional song.
It all just depends on what type of mood you’re trying to convey and what sort of personal preferences you develop over your years of practice.
Photo by _dChris