Perfecting Violin Vibrato: 5 Common Mistakes

violinHaving trouble with your violin vibrato? It’s a difficult technique to learn, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll be able to create that beautiful, almost shimmering sound that professional violinists boast.

Vibrato is best learned with a private violin teacher, who can guide you through specific exercises, as well as help you avoid bad habits and poor technique. As you begin perfecting your violin vibrato, you may notice that certain habits work their way into your playing, which should be tackled immediately.

Last week we came across a great article over at the Teach Suzuki blog reviewing a few of the common mistakes beginners make, and it’s a great overview of what not to do. Here’s an excerpt from the article, listing a few of the errors, and how violin instructor Paula assists her students:

– Squeezing Violin Hold: I look to see if the student is squeezing the violin neck in any way between the left hand thumb and fingers. If there is any squeezing, it is usually between the base of the index finger and the thumb. I ask the students to “unhook” the hand or index finger.

– Sagging Left Hand: I look to see if the student’s hand maintains the correct height above the fingerboard. Sometimes students attempt to shift their left hand musculature so that more of the hand is underneath the fingerboard rather than to the E string side of it. This left hand placement will cause the student to use more hand muscles rather than finger and skeleton. This placement will also interfere with tone production, causing more of a fuzzy tone as the finger plays with more pad. It will also cause problems later when the student attempts double stops.

– Improper Thumb Placement: I look to see if the student’s left thumb remains in the correct place. Some students when learning vibrato will try to move their violin neck so that it rests in the shelf at the base of the left thumb. This is more subtle than a student who makes a “pizza hand,” which is what we call it when a student holds the left hand so that the violin neck rests on the palm of the hand or on the thumb “pillow,” which is the fleshy part below the thumb joints. This posture resembles the way a waiter carries a pizza tray in a restaurant. I look carefully to make sure that the student is not making an almost invisible “shelf” at the base of the thumb in order to hold the violin. I want to be sure that the student maintains the proper hand balance during vibrato movements.

Still need help perfecting your vibrato? Check out this helpful YouTube tutorial that takes you back to the basics:

Readers, do you recognize any bad habits in your own playing? How have you worked through them to create beautiful violin vibrato? Leave a comment below, or stop by our Facebook page to share your story!

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