Do you want to learn how to do vibrato on the violin? Below, violin teacher Carol Beth L. gives a lesson on how to master this impressive skill…
Have you ever been captivated by the wavering notes in the slow movement of a violin solo? If so, you were probably listening to an accomplished violinist who had thoroughly mastered vibrato violin.
Learning vibrato violin is a big step in your musical development. Mastering this complicated skill will help take your violin playing to the next level. In this article, I will walk you through everything you need to know about vibrato violin.
What is Vibrato Violin?
Vibrato violin is a technique used mostly by advanced violinists to bring attention to their music by making the note oscillate around the base pitch.
Most violinists begin learning vibrato only after they have had a relatively solid tone without vibrato, and have reached a certain level of ease with the left hand.
On the violin, vibrato comes from moving the arm and/or wrist back slightly toward the scroll, and then back up toward the bridge.
This allows the vibration to be passed along through the hand and fingers so that the fingers oscillate slightly back and forth along the string.
A violinist can also control the speed of his or her vibrato via the rate at which the fingers, wrist, and arm are moving back and forth.
Types of Vibrato Violin
There are three main types of vibrato violin;
- Arm vibrato
- Hand vibrato (i.e. wrist)
- Finger vibrato
Wrist vibrato is driven primarily by wrist movement, and is usually very fast. This type of vibrato violin is great for adding flair to a particular song.
Arm vibrato is driven by the arm, and is much slower and broader. This type of vibrato violin is best used for slow or sad violin songs, such as Ave Maria.
Many violinists start learning wrist vibrato first. Although, different violinists may prefer different types of vibrato. For optimal sound, it’s best to use a combination of all three types of vibrato violin.
How to Do Vibrato on a Violin
Step 1: Get comfortable with the movement
To start training yourself for vibrato, first practice the wrist movement away from the violin. For instance, try holding a small object such as a rubber stress ball or a plastic Easter egg that has been partially filled with rice or beans.
Let your hand rock back from the wrist and then back forward again.
Step 2: Place your hand in third position
When you are comfortable with this, try placing your hand in about third position. In other words, your first finger will be where your third finger usually is.
This also means that your palm will rest very close to the body of the violin, which can then serve as a support so you aren’t moving more than you want to.
Step 3: Choose a finger
Pick a finger–preferably the second or third finger–to place onto the string and begin the back and forward motion with your wrist.
This should cause your finger to roll back along the string and then back up to its upright position. Do this slowly at first, and gradually speed up.You might try putting your metronome somewhere between 60 and 80.
Pull your wrist back on the first click, then forward on the second, back on the third, and so on. When you are comfortable with all four fingers, move to two movements per click, then three, then four.
Reaching full comfort with four movements (and two full rounds of vibrato) per metronome click on all four fingers may take some time, especially for the shorter, weaker pinky fingers. So don’t be frustrated if it isn’t easy right away. When you are ready, try moving back to practice first position.
Step 4: Practice slow scales
When you are comfortable in first position, the next step will be to practice with slow scales, followed by a slow, easy going piece or two. [Need help with violin scales? Check out this beginner tutorial.]
When you reach this stage, begin with songs that are not too difficult so that you can focus on vibrato, rather than finding the right notes, producing a good sound, or bowing correctly.
Still need help? Check out this quick vibrato tutorial from violin teacher Naomi S.
Am I Ready for Violin Vibrato?
Many intermediate violin players are eager to jump into the vibrato technique. However, it’s important that you’re ready for this big undertaking.
One should develop a full tone before learning the vibrato technique, as this will ensure that you sound the best. You should also have a solid understanding of first and third position.
And lastly, your wrist and arm need to have good form, as this technique can be very strenuous on the muscles.
If you can confidently check all of these boxes, then you’re ready to learn the vibrato technique! Just remember to be patient with yourself, and don’t push yourself too quickly.
Progress may seem slow at first, but with practice, you will reach your goal. Work closely with your violin teacher to come up with exercises to help you master this skill.
Photo by Garry Knight