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Having an accomplished instrumentalist to look up to is great for young musicians, because it motivates them to work hard with the goal of becoming like their star. However, most young musicians don’t often get the chance to interact face to face with their role models. That’s why it was a big deal when Nicola Benedetti attended a session with 30 young string players.

Unsurprisingly, the vibrato technique came up during the question-and-answer session.

Hugo, 13, got grade eight violin two years ago.

“But for me the grades are less important than the musicality,” he said.

In the question-and-answer session he asked about the technique of vibrato.

“I have this weird thing with my hand and she called me up.”

Nicola gave him an exercise to relax the muscles in his hand which she promised would work over time.

“Learning how to do vibrato is kind of mystical. People try to teach it to you. Just do the exercise and be chilled,” she advised. Via BBC

Learning and mastering vibrato on violin is an indication that a violin player has achieved a considerable level of skill. It’s a complicated skill, requiring a player to have already developed a relatively solid tone, as well as achieving a sufficient level of ease with the left hand.

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Learning vibrato can be challenging, even for a player at an intermediate skill level. Many violinists actually give up as a result of frustration when they are unable to understand the simple vibrato mechanics.

However, this need not be the case when you know the fundamentals of learning the technique. The following three elements make up the fundamental skills you must develop to learn and master the technique:

1. A relaxed hand

When playing vibrato, your fingers and hand should be completely relaxed when you put your hand to the neck of your instrument. Slowly press down one finger on a string, ensuring there is minimal muscle activity. You’ll find that you need very little energy to finger a note.

If I grabbed your hand while you weren’t looking, I would feel little or no tension in your hand muscles. I would be able to feel the bones of your hand, and wouldn’t feel the rigidity of muscle activity (at least not for a few seconds). This relaxed state is exactly what you need to achieve for smooth vibrato, as being able to move your hand fluidly is all about avoiding tension.

Consider the other extreme. Imagine you have a body-builder friend with a crushing handshake. If he extends his hand toward you, you will instinctively create extra tension in your hand to prepare for the grip you are about to experience. This type of tension in the hand is exactly what you want to avoid when adding vibrato. Unfortunately, that “tense-up” reaction is exactly what most people experience. Tension in your hand can shut down your ability to get a fluid, consistent hand movement. Via Violin Tutor Pro

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2. Just enough pressure

Play a note with your second or third finger repeatedly, each time reducing how hard you press down on the string until the sound is no longer clean. If you’re like most players, you’ll find that you were pressing down much harder than necessary at the start. Keep in mind that pressing had makes it difficult to play smooth vibrato and slows you down, limiting your ability to play in turn.

Think about how hard your fingers have to squeeze when using a cheap can opener. The muscles in your hands and fingers have to press hard just to get the can opener knob to turn a few times. If you don’t open cans the old-fashioned way, consider how hard you have to press your fingers and hand to open a tightly sealed pop bottle.

This type of muscle engagement is exactly what you want to avoid when doing vibrato. Pressing your fingers too hard into the fingerboard will make it nearly impossible for your hand to move freely… cause your fingers to cramp up… cause your fingers to end up too close together, instead of relaxed and properly spaced. Via Violin Tutor Pro

3. Proper finger placement

finger placement
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Always use your fingertips (as close to the nail as possible) to press down on the string. The very tip of your finger is harder than further down your finger, so you’ll need less effort to press down, freeing up your hand muscles and reducing tension.

Think of a baseball player hoping to hit a home run. Which bat would she reach for–a metal one, or a foam one? The hard metal bat will transfer more energy to the ball and hit it much farther. In the same way, using the hardest part of your fingertip makes a better “connection” with the string and allows you to use less pressure. Less pressure equals smoother vibrato. Via Violin Tutor Pro

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strad1There is hardly a facet of string technique in which technical and artistic factors are so closely intertwined as in the production of vibrato. While being a form of expression that is often used unconsciously, it is also a tool that must be carefully understood and mastered.


In former times, players such as Flesch and Rivarde thought that the variation of the pitch should move both under and above the note. Now, however, it is generally accepted that vibrato should be what Ricci describes as a ‘flatting’. Likewise, Spalding asserts that ‘a beautiful vibrato is the one that sounds the note and lowers it.’ Via The Strad


Vibrato – technique tips

violinadventuresVIBRATO, I think there is a lot to say about this topic. Reading posts and questions about it on violin forums shows me that it’s probable one of the things that beginner and intermediate violinists struggle with. And it’s also one of the things we are most eager to learn because it’s just so beautiful! I too would really like to develop a nice vibrato. At this moment it’s not the one thing I most want. I mean that I’m not completely focusing on vibrato alone. But I’m doing some vibrato exercises each day. After reading a lot about vibrato I realize it’s going to take a lot of time to master it. And one needs to be very relaxed to do it well. That’s why I am not pushing it or forcing it. I’ll just do some vibrato exercises a couple of minutes a day and we’ll see how it gets along. Via Violin Adventures