So today, we will be discussing some of the practices that you can do during daily practices.
The most valuable lesson when you start vibrato is to stay focused on the subtle movement of the fingertip going and up and down as it highlights the pitch. The goal is to hear the pitch loud and clear with a hint of warmth generated by the vibrato. If the pitch isn’t dominant and obvious, then the vibrato is too slow or the amplitude of the movement is uneven.
The basic vibrato exercise of moving the arm up and down from first to third position, while sliding with one finger, should successfully develop an even amplitude around the pitch. If you experience uneven rhythm and distance, try eliminating any counting of beats. The pendulum that is inherent in a vibrato relies on a different rhythm from our usual metronomic counting system.
My first exercise was to hold the violin scroll against the wall to keep the violin from moving up, down, and sideways. Not surprisingly, my violin still jerked around, but I was able to live with it. Tolerance and patience are important factors in learning such a movement that begins its life rather shakily. Self-taught vibrato usually turns out the best. It’s like learning how to walk: a teacher can give step-by-step directions, but he can’t describe how each student’s mind gets the vibrato started and keeps the process balanced.
- Adequate heat and moisture so that the hand has good traction.
- Basic finger gymnastics on each string in turn -- E-A-D-G -- in 3rd position, then 1st position.
- Full bows, vibrating on each finger, 1-2-3-4, on E-A-D-G in turn, to open up the hand still more -- starting in 3rd position, then 1st.
- 3-octave scales -- NOT FAST -- in broken 3rds, four or eight notes per bow -- starting from open G, going up to 10th or 11th position sul E -- to reach top D or E; then back down all the way to open G. Keep each preceding finger down as you place the succeeding finger -- 0-2, 1-3, 2-4, 3-1 -- for more stretching and smoother string-crossing.
- Basic Sevcik or Schradieck finger exercises in rotation, small doses, not the same ones day after day -- 3rd position first, then 1st position. This helps to keep the hand and forearm muscles in shape and helps to maintain finger independence.
Don't do "worst things first" -- i.e., don't jump into a practice session with hard-core knuckle-busting stuff like Sevcik or Schradieck.
Work up to it by steps; limber up and stretch first.
Beware the left-thumb death grip -- it will defeat your purpose and make your exercises far less productive, if not totally useless. Again, I can't hear and see what you're doing; so beyond this point, I can only recommend that you go over this with your teacher. Hope this will be useful. Let us know what develops.
Looking for more tips to learn the vibrato?
1. Start Strongly
A good beginning vibrato exercise is to learn to identify the moment that vibrato starts. Move the bow confidently with no vibrato and then, after a count of two beats, vibrate quickly and simply. The mind is better at controlling small movements if all the moving parts are synchronised.
2. Analyse Your Movements
Each player has a personal preference as to whether the vibrato should be an arm or hand-wrist vibrato. Sometimes, however, the actions can fight against each other. Keep the movements distinct and pure. While some powerful vibratos have developed while integrating both hand and arm, all that’s really necessary is that all the joints, knuckles, and so on remain neutral and flexible.
3. Chart your Course
The geography of vibrato includes the physical direction of the fingerboard; the offset, oblique angle of the hand (think scaffolding); the four different planes of the string; and the direction of the bow (which has a way of influencing everything else). Imagine the complications that arise from all of these competing angles! Now, just respect the differences and keep all motions independent yet interdependent.
4. Overcome the Wobble
The wobbly vibrato is sometimes caused by a lack of firmness as the fingertip oscillates between two close pitches. An exercise for a more firm vibrato motion is to move the bow smoothly, generating a perfectly smooth vibrating string, with the fingertip firmly on the pitch. Then rock the finger to a pitch slightly below the original pitch, and then rock it back to the original. The firmness is achieved by thinking of the ratchet mechanism in a socket wrench. That will make the pitch difference firm enough to overcome the wobble, and the smooth bow will blend it all together.
An interesting way of hearing this exercise is on page 54 of the The Backyard Birdsong Guide: Western North America (Chronicle Books, 2008) by Donald Kroodsma. The call of the hairy hummingbird sounds just like this exercise, both slowly and in the finished product. Listening to this recording of the birdsong places the vibrato in the student’s ear, the most important place for any vibrato to begin.
If you want more tips on playing the violin or cello, do like Music Mood Facebook page!