Thank you for all the amazing videos on technique.
Just wondering if it matters whether the pulse of the vibrato movement is moving towards myself on the beat or away from myself on the beat with the metronome?
Or, in other words, is it better to focus on pulling away from myself then relax (arm, hand, finger) or push in towards me then relax? I think I have heard it taught both ways.
Looking forward to your reply.
Answer by: Dr. David Wallace
Thank you, Heather.
I think that partly depends on what you mean by “pulse.” If you’re using pulse to refer to rhythm or beat, I would answer that it’s best to be on the main pitch on the beat, then relax to the flat side of the pitch. That way, the “off-pitch” part of the vibrato cycle is happening on the “rhythmically weak” subdivisions of the beat. -Your vibrato rhythm itself reinforces the intonation of your note.
If you’re referring to “pulse” as the physical impulses of the vibrato, for me, the active part of the cycle is moving towards me (returning to pitch) and the “passive” or “reflexive” part of the cycle is moving to the flat side of the pitch. This holds true regardless of whether I’m using a hand vibrato or an arm vibrato. With regards to what I’m talking about in the “vertical vibrato” video, the pulse is felt on the “downward” / “into the fingerboard” impulse, then released.
I’ll reinforce that I would discourage any approach that advocates vibrating above the pitch as part of the motion because the ear interprets the highest frequency as the center of the pitch (making everything sound sharp). I’ll also say that an overemphasis on a “pulling away” motion to generate the vibrato cycle tends to sound very jerky. -It also is putting physical effort in a direction that is opposite the finger action of dropping the fingers. Ultimately, we want the vibrato to come from the finger action.
It certainly is possible to teach and perform vibrato in a variety of ways, and you’ll see and hear a good many things. Bear in mind that sometimes words and verbal descriptions can be confusing. (That is, sometimes you’ll hear a person say one thing, but do another, and sometimes, our perceptions and interpretations of a word as simple as “wrist” can vary widely.)
Since each person’s approach and body is unique, there are more than one path to making a good vibrato. I included as many different exercises and approaches to vibrato as I did not only because we want to develop as much variety and tone color as we can, but also because some approaches will be easier and more natural for each learner in our community.
Do aim to get your vibrato from a reflex. When the vibrato is happening “on its own,” (i.e. as a result from the finger action) there isn’t really any effort or “pushing.”
Thanks for a really great question!