Ten Minute Technique: Vibrato

Oh vibrato! You are elusive and complex in your execution, yet you are among the principal components of our personal expression as string players.

As a young violinist I remember longing for the day that my vibrato would emerge, free from the early feelings of tension that seemed to grow with every effort I put toward figuring it out. I wanted a vibrato the way I once wanted to learn to roller skate and hula hoop, but those skills seemed to come so much easier. I think most young players think of vibrato ‘mastery’ as a kind of rite of passage to becoming a REAL violinist or violist. Plus it makes us sound so darn awesome that there is a lot of pressure to try to get it by whatever means necessary.

Over the years of teaching vibrato to students and working with professionals on gaining more freedom in technique and expression, I have learned that we all can keep nurturing and improving this unique skill over a lifetime. I have also learned that there are many pedagogical approaches to this technique, and most of them provide us with novel avenues to explore…so there’s nothing wrong with trying out anything you can get your hands on!

This Ten Minute Technique offers a handful of exercises and experiments that I have found most useful in teaching beginning vibrato, as well as trouble-shooting vibrato challenges with advanced students and professional players. This is by no means a prescription for perfect vibrato, but I hope you and your students will find some new ideas to add to beginning work on and refining this skill!

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