Technique: Developing a controlled vibrato

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Exercises and ideas to build finger strength, improved tone and a continuous arm or wrist action, from violinist Lihay Bendayan

Vibrato is an important expressive tool that we can use to intensify the sentiments and colours already within our playing. To apply it well, we need to develop hand and arm vibratos that we can control absolutely on all fingers, in terms of continuity, speed, width and variety, in every millimetre of movement that we make. This will help us to shape and vary our sound in every phrase of music that we play. 


A good vibrato should start on the pitch, move back towards the scroll and return again, clearly and freely, with control in the hand and between the fingers. To improve your vibrato skills, practise the following exercises using first a ‘pianist’s’ touch, where only the active finger is on the string, and then with a normal touch, with all possible fingers down. If at any point your hand becomes ‘stuck’, play a slow, easy scale with separate bows. On each note, crescendo dramatically while increasing your vibrato speed and width. This may feel counter-intuitive, because usually we decrease vibrato width when we increase the speed, and vice versa, but it will help to free you up again. If you feel any pain or stiffness, stop immediately…

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