Exploring Music's Complexities

Vibrato, a Musician’s Tool

What is Vibrato?

 

String instrument Vibrato provides a means for an artist to add depth and beauty to a piece of music.   It is accomplished by rocking or vibrating a finger of the left hand to alter the pitch of the note.

As noted above, vibrato uses the left hand the create phrasing and “musicality”.   When playing vibrato, the instrument doesn’t shake.  The instrument itself remains still.

Not all string instruments vibrato in the same way.  These differences occur because of the angle of the instrument in relation to the musician’s body.  Violins and violas are played with the violin perpendicular to the body, in a horizontal position somewhat parallel to the ground. The vibrato is played with a motion centered in the wrist.  Cellos and basses are played in an upright position, with the endpins towards the ground.  Here the vibrato is performed by rocking the forearm and fingers on the string.  The track below is a beautiful example of violin vibrato as played by Daniel Kobialka.

Clair de Lune

Constant Vibrato

While vibrato is widely used today, this has not always been the case.  Very little or no vibrato  was used in Baroque music.  Over time its use increased. Musicians who concentrate on early music today use very little vibrato in keeping with the practice during the Baroque period.

 

 

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