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Vibrato in high positions

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by fergus currie, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. To obtain that sweet vibrato in the alto register (second octave of the G string) important factors are tone center and how much displacement on either side you apply.
    Firstly let's be clear and say vibrato is NOT a cure for bad intonation.
    The notes need to be in tune before vibrato can enrich them.
    The displacement should be equal on either side. This sould be achieved by 'rocking' the wrist.

    The two photos below show the two extreme positions of vibrato on the note D one and a half octaves up the G string.



    The way to practice this is by going slowly from one side to the other with a metronome (preferably a big, noisy, wooden one) set to 60 bpm. Rock your wrist through the arc from one side to the other in one smooth movement lasting one click then back again. gradually speed this up to about 5 or 6 full 'back and forth' movements per second.

    Do excersises on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fingers then try some easy scales slowly. Try to keep the vibrato going throught the shifts in slow tempos. In faster tempos there is no needfor this but when that big climax long note comes up you can make it sound like Maria Callas and not Madonna!

    Now go and try the high F in Shostakovich 5!
  2. Thanks for the tip :)
  3. t-bag


    Oct 21, 2008
    I once heard that Janos Starker places his thumb behind the fingerboard in high positions, maybe for strength, but I find it makes for better, and easier, vibrato. Opposed to using the thumb in ordinary thumb position.
  4. A trick I learned this weekend is you can anchor your thumb and vibrato like a cellist. This adds a different texture to the vibrato. Maybe you wouldn't do this all the time, but for specific kinds of passages only. There's also the Gary Karr method where you get your wrist and whole arm above the second finger and do a really wide vibrato.
  5. A few more thoughts and questions!!

    (1) The range of movement becomes narrower as the pitch goes up and the distances between notes progressively shortens.

    (2) The speed of vibrato increases as notes go higher, imitating the singer's vibrato.

    (3) The direction of the end of finger movement becomes more diagonally across the string

    (4) The flatterflexing movement of the elbow (a "door hinge" that only bends in one direction) takes over from the stabbing/rolling action of the hand and forearm that is used in neck positions

    (5) There is enough sideways flexibility and flesh roll in each finger that translates a relatively flat diagonal movement of the hand into a useful vibrato. A part of that freely moving wider diagonal movement causes the string to shorten and lengthen.

    (6) There is a transition area between neck positions and thumb positions (say E on 4th finger up to thumb on G) where the hand turns from pointing more across the strings to pointing more towards the bridge. In this area the vibrato action also changes.

    The question (that I have seen raised in other threads too) is "does moving equal amounts above and below the pitch produce a convincing singer-like vibrato?"

    I hear a vibrato that comes up to the pitch slightly faster than it drops back, staying around the pitch long enough to produce a definite stable note. Wind players (my wife is a bassoonist) can develop ha ha ha ha into a diaphragm vibrato that sings. The huh sound goes up slightly faster than the aaa sound decays, like a rounded off saw tooth shape. not like a smooth rounded sine wave shape or the opposite, stiff and jagged.

    To me vibrato and glissando are the only expressive things that the left hand can bring to the musical party and both must be used wisely to add beauty to the sound , not distract listeners' attention away from it. It is important to practice being able to smoothly go into and out of vibrato while playing a long held note. I prefer to shift with a still hand and settle on a note securely before starting vibrato. The action of stopping the shift can roll on logically into the start of vibrato. Keeping vibrato going during shifting can be a recipe for disaster, just like a chain of trills!!!

    What think ye, merry gentlemen?

  6. Thank David for expanding this discussion with some intersting thoughts.

    A bit, but not as much as you'd think. High register expressive vibrato is about as wide as orchestral bread and butter vibrato in third position. Of coure one must be careful not to get too wide. ;)

    Yes but it's not so proprtional. Once you're up there you shoudn't adjust too much but go with register changes instead.

    I have some interesting grooves in my finger tips. Let me explain, my first finger has a v shaped groove in the tip from the two different areas of the bass where it gets pressed down (downstairs and thumb pos.). My second finger has a cross like the scottish flag on it with the two grovves lining up with the two groves on my first finger. My third finger has a diagonal groove on it because it's used with pressure in the thumb pos. only (or near there). and my fourth has one groove which lines up with the grooves for playing down stairs because I dont use it in thumb pos.

    heres a photo of what my finger tips look like:

    That was a bit spooky!

    If you've managed to follow this far you will gather that the change is again not gradual but related to register and position.

    This affects the vibrato in that the swinging wrist becomes more connected to the knuckes. you can see that in the photos.

    Yes but not a 'Karate Chop'! Keep things fluid and smooth.

    Nice stuff and a lot to think about for people thrying to get a nice sound up there!
  7. A few more thoughts.

    Rest your hand on a table in front of you as though your second finger is playing a piano note, ie your finger is bridged for strength and supports the weight of your hand and relaxed arm. Move your hand to and fro sideways, parallel to the table top and observe how your finger twists each way and takes up slack, also how the flesh on the end of your finger rolls slightly. Feel the elasticity of the finger and the "bounce" at each end that helps send you back in the other direction.

    You can do the above resting your hand on the top rib of the bass before dropping your hand over into thumb position and repeating the exercise, looking for the same physical sensations.

    Go back to the table top, stand up (bridge) on your second finger and move your hand sideways then add in a slight rolling action of the hand. Keep the forearm, wrist and hand in a simple line and springy, not stiff. This is very close to the vibrato action used on the neck. The three elements are there, the twisting of the finger, the rolling of the flesh on the end of the finger and the extra width gained by rolling the entire hand and forearm. Note that I am not describing a "wrist" vibrato which rotates the forearm like opening a round door knob.

    It is the third element, the rolling of the entire hand and forearm, which diminishes gradually as you pass through the transition area between neck and thumb positions and your left hand turns to point more towards the bridge.

    Next, the Great Gliss. Reach as high as you can set your hand nicely on the G string. Your index finger will be more bent than your second, and your third finger will be almost straight (if you can still use it up there!!). Yes, the grooves will be very much as Fergus portrays and the index finger should hook slightly over the string for security. Now slowly slide down the string through the transition into neck positions and observe the way shapes change. At any given stopping point (note) you should be able to go comfortably into and out of vibrato.



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