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Hello everyone,

Newbie here with a month of constantly learning under my belt. I'm retired so I can spend hours each day on this other-worldly instrument we all adore so much.

My current problem concerns vibratos. I've watched all the videos about doing them here (and other videos online) and no matter how hard I practice and try, I feel like a man attempting to do pushups and run at the same time. It's not happening!

When I try to perform the technique my bow arm freezes up totally. Like my brain will only perform one thing or the other. To my simple mind they are two distinctly different behaviors and so far couldn't be more in-compatible. The irony is without a violin in my hand I can perform the actions but not with the instrument. Duh?

Is this normal for a beginner to experience or am I destined to move on to bongos? (snicker - never!)

I've really enjoyed this website and all the stuff you guys have posted here. It inspires me to know I too can one day really play this challenging and beautiful music.


20 Responses
Posted: December 3, 2011
Last Comment: December 6, 2011

Anne aMaudPowellFan
Posted: December 6, 2011
... blushing ... Danke, Bob!

Posted: December 5, 2011

Lots of great comments - thanks guys.

Regarding shaking violin during a vibrato jz34. I heard a performer say she got over that by holding the violin against a wall when practicing the vibrato and soon didn't need the wall to hold it still. Just a thought.

Thanks for the two pence of advice Ian. I've enjoyed reading your post and seeing your video here.

Anne, thank you so much for commenting. Ich hatte zwei Jahre Deutsche am college schon vor Jahrzehnten. Sie sind so schön wie ihre violine spielen.

Michael and Jack, your welcomes are much appreciated.

Posted: December 4, 2011
Welcome to Violin Lab Robert.

Anne aMaudPowellFan
Posted: December 4, 2011
Hi Bob, nice to have one more enthusiastic violin lover on board here. Thank you for raising some interesting topics

I am coming late into this thread. So I am just going to comment on Bin Hahn: Courageous playing / acting, good sense of drama in the music. Apropos vibrato: I really like his. Varied but without stress. When I close my eyes, I hear some weakness in his bowing (not enough digging into the strings / dense sound where I would expect it). Sarah Chang is a different story, I believe. The video that Jo has posted does not play here in Germany, due to copyright issues, but I know the other one, when she is 10 years old, and it is totally amazing.

Ian Renshaw
Posted: December 4, 2011
Hello Bob - and welcome to the forum!

Like Jojo, I'm a Brit too - also living near London (a town called 'Dorking' which never fails to amuse Americans!)

I've been following the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music route and have just taken Grade 5 (there are 8 levels) after 2.5 years study of the violin.
And.... here's my vibrato advice for you:

DON'T WORRY! The very first thing to work on is good intonation, and as Jo said, experience of shifting positions. If you try and vibrate before your pitching is secure you'll end up using it to 'disguise' any dodgy notes. The ABRSM exam system only expects to see the beginnings of vibrato at Grade 5 so accept that it's something that comes in time. That said - I was trying vibrato from day one! It's 'the violin sound' isn't it? Without it the violin might as well be a recorder.

Anyway - that's my two-penny's worth. Good luck and enjoy the exciting journey that is learning the violin. The videos on here are excellent and will guide you along the way.


Posted: December 4, 2011
Welcome Robert!  You've found a fine group to learn with here at Violin Lab.  Beth's videos and those she posts by her colleagues are a wonderful font of information and it's so helpful to have a forum of fellow learners in which to share experiences, questions, and maybe even answers.  Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to your vibrato question other than to agree with your analysis completely.  I've been playing for about a year or so, and any attempts I have made have been met with a locked wrist or a vibrating violin - which I don't think counts for vibrato ;-)  Be patient!  I'm sure it will come when it's time.

Posted: December 4, 2011
Thank you Linda; love your chicken avatar.
I've seen enough of Hahn's videos to realize his flame burns very bright, and I think if you can play like that you can dress to entertain anyway you want to. Now that I've discovered Sarah Chang I can see she performed that piece much better than Hahn did. I can tell when a pro is truly in the musical zone for peak performance or not. They're flawless and it appears they're making no real effort to accomplish it with spiritual skill.

I'm convinced Beth never leaves the zone!

Posted: December 3, 2011
OOPS! I missed one.

Thanks Tricia for the warm welcome and encouragement.


Posted: December 3, 2011
I live near Dallas, and I LOVE LONDON!

I'd live in England if I didn't need our veteran's health care system in the USA. I've been to your amazing city twice; once on a Harry Potter Fan Tour seeing London, Oxford, New Castle, Edinburgh, and other cities I can't remember but they filmed the movies there. I even rode the real Hogwarts Express train in the Scottish Highlands the last time they were able to use it. The poor thing falling apart and they wouldn't let run again but for filming.

Everyone I met in the UK was so welcoming and kind to me. I could do without your VAT however.

Sarah has such talent words fail me trying to describe what her playing does to me and you can see that she is truly having fun "in the zone" as she plays.

Jojo, I bet you'll be playing Carmen sooner than you think. I've stepped away from the Suzuki Method to do my own thing for a bit but I realize I probably need to follow it too, so I learn the progression of techniques I need to learn. I can't imagine learning double stop playing by learning a song with it - for example, and the sight reading practice can only help me too.

I hope we can chat some in this forum on non-violin stuff sometimes. Did you see Billy Elliott? I saw the London cast in New York when they were there, and again this year with a different cast in Dallas (front row center behind the conductor/pianist).

You Brits kick our rear ends in story telling, and the Arts, hands down.
You are really amazingly talented people.

Posted: December 3, 2011
yes, she's a lovely young woman, great personality, I have met her in real life too. I am really fond of her.

Going to see her again in February here in London where I live.

She says she never misses a day's practice in her busy life where she has a concert almost every other day and she catches a flight every few days around the world (wow!), she's 'funny', you can actually follow her on 'twitter' where she's constantly messaging what she's up to, she's like a little kid hehehehe

Posted: December 3, 2011
Wow! She's fantastic - easy on the eyes too :-)
(old men can dream still)

Posted: December 3, 2011
by the way: I WILL learn to play this piece soon in the near future (soon is in the next 8 years or 10 max :), I am 42 years old right now :))

Posted: December 3, 2011
This discussion includes members-only video content

thanks Bob, I LOVE Hahn Bin, I am a big fan of him, he has studied under master Itzhak Perlman and Itzhak is very proud of him :)

but my favourite Carmen is by Sarah Chang who has played it since she was 10 years old and here it is :)

ps if you do a search for 'sarah chang, carmen' you will find the video of her playing age 10 which is different but still fantastic!

Posted: December 3, 2011
This discussion includes members-only video content

No problem, you just need a new hairdo, a mask, and you're there!

Posted: December 3, 2011
jojo I totally agree with you, and I think the simplest songs can be the most challenging. I have this vision of learning say "Ave Maria" on the violin. Then it will take the remainder of my life to play it "right".

Posted: December 3, 2011
ps: just to add, you are a beginner for quite a long time on the violin HAHAHAHAHA ;)

so whilst vibrato may be taught to some beginners, it is not 'really' a BEGINNER BEGINNER thing, but more of a 'beginner to intermediate' skill so later stages of beginner perhaps ;)

and we all learn at a different 'pace' so one can be a beginner for one year another one can be a beginner for 5 years....

I think I am just in between the intermediate to advanced stages but I would not 'yet' call myself advanced to be honest, and what is 'beginner' what is 'intermediate' what is 'advanced'?

different examining bodies/regulating bodies and different teachers or lay people or professionals will give you different answers.

To me, I am just starting to learn the 'simpler' (if there is a simple) Bach solo sonatas, so that is why I am considering myself in between the intermediate and advanced.

When I can play them all (or most of them) 'comfortably' I will call myself 'advanced'

One day when I can play the Carmen Fantasy I will say I am at 'professional level'


Posted: December 3, 2011
I see Bob :)

well, generally speaking a 'good' time to start is probably once you start 'shifting' around the fingerboard which by the way you should only do when your intonation is 'very good' in first position and you have 'good' technique down there.

But I have to say I have been learning for nearly 5 years having weekly 'private' lessons with classical trained teachers and have brought me up very strict (well, the first teacher did not, but the teacher I have now yes he is very strict).

But most private teachers would do similar things I have to say..

vibrato on the guitar is different, and intonation you don't have to worry AT ALL on guitar as you know as the frets do it all for you.

I see you have a 'guide' on your fingerboard, but even that will not magically 'fix' your intonation as it does not have 'frets' which stop your string on each side of your finger :)

you can still be flat or sharp even with the guide you have on at the moment, hehehehe the violin is not very 'forgiving' but that's probably why we love it so much :) <3

Posted: December 3, 2011
Hey jojo,

Thank you for your response. The time I'm working at it has made a difference and I have an excellent "cheat sheet" on the neck.

I also had prior experience with a guitar so this is just another string instrument with less strings, and once I got the hang of half and whole steps for my fingers the rest came naturally - in first position anyway.

I didn't know vibrato was such an advanced technique since Beth teaches it in a beginner's course and all her music examples she liberally performs them. So I'm like "monkey see - monkey needs to do it too" kind of guy!

And to memory I'm having a better time learning the violin then I had with the guitar ages ago - I'm applying more time and effort into it - I'm being careful not to over do it too, but I love the challenge of so many wonderful songs I want to play someday.

I might practice 15-30 minutes, take a break, and come back to it over and over all day long so it doesn't get boring, etc.

I'll try that vitamin bottle technique you mentioned. I'm relieved to know I wasn't suppose to vibrato right out of the box. Whew!


Posted: December 3, 2011

Hi Bob! Welcome to VL Community.

I'm also learning vibrato and you have experienced exactly what I have in the past, only that you describe it in a nice agreeable way. Please don't move to bongos and keep trying. For sure, it will get better.


Posted: December 3, 2011

honestly....if you have been learning ONLY a month: slow down...take it easy LOL ;)

to be honest I don't think you should be attempting vibrato yet (imho), you are trying to run before you can walk kind of thing...

maybe if you are so eager you can do some 'muscle preparatory exercises' but AWAY from the violin, don't know if Beth shows these on her videos, like the one where you hold a vitamin bottle or a bottle of 'tic tac' sweets in your left hand then hold your arm up in 'violin playing position' with hand in violin playing position and shake it to hear the vitamins/sweets rattle inside. Shake from the wrist only and imagine your hand is following the violin neck....if you get what I mean....

just 5 minutes of that a day will do wonders for developing the right muscles over time, but you have to do it every day for months ;) 

in the meantime spend your time on the violin developing that left hand shape, muscle memory, intonation, good bow technique etc, you don't 'need' the vibrato 'yet'.

that's my 5 cent anyway

ps  WELCOME :)