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Elke Meier
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Vibrato has been and is a real ordeal for me. I would so much love to learn it but have had many setbacks. Several months ago I gave it a new try, this time with arm vibrato (wrist vibrato exercises I did a year and a half ago, but I had to give it up because my joints complained just too much). I am still at a very early stage but I need some help at this pooint. I will embed the video here, but explain my question inside the post.
Elke Meier
19 Responses
Posted: September 25, 2016
Last Comment: October 4, 2016
Replies

Jaime - Orlando , Fl
Posted: October 4, 2016
Wow Elke! Saw your video on the "stabilizer"! What a clever idea! I am already thinking on a spot that I will do it in the house! hehe.... I would really like to try it! You are indeed a great help an very resourceful! Thank you again! :0)

Kevin
Posted: October 4, 2016
Oooo Elke, that's such a clever and clean idea. Inexpensive, flexible, adjustable, replaceable, functional -- you couldn't ask for anything better. And it even doubles as a top view camera holder! I'm impressed! 

Elke Meier
Posted: October 4, 2016
Haha, Kevin, you should see my fancy device for the top view :) :) - I tape the smartphone to my "flexible violin stabilizer", but when I hit the record button I first have to wait for a while until the swinging has stopped. Otherwise you would all be seasick to watch my fingers :)

Janice
Posted: October 4, 2016
Loving the paper exercise!  I'm a serial crooked vibrato offender and was worried about it, but didn't really know how to fix it.  I have now moved on from paper to just feeling the neck whispering past my hand - it has taught me what I'm aiming for.  I need to do a lot of it.  Thank you Beth and Elke!

Kevin
Posted: October 4, 2016
PS. And I admire the excellent camera top view -- how did you do that?

Kevin
Posted: October 4, 2016
You know, Elke, when you talk about how your arm gets tired from holding it up, it makes me think you might try to do some weight lifting exercises to strengthen your shoulder muscles. (The front and side deltoids, in particular.) You don't need much weight for those muscles - a filled soup can would be enough to start with.

For a pattern that has stood me well for decades of my life, start with a weight (maybe even no weight), and see if you can do 10 sets of 10 reps each. I do 10 reps in about 20 seconds, rest for 40 (or whatever is left), and that's one minute. Repeat that cycle for 10 times, and you're done for 2 rest days. 

Do it all over again on day 4, and then rest for 3 days. That will fill the week. 

The idea is to use a weight that is just heavy enough so that you get close to failure on the 10th set (near the 90 - 100 reps). If you don't make it, lighten up. 

If you do that for a while, at least your arm won't be tired from holding it up. The vibrato stuff is another matter... :-)  Best wishes, Kevin 

Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 29, 2016
Another benefit from working with the paper is it amplifies the rhythmic sound of the vibrato motion.

Jaime - Orlando , Fl
Posted: September 28, 2016
This discussion includes members-only video content

Thank you Beth for the exercise video! Certainly challenging !

I tried it with the back of a notepad, the little cardboard at the end was just sturdy enough, cut it and trying it!. Using the D string and trying it with the second, third and fourth finger... like Elke describes, it really takes a lot of energy!

Thanks again Beth and by bringing this thread up, hopefully more people will get to see and try this method of exercising/ reinforcing vibrato!

Best of luck always Elke and thank you for posting this question! I am indeed sure by Christmas you'll be doing beautiful vibrato to your heart's content! :0)

Dianne
Posted: September 28, 2016
That's great, Elke! There was a masterclass which I thought was with Bill Dick, and a student practicing their vibrato, but I couldn't find it. And in the class, he said something like, 'stop now- no  one practices vibrato constantly for that long', or something like that. I never forgot that statement, and not even sure if it was Bill Dick that said it, but I think it was. It has really helped me to do only a couple minutes at a time. Good luck and great news @ the vibrato.

Elke Meier
Posted: September 28, 2016
I think I discovered the culprit for raising the hand instead of moving the arm to trigger the movement :). I had mentioned that my arm tires very easily. I have even gone back to the BonMusica last week because I find supporting the violin a real strain for the left hand and the BonMusica gives more support than other shoulder pads. After watching Beth's answer I went straight for my third finger - and all of a sudden I did not have this up and down movement. Strange! After some minutes of first sliding and then very happily rocking on the third finger - still puzzled about what had happened that it worked - I went to work on the second finger. Still no problem. Then came the first finger, and all of a sudden the first finger had the problem that the third and fourth used to have!

So it was not really the finger that had a problem, the problem appeared after a certain time of practice! I normally start on the first finger, and by the time I got to the third the stamina was used up... I guess the true culprit behind the up and down movement is lack of strength in my arm muscles! When I noticed that I started to pay closer attention to how the arm feels during the exercise. I tend to push myself: "Oh, come on, you can't stop right now, you have hardly started!" But I have noticed that it is exactly when I have to work against this tension and feeling of weakness that the wrong movement starts. So now I stop right away, shake out the arm, do maybe a little bit more. But I don't push myself any more. The discouraging fact is that now I am back at maybe three minutes of practice instead of the 10 I managed to do. Because after about three to five minutes my arm gets very, very tired and the up-down movement starts. The good news is that in those three minutes I can do a "proper" movement even on the fourth finger.

So I have taken two decisions: first to take up the violin during lunch or other office breaks - well, basically whenever I pass by the violin, and just do those 3 minutes on one or maybe two of the fingers. And second, that I will take even smaller steps than what I did so far. I was striving to do the exercise on all the strings, as we are instructed. However, I think I need to get a proper feel for it in a completely tension free position. Turning the arm around as we need to do to even reach the strings is still a challenge for me. It is basically impossible to develop a relaxed movement when at the same time I have to make such an effort to even keep the arm at the angle it needs to be. So for now my goal is to develop strength in the arm for the first and second finger on the A-string, for the third on the A- or the E-string (some days are easier than others), and for the fourth on the E-string. Those are the comfortable positions.

October and November will again have very little room for proper practice, but I guess the three minutes squeezed in here and there I will be able to put in. So I will give myself until Christmas. I guess by then I should at least be able to observe whether my strategy does show some effect and whether it is realistic to expect that one day I might be able to do more than 3min of vibrato...

Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 27, 2016
This discussion includes members-only video content



Jaime - Orlando , Fl
Posted: September 26, 2016
The never ending  quest for you and me both Elke! :0)
I see a stable hand, a stable grip, not tight, great motion of the fingers! I will try Beth trick as well! :0) Keep it up!

Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 26, 2016
Elke, the regularity of your vibrato motion is superb. The only think that concerns me is when you do it  on the 3rd finger. I see the motion change in the shoulder. Instead of opening and closing the arm, you're raising and lowering it. Do you see what I mean. Put a piece of paper between the bas knuckle of the 1st finger and the fingerboard. It shouldn't drop if you're gliding back and forth correctly. It will drop if your hand is lowering. I'd be happy to demonstrate if this trick doesn't work for you.

Maria
Posted: September 25, 2016


Hi, Elke... It looks like you've got it-so time to use the bow and incorporate your ear with this exercise/practice. Emulate the sound of your vibrato from one piece of music while applying all the techniques you have just learned.

So excited for you...

MsPolkadotz
Posted: September 25, 2016
That odd feeling..
Hi Elke,
Really loved seeing your practice video. I too found it easier to vibrate on the 1st and second finger when I first started with it. Oddly enough, my third finger didn't respond well right away despite of what people normally say about the third finger being most limber. And my fourth finger? I didn't care too much because I trusted that the motion will come in swiftly once I got used to vibrating on fingers 1-3.

The change of feeling that you described when applying pitch to the vibrating note is absolutely normal in my opinion. I think that we are internally assessing the pressure applied on the vibrating note as well as the counter pressure of the thumb as we play. Does that make sense? I would love to see your vibrato with some bowing since you mentioned that coordination is not an issue. For practice, I would suggest playing a piece you are comfortable with that has long notes. This is how I first started and found it extremely rewarding to be able to play vibrato within a short piece of music that I loved to play. If you tire quickly from vibrato excercises I am sure you won't even notice how time flies when you apply this to a piece. Really great job, keep at it because as we all know consistency is the key. You've got all the mechanics under your belt so the next obvious step is to practice vibrato On your favourite music . Good luck😊

Rustam Gill
Posted: September 25, 2016
Hi Elke,
I think the main cause of tension is your left thumb placement. It looks to me like you are pressing into the violin with the tip/pad of your thumb as you move your hand. In video 91 on left thumb placement at 3:35 Beth mentions the "push-button" thumb and how it should be avoided at all costs. My own experience concurs with that. She also mentions a bunch of options for your left thumb that you could experiment with. 
Don't get discouraged. You're so close! I'm sure you will figure this last little piece of the puzzle out.
Good luck!



Ying
Posted: September 25, 2016
Hi Elke,
I suspect that you are using your hands and especially your fingers too much in making the movement. You need to entirely relax that first joint and not engage it to help make the movement. It's easier said than done and is especially important with an arm vibrato. Best of luck and don't be discouraged!

Dianne
Posted: September 25, 2016
Hi Elke, I don't do arm vibrato but I did see a video that looks like a good demonstration of it - you might have already seen it. The only thing I see is maybe you are involving the hand instead of having the hand be more passive and have the arm be the only part that makes the movement. It seems that the hand is engaging in a forward motion- and the thumb is trying to help- and the arm should be pulling the finger back. There seems to be more of a forward motion by the hand versus a backward motion by the arm. This is just a guess. I hope some arm vibrato string players can comment on this for you. Thanks for posting.

Elke Meier
Posted: September 25, 2016
I find the arm vibrato movement much more difficult than the wrist vibrato movement. But after several months of sliding, I think I get the sliding movement right. The "motor" seems right :). I don't think I will ever get to the state where I could do an hour of this sliding without tiring (like Beth suggests in one of the videos) but I can do about 10min - which is 5 times as much as I managed in the beginning! But at least it feels relaxed on most fingers. The fourth finger definitely needs more training even in sliding... The sliding I also do with the bow. Keeping a regular left hand movement independent from the bow speed is not really difficult. I did a lot of that already a year and a half ago when I tried to learn wrist vibrato and it seems like my body can remember that.

On fingers 1 and 2 I have started to add pitch - and all of a sudden it feels weird and not right any more. Somehow it seems like the thumb which is relaxed in the sliding all of a sudden "works" - as does the finger that is supposed to vibrate. So before I ingrain something wrongly I decided to post a short practice video. Maybe you can tell me what I am doing wrong here and why all of a sudden what felt good in the sliding does not feel good any more. I don't have a clue.

Here is what is in the video: The first minute shows the sliding on all fingers from the front, plus the same from the thumb side to show how the thumb reacts to the movement. I like the first minute :). From how I understand arm vibrato it looks as it should. Right? The metronome is rather faintly in the background, but that shouldn't be a problem for your analysis.

Then I show the practice where I try to add pitch (also without the bow). There are a few seconds for each finger from above followed by the same finger from the thumb-side. My third finger does not have too much movement. At 2:55 there is a shot of how far I can bend the first knuckle of the third finger. It is not even 90 degrees. Maybe that is why that one is more difficult than 1 and 2? And for #4 I just have no idea how to get from the sliding to the rocking stage...

Tips and corrections are highly appreciated. I have not given up hope that one day I WILL learn vibrato, but it is rather discouraging to still be at the same stage as a year and a half ago - despite diligent practice...