5 Tips on How To Do Vibrato with Your Pinky on the Violin or Viola
“I can use my pinky pretty confidently, but I have to avoid it on longer notes. Sometimes I have trouble getting a pretty vibrato sound with my fourth finger. It’s odd, because sometimes I get a good vibrato, but sometimes it sounds dead. Could you give any tips on how to work on this? Vibrato seems so much more difficult with the pinky, because there’s not much finger to use to begin with.”
Lots of violinist and violists manage to make a vibrato or even a good vibrato with their fourth finger (left pinky), but it will always sound better when they do vibrato with (for example) their third finger.
You might make the choice to play long notes with a nice vibrato with the third finger in a higher position instead of the fourth finger. This is very normall. I see violin and viola players do this all the time: when I look at soloists playing pieces and when I look at fingerings in pieces.
It’s ok to use your third finger instead of your fourth finger to make a better vibrato, but don’t always avoid your fourth finger. It’s possible to make a beautiful vibrato, also with your fourth finger.
What players experience as difficult in pinky vibrato, is the lack of freedom of movement.
Here are some tips to increase the freedom of movement and to improve your pinky vibrato:
1) When your pinky is straight, it’s very hard to make a good vibrato. You hardly have the freedom to make a vibrato movement. To solve this pivot your lower arm a little more, so your knuckles are almost aligned with the strings. This brings your pinky closer to the string. In this way it’s possible to make a round pinky. Vibrato will be easier when your pinky is not stretched. What also helps your pinky is to have the neck of your violin or viola a little more in your hand.
2) Lift your other fingers: your first and second finger, maybe even your third finger. This gives your hand the freedom to move around your pinky making the vibrato movement.
3) Bernard writes that sometimes the pinky vibrato works out and sometimes not. This can differ when you have to play a low, normal, high or stretched fourth finger. Try to identify for yourself when you can do vibrato and when not. The rounder you can place your pinky, the easier the vibrato gets. Try to have a flexible and round pinky in all positions.
4) Practice vibrato with the violin or viola on your lap. The position of your lower arm and hand will be more natural. You can do vibrato easier and enhance your vibrato skills when practicing in this way.
5) Change between arm, wrist and finger vibrato to find out which one or which combination works best for your pinky vibrato.
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Good luck implementing these tips. Please let me know in the comments below what your experiences and results are so far.
PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!