Should You Use a Narrow or Wide Vibrato on the Violin or Viola?

by | Nov 27, 2013 | Learn Vibrato | 0 comments

Lam asks:

I have seen many soloists like Silvia Marcovici who has a wide vibrato and Hilary Hahn who has a much narrower vibrato. Please make a video on whether to have a wide or narrow vibrato.

Should I have a narrow or a wide vibrato?

The vibrato is one of the things that is unique to each violinist. So, this means it differs per person! It depends on your personal preference, the phrase or section of the piece you are playing, the notes you play, and it differs per time period. So, for example you play a very different vibrato if you play Bach or if you play Mozart!

Because of this there is not really a right or wrong way to play your vibrato. Base your decision on what you find most beautiful or fitting for the piece you are playing.  The vibrato is one of the things that makes each violinist unique, it’s a way to distinguish yourself.


Wide vibrato versus narrow vibrato

Most of the time you will use a narrow vibrato (for example when playing Mozart), when you play long lines and melodies you will probably use a wider vibrato (for example when playing Brahms).

You will notice that on the G- string the wide vibrato sounds more beautiful than the narrow vibrato. On the E-string and the high positions however, a narrow vibrato sounds more beautiful.


Fast and slow and wide and narrow vibrato

Your vibrato can be fast and narrow, fast and wide, slow and narrow and slow and wide. If you want to use these techniques consciously, you will have to practice all the extremes. This way you can create a toolkit you can pick from for every piece.


Vibrato exercises

  1. What I recommend is to first practice on all fingers and all strings to use all four of the extremes in vibrato. You might want to start with the third finger, because most people find this the easiest to vibrate on. Practice all four combinations and then move on to other strings and other positions. It takes quite some time to cover all of it, but it is an amazing exercise to practice the vibrato.
  2. The next step is to practice scales with vibrato. Play long notes with a long bow and use the scale to practice your vibrato and the four combinations.


You practice these extremes, but when you’re playing a piece, you’ll be most likely not playing these extremes. You will color the sound with your own vibrato, but in order to do that you will have to practice and expand your vibrato skill with these four combinations.


Is this video useful to you? Please let me know in the comments!



PS: Do you have questions for me on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below!

Click here to see more video’s I made on vibrato!


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