, Vibrato unit
, Finger vibrato
, Tremolo arm
, Talk:Vibrato unit
, Talk:Finger vibrato
is a very common and well known music
al effect where the pitch
of a note or sound is quickly and repeatedly raised and lowered over a small distance for the duration of that note or sound. Vibrato is naturally present in the human voice
, and is used to add expression and vocal-like qualities to instrumental notes. It is used extensively in nearly all styles of music.
The human voice has a natural vibrato. This vibrato is often absent in untrained singers—appearing only during training—but it is natural in the sense that it emerges without being explicitly taught and is not caused by deliberate variation of pitch, and also in the sense that singing without the natural vibrato is relatively tiring to the voice (causing hoarseness). A trained vocalist may deliberately alter or suppress the natural vibrato for artistic reasons.
The extent of the variation in pitch in instrumental vibrato is decided by the performer, but does not usually exceed a semitone
either way from the note itself. Many string players vary the pitch from below, only up to the nominal note and not above it. The effect is intended to add warmth to a note, and in the case of bowed strings
, adds a shimmer to the sound, as the sound pattern emitted by a well-made instrument virtually "points" in different directions with slight variations in pitch. This effect interacts with the room acoustics to add interest to the sound, in much the same way as an acoustic guitarist may swing the box around on a final sustain, or the rotating baffle of a Leslie speaker
will spin the sound around the room.
Not all instruments can produce vibrato, as some have fixed pitches which can not be varied by sufficiently small degrees. Most percussion instruments are examples of this, such as the piano
. Some types of organ
produce the effect by altering the pressure of the air passing through the pipes, or by various mechanical devices (see the Hammond
or Wurlitzer Organ
s for example).
The method of producing vibrato on other instruments varies. On string instrument
s, for example, the finger used to stop the string can be wobbled on the fingerboard, or actually moved up and down the string for a wider vibrato. On flute
s, as in singing, vibrato is created by air passing through an open throat; moving of the jaw is popular for saxophone vibrato. The mouth can also be used, in addition to being used for clarinet, although clarinet vibrato is not usually used. Brass instrument
players produce a vibrato by varying the pressure of the mouthpiece against the lip, by gently shaking the horn. Alternatively, the embouchure can be rapidly altered, essentially repeatedly "bending" the note.
Vibrato in woodwind instruments can be achieved in several ways: by modulating the air flow through the instrument using the diaphragm, and by rapid variations in embouchure. The clarinetist Reginald Kell
is said to have been one of the first orchestral clarinetists to adopt vibrato in orchestral playing.
Some instruments can only be played with constant, mechanical vibrato (or none at all), notably the vibraphone
and the Leslie speaker
used by many electric organists. Vibrato on the theremin
, which is a continuously variable-pitch instrument with no "stops", can range from delicate to extravagant, and often serves to mask the small pitch adjustments that instrument requires.
In pop music
the effect is sometimes heard on the guitar
and some, but not all, singers use it (in some pop ballads, the vibrato can be so wide as to be a pronounced wobble). The use of vibrato in some folk music
s is rare, or at least less pronounced than in other forms of music, although in Eastern European gypsy music, for example, it can be very wide.
Wide vibrato (as wide as a whole-tone) is commonly used among electric guitar
players and adds a vocal-like expressiveness to the sound. Although difficult to master, a well-played guitar vibrato can essentially make the instrument really 'sing'.
Confusingly, vibrato is sometimes referred to as tremolo
, notably in the context of a tremolo arm
of an electric guitar
, which produces variations of pitch
although true tremolo is a periodic fluctuation in the amplitude
(rather than the frequency
) of a sound. Conversely, the so-called vibrato unit
built in to many guitar amplifier
s produces what is known as tremolo
in all other contexts. See vibrato unit
for a detailed discussion of this terminology reversal.
players through the 20th century
and up to the present day have used vibrato more or less continuously. From around the 1950s
, however, some players in more avant garde styles, many following the example of Miles Davis
, began to use it more selectively, playing without vibrato as a rule. Davis, however, frequently used a mute
, which also alters the tone of the instrument.
Vibrato is sometimes thought of as an effect added onto the note itself, but in some cases it is so fully a part of the style of the music that it can be very difficult for some performers to play without it. The jazz tenor sax
player Coleman Hawkins
found he had this difficulty when requested to play a passage both with and without vibrato by the producer of a children's jazz album to demonstrate the difference between the two. Despite his otherwise exemplary technique, he was unable to play without vibrato. A symphony saxophonist was brought in to play the part.
Many classical musicians, especially singers and string
players have a similar problem. The violinist and teacher Leopold Auer
, writing in his book Violin Playing as I Teach It
(1920), advised violinists to practice playing completely without vibrato, and to stop playing for a few minutes as soon as they noticed themselves playing with vibrato in order for them to gain complete control over their technique.
Vibrato in classical music
The use of vibrato in classical music is a matter of some contention. For much of the 20th century
it was used almost continuously in the performance of pieces from all eras from the baroque
onwards, especially by singers and string players. This began to change somewhat towards the end of the century, with the rise of historically accurate ("period") performances, and as one travels further back in music history, the use of vibrato appears to become increasingly rarer.
Vocal music of the renaissance
is almost never sung with vibrato as a rule, and it seems unlikely it ever was. There are only a few texts from the period on vocal production, but they all condemn the use of vibrato.Leopold Mozart
's Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule
(1756) provides an indication of the state of vibrato in string playing at the end of the baroque period. In it, he concedes that "Performers there are who tremble consistently on each note as if they had the palsy", but condemns the practice, suggesting instead that vibrato should be used only on sustained notes and at the ends of phrases.
In wind playing too, it seems that vibrato in music up to the 19th century was seen as an ornament
to be used selectively. Martin Agricola
writing in his Musica instrumentalis deudch
(1529) writes of vibrato in this way. Occasionally, composers up to the baroque period indicated vibrato with a wavy line in the sheet music
, which strongly suggests it was not desired for the rest of the piece.
It was towards the end of the 19th century
that vibrato in classical music began to be used more or less continuously throughout a performance. This increase in the popularity of vibrato was helped by changes in the design of string instruments, specifically the invention of the chin rest on the violin
, and of the endpin on the cello
. These inventions made wider and more sustained vibrato possible.
Music by late Romantic
composers such as Richard Wagner
and Johannes Brahms
is now played with a fairly continuous vibrato. However, some musicians specialising in historically informed performances such as the conductor Roger Norrington
argue that it is unlikely that Brahms, Wagner, and their contemporaries, would have expected it to be played in this way. This is a somewhat controversial view, although Arnold Schoenberg
, a considerably later composer, seems to have disliked vibrato as well, likening it to the bleating of a goat.
The growth of vibrato in 20th century orchestra
l playing has been traced by Norrington by studying early recordings. He claims that vibrato in the earliest recordings is used only selectively, as an expressive device; the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
were not recorded using vibrato comparable to modern vibrato until 1935, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
not until 1940. French orchestras seem to have played with continuous vibrato somewhat earlier, from the 1920s
It should be stressed in this connection that the sonic limitations of older recordings, particularly with respect to overtones and high frequency information, make an uncontroversial assesment of earlier playing techniques very difficult. In addition, a distinction needs to be made between the kind of vibrato used by a solo player, and the sectional vibrato of an entire string ensemble, which can't be heard as a uniform quantity as such. Rather, it manifests itself in terms of the the warmth and amplitude of the sound produced, as opposed to a perceptible wavering of pitch. The fact that as early as the 1880s composers such as Richard Strauss (in his tone poems "Don Juan" and "Death and Transfiguration") as well as Camille Saint-Saens (Symphony No. 3 "Organ") asked string players to perform certain passages "without expression" or "without nuance" strongly suggests the general use of vibrato within the orchestra as a matter of course.
Despite this, the use of indiscriminate vibrato in late Romantic music goes largely uncontested (although performances of Beethoven
with limited vibrato are now not uncommon). Many people take the view that even though it may not be what the composer envisioned, vibrato adds an emotional depth which improves the sound of the music. Others feel that the leaner sound of vibratoless playing is preferable.
In 20th century classical music
, written at a time when the use of vibrato was widespread, there is sometimes a specific instruction not
to use it (in some of the string quartet
s of Béla Bartók
for example). Furthermore, some modern classical composers, especially minimalist
composers, are against the use of vibrato at all times. In the 21st century
some orchestras are now playing with noticeably less vibrato.
Pop/rock artistsYngwie Malmsteen
, Marty Friedman
and several other virtuoso guitar players heavily utilize vibrato. AC/DC
guitar player Angus Young
is known for his trademark vibrato.
* Finger vibrato
* Vibrato unit
* http://www.vibroworld.com/magnatone/vibrato.html Vibrato or tremolo?
technical treatment, but accessible to laypersons
* http://www.standingstones.com/vibrtopg.html The Vibrato Page
- collection of opinions and quotes against vibrato
* http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,904398,00.html Roger Norrington writing on vibratoCategory:SoundCategory:Musical performance techniquesda:Vibratode:Vibratoes:Vibratofr:Vibratohe:ויברטוit:Vibratohu:Vibratonl:Vibratoja:ビブラートno:Vibratopl:Vibratopt:Vibratosv:Vibratozh:顫音 (樂器技巧)