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Topic: The nature of String Vibrato

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  1. #1

    The nature of String Vibrato

    Working with an excellent Violinist tonight, we were talking about Vibrato. As it speeds up it gets NARROWER simply because of the physics.

    Something to keep in mind when playing Samples.

    jmp

  2. #2

    Re: The nature of String Vibrato

    Yes.

    And btw most people think that vibrato would be a sinus frequency sweep around the actual tone. These are 3 assumptions of which are 2.5 not really true.


    Hannes
    All your strings belong to me!
    www.strings-on-demand.com

  3. #3

    Re: The nature of String Vibrato

    I believe that some while ago it was more or less agreed that the ideal rate for vibrato is 7 Hz. Perhaps this applies only in the treble range, e.g. violin or soprano voice. Possibly slower for lower sounds?

    What do people think?

  4. #4

    Re: The nature of String Vibrato

    I believe what John is saying is that the most natural-sounding rate is actually dependent on the depth. This makes sense from the point of view of physics, if you look at natural oscillators. It would be much like a pendulum whose frequency of swing depends only on the length of the string. The further the wrist of the left hand shifts in each direction, the longer it should take to do a full cycle.

    With this in mind, it would make sense to vary the vibrato speed settings inversely proportional to the vibrato depth setting. Less=faster; more=slower. I think I'll try this and see how my ear takes it.
    - Jamie Kowalski

    All Hands Music - Kowalski on the web
    The Ear Is Always Correct - Writings on composition

  5. #5

    Re: The nature of String Vibrato

    Quote Originally Posted by Poolman
    I believe that some while ago it was more or less agreed that the ideal rate for vibrato is 7 Hz. Perhaps this applies only in the treble range, e.g. violin or soprano voice. Possibly slower for lower sounds?
    I'm guessing it has more to do with the actual vibrating portion of a string.

    Think of it this way: As you move from the nut to the bridge on a violin, the notes of the scale get closer and closer together. This means that the size of the finger movement required to produce a vibrato gets smaller as it moves towards the bridge. Smaller movements mean faster movements.

    But this would be amplified greatly when looking at a contrabass. The vibrating portion of the string is typically very long indeed. In order to have enough movement to hear a distinct vibrato, the left hand much have much more variance, meaning that the vibrato must be slower due to the limitations of the human hand. I'm sure one could push it, but tendonitis is already prevalent among bassists.
    - Jamie Kowalski

    All Hands Music - Kowalski on the web
    The Ear Is Always Correct - Writings on composition

  6. #6

    Re: The nature of String Vibrato

    In my opinion, vibrato should NOT "surround" the actual tone. The actual tone is the base, and vibrato is essentially a quick trill slightly SHARPENING the note and returning to the actual pitch. Vibrato should never cross below the actual pitch. Is that one of your 2.5, Hannes?

    Some people overdo this, and I've heard a lot of singers sound a bit sharp as a result of too much vibrato. But that's much, much better than sounding flat.

    Timingwise, I prefer vibrato that starts slow (or nonexistant), and gradually speeds up over the length of the note.

    chris.

  7. #7
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    Re: The nature of String Vibrato

    Quote Originally Posted by CallMeZoot
    In my opinion, vibrato should NOT "surround" the actual tone. The actual tone is the base, and vibrato is essentially a quick trill slightly SHARPENING the note and returning to the actual pitch. Vibrato should never cross below the actual pitch. Is that one of your 2.5, Hannes?
    While true that the actual tone is the base, I was taught that vibrato goes down (flatted) from the base note. This means flexing the hand back to create the vibrato which always seemed to me less natural than the other direction. An excercise that the teacher had us do it lay our hand on a table and tap it with a finger causing us to raise and return our had to the neutral position. The goal is to be able to do it quickly and more importantly evenly. (try it. remember it is the left hand ;-)

    Russ

  8. #8

    Re: The nature of String Vibrato

    Quote Originally Posted by CallMeZoot
    In my opinion, vibrato should NOT "surround" the actual tone. The actual tone is the base, and vibrato is essentially a quick trill slightly SHARPENING the note and returning to the actual pitch. Vibrato should never cross below the actual pitch. Is that one of your 2.5, Hannes?
    OK, this is for string instruments only:

    The primary meaning of the vibrato is not to change the pitch of the tone but to change the color of the sound in the lower half of the vibrato wave. This adds a nearly 3-dimensional space to a note that would be one-dimensional whithout it ... if it is allowed to speak in pictures.

    What happens is this: We hit a tone right on the correct pitch (the "correct" depends on many parameters and the situation but we have to start anywhere). At this frequency the stringed instrument will have certain resonances coming from the wooden body and the other strings. These overtones will make the tone bright.

    Now we lower the pitch by rolling the finger back on the fingering board. The string instrument will go away from it's ideal resonance and have a softer tone with less overtones. It helps also that the finger rolls back and the contact zone with the string becomes somewhat softer.

    A vibrato is most effective if it is just big enough to allow the instrument the tone change - not more. But a vibrato that does not change the tone is ineffective. Then as the finger is rolled up again to the original pitch the overtones will come back more and more. This change in tone is what makes the vibrato beautiful and magical ... on string instruments. Woodwinds like the oboe have more a volume vibrato, singers are mixed.

    1. If the tone would oscillate equally up and down around the core frequency we would recept the tone as too high. So basically we are playing the exact pitch, then go a little lower and back again.

    2. The approach back to the original pitch is what makes the magic since here the overtones come back. So a good vibrato will be no sinus sweep but more a delicate mixture between a sine and a saw wave.

    3. The speed depends on the musical context and can be as low as 1 Hz. Why not?

    I am in a hurry but maybe will post a short take of it tomorrow.


    Hannes
    All your strings belong to me!
    www.strings-on-demand.com

  9. #9
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    Re: The nature of String Vibrato

    Skysaw is absolutely correct IMHO.

    I do think that a string player may vary the vibrato slightly based on the passage and the desired effect. I suspect, though haven't thougth about it in detail at this point, that a player may subconsciously strive for a general consistency and adjust the rotation of the left hand in any given position accordingly.

    Jim

  10. #10

    Re: The nature of String Vibrato

    I have some extreme examples I'll post (that's how I roll!)

    http://homepage.mac.com/johnflem/Work/

    The bulk of my work is writing for strings on dense and often noisy Rock records so keep that in mind.
    And of course, there are as many vibrato techniques as there are players...but my regular players all have this same basic approach.

    On "LuckiestFl1" it is apparent in the Celli (one of which is a Gofriller btw...)
    On "VibratoSamples" everyone is using exaggerated Vibrato which I often ask for. You can clearly hear how they narrow the width as they speed up.

    P.S.
    The crazy Soprano on "Dorado" is my wife.

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