Friday, July 6, 2018

Bro, do you even vibrato?

The ViZOLLin.
Guaranteed not to save lives, ever.
If you are struggling with vibrating notes on your fiddle, have heart - you will get it eventually.  How soon you'll get there is a product of how badly you want it. Here are some tips which I found helpful:
  • There is no one piece of magical advice. Vibrato is an awkward motion of an arm which is already in an awkward position. Since our bodies and brains are all varyingly different, how you achieve that akward vibrating movement is going to be somewhat unique. Get on YouTube and watch as many videos as you can, studying and experimenting with each players' technique.
  • Practice frequently. Every time you practice (which should be multiple times per day), dedicate a significant portion of your practice time to vibrato. Be prepared to sound horrible for a long time.
  • Take frequent breaks. Stop and take a break when you get so frustrated that practice loses its value. There's no benefit to you in continuing to play beyond the point of diminishing returns. Go for a short walk (but not too long) and come back when you can focus again.
  • Practice in the mirror. Mirror practice allows for immediate biofeedback and self-correction from the same perspective that you have been watching others play vibrato.
  • Vibrato excessively. Scales are boring. Pick a song you enjoy and can play reasonably well, and vibrate every note even if it sounds ridiculous. 
  • Vibrato in the car. The 8 o'clock position of your steering wheel mimics the position of your left hand on your violin's fingerboard, but at a slightly less awkward angle for the vibrato motion. What else is there to do on your morning commute? Just make sure there are no other vehicles around you, for safety, and because vibrato on your steering wheel kinda looks like you're jerking off in traffic. 
  • Use a quality shoulder rest.  Additionally, experiment with varying degrees of chin pressure. 
  • Relax. The vibrato motion is a psychomotor skill. You cannot reason or think your way into psychomotor competence. Like so many other muscle memory skills, the only way to train this is through repetition.

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