Do You Control Your Vibrato Or Does IT Control You?

Why has a post on this subject achieved as many as 18.5k views.

Well I have felt the need to re-visit the video again, I did ask the members of the group, but didn’t get a very concise answer. Thanks to  you all for the answers I did receive.

After watching the video a few more times – with a bag of popcorn? …of course!

I realised I had used around seven different styles of vibrato on the example I played.

How did the video get made and why?

Good question.

A new student asked me for lessons as she had started to play with different bands. One of the issues she was experiencing was that she couldn’t get her timbre (the overall pulse with the band) to sit with the rest of the section. After watching a short video clip I deduced that the (vibrato) was more tremor based. Possibly learned from another player from a young age … and had never never developed a vibrato from scratch.

The constant tremor had a constant pulse and was on all the time … no light and shade. Even in sectional playing there are times when you play a phrase in unison, then for example at the end of that phrase it breaks into a soli harmony motive,  you have to be ready to anticipate that going from no vibrato to a vibrato that matches the genre of the music.

The ideal scenario is when performing. Even the piece I listened to didn’t have a tremor/vibrato I could still hear a shadow of it.

You see my thinking is the first vibrato was probably from the singing voice.  The voice needs to be able to emulate different vocal inflections and  accommodate a myriad of styles. Classical opera, Pop and Jazz songs  all need a different treatment.

Without going too deeply in to all the individual treatments each genre requires basically the voice needs to be able to reflect all mannerisms and levels of dynamics.

Just like a brass instrument which is your voice.

Ok so what to do

My further thinking is this …

Imagine an arrow ….. at the end there is flight of feathers this keeps the arrow flying straight and true.

If you can imagine an arrow with more flights attached to the arrow …well it wouldn’t fly as straight as it would be over loaded and it wouldn’t be streamlined.

Ok this is what I have in mind when I am playing a piece with vibrato.

My preparation-

I imagine a Tibetan bowl, so when you gently ping the bowl the vibration will reverberate, the difference in size of the tibetan bowls will dictate the speed of vibrations.

As I demonstrate in the video a slower vibrato needs a lot more control. You also have to bear in mind the applied vibrato is making your notes ….flat and sharp.

Time needs to be invested in the production of your vibrato … it becomes you personal signature.

Listen to Bunny Berigan, Tommy Dorsey to know what I mean by having an instantly recognised style.

OK the Technique

These observations are mine if they resonate with you …great.

Practice your tune with no vibrato then add vibrato at different speeds

Start the notes with absolutely no hint of vibrato or else you will spoil the magic effect and will have given away your intention and ultimately the illusion of the magic you are about  to perform. Keep the audience guessing…. ie his he going to put vib on? … on no …. Oh yes he is   …. Oh no he isn’t!

Start to develop a tight rope mindset… so play a note say for 4 slow beats ensuring that you don’t drop off or wobble …think tight safety net… don’t fall off! Keep the note steady and even…. No bumps or jerks will keep your air smooth. To increase the success of this action practise inflating a balloon very steadily. Then play again the 4 slow beat note on your instrument.

You see how already that short balloon exercise has improved the eveness of your tone production.

If you find holdind the note for a slow 4 ….start with 2 beats, and build up to 4 beats.

As you become more used to this method build it up to 8 beats, but only when the 4 beats have real stability .

Now you have removed all minor inflections …. Its now time to start building your vibrato tool box.

 I encourage my students to play hymns and popular tunes, I also recommend you start to play without the music.


Because this helps you connect with the instrument so you become one … never worry about wrong notes, at this point you will probably discover you know your instrument better than you thought you did.

When to add the vibrato?

There is no answer to this as it largely depends on the piece you are playing. To give you the most tools to embroider your melodies. Listen to various vocalists singing your melody you want to work on. Many players want to rush this, don’t be in such a rush to add the vibrato. Treat the vibrato as warming the note.

I will do another piece and video to show how to construct various vibratos. It’s just not a question of just shaking your instrument or wobbling your lips, it’s more of a nurturing process.

Crazy I know …I hope this piece has gone some way to help you get the picture?

Have fun developing your signature style …. I know I did.

Do you control your vibrato or does it control you? YouTube Please leave a like and a subscribe, ring the bell too if you have found this useful.

Lots more help and detailed videos The Forensic Examination of the Embouchure over on my Patreon.

Check out and grab my Free 7 Golden Rules for better brass playing

Start Typing
Privacy Preferences

When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in the form of cookies. Here you can change your Privacy preferences. It is worth noting that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we are able to offer.

Our website uses cookies, mainly from 3rd party services. Define your Privacy Preferences and/or agree to our use of cookies.
× How can I help you?