Since most people say that music can calm you down, why not consider learning the violin or fiddle?

The famous vibrato technique can work wonders for relaxing. As used in plenty of different musical styles, it allows to add nuance to some of the most beautiful notes in a song.

Do you know what vibrato really is and how you can do it on a violin?

As a bit of finger acrobatics, learning music theory can seem simple when compared to this technique. However, once you’ve attended a music school and learnt the technique, you can add it when you improvise or play certain pieces.

Depending on whether you're playing the violin, piano, guitar, or singing, vibrato can be a number of different things. In fact, even the flute, recorder, saxophone, and cello can do something they call vibrato!

Whether you’re studying on an acoustic or electric violin, you can master the vibrato technique.

In this article we’ll have a look at the different types of violin vibrato and how to use them.

So What Is Vibrato?

Since most established violinists use vibrato, it’s a technique that you’ll have to learn when you play the instrument. However, this technique shouldn't be used by a beginner. When you first learn to play the violin, your violin teacher probably won't even mention vibrato. After all, you have to learn how to hold the violin bow and get familiar with the fingerboard first.

Whether on an acoustic violin or electric violin, vibrato allows you to add nuance and depth when you're playing violin.

But what is vibrato?

Which styles of music use vibrato for the violin?
Even Eddie South, the great jazz violinist, used the vibrato technique. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a quick definition from Wikipedia:

Vibrato (Italian, from past participle of "vibrare", to vibrate) is a musical effect consisting of a regular, pulsating change of pitch. It is used to add expression to vocal and instrumental music.

We often talk about vibrato when singing. This is when singers modulate the frequency of the note they’re performing. It’s a repeating variation of the note being played.

Violinists can also do this. It’s done by moving the fingers on your left hand (if you’re right-handed) while they’re pressing the strings down onto the neck of the violin. Shaking the left hand allows the violinists to quickly change the length of the string allowed to vibrate and subsequently change the note being produced. Of course, this doesn't mean you can forget about your right hand and the bow!

You need to know when it’s the right time to use it. If you want to know when vibrato should be used, the best person to ask if your private tutor. Your ear can also help you out.

Vibrato is a technique that can give a violin a very pleasing quality. This is why a violin can often be used in music therapy. In fact, it’s often used in hospitals to relax patients undergoing chemotherapy. If you want to learn how to play the violin on your own, you’re going to need to be motivated.

Discover the best violin lessons for beginners here.

What Are the Different Types of Violin Vibrato?

While vibrato can improve the sound of a song, which type should you use?

Whether you’re playing jazz or classical violin music, the type of vibrato you use can change.

So what are the differences between them?

It’s important to know that it depends on how far above and below the required note you go. In fact, your ear will always consider the highest pitch as the note you’re trying to play. To make sure that you’re playing in key, you should keep this in mind.

This means you should have a grounding in music theory and be familiar with concepts such as:

  • Rhythm
  • Frequency
  • Reading note value
  • Reading sheet music
  • Key
  • Tempo
  • Harmony
  • Musical scales
  • Note duration

The speed and time of the vibrato depends on the effect that you’re trying to convey. This means that vibrato will generally vary according to the style of music you’re playing.

You can use vibrato with a huge number of different styles:

  • Jazz
  • Gypsy jazz
  • Celtic music
  • Classical music
  • Blues
  • World music
  • Contemporary music
  • Folk music
  • Etc.

Jazz vibrato won’t be the same as classical vibrato or blues vibrato. Vibrato serves to accentuate certain notes and how they feel.

Vibrato is generally understood as the vibrato used in classical music. This vibrato is rather fast and short but can deviate from this style. If you're wanting to play as part of an orchestra, quartet, or just become a professional solo performer, you'll need to learn violin vibrato.

Don’t forget that many instruments have their own version of vibrato, too! Listen to different songs and keep an ear out for the different types of vibrato being used.

Can you learn how to perform violin vibrato online?

Do you need to learn music theory in order to use this technique?

When Should You Start Learning Violin Vibrato?

Would you like to start learning to play the violin or how to use vibrato?

When should a violinist learn to use vibrato?
Vibrato is not a technique that beginners should even consider using. (Source: Sarab123)

You should know that there’s a stage when beginners should avoid learning vibrato.


Novice violinists run the risk of incorrectly doing vibrato and playing out of key. They also tend to overuse the technique once they think they’ve understood it.

Bad habits, once formed, can be very difficult to correct. Especially if you’re teaching yourself.

Generally speaking, violinists wait between two and three years before moving on to learning how to perform vibrato.

This gives you enough time to work on getting your hands, wrists, and fingers used to manipulating the violin.

Your brain also needs time to assimilate the other notions related to violin playing. Once you’re familiar with these, you can concentrate solely on learning vibrato.

Even if you’re progressing quickly in your violin lessons near me, you should master positioning your hands on the neck long before taking on learning vibrato. Once your hands automatically go where they’re needed, you’re ready to start learning vibrato.

Make sure you’re patient. This will help you avoid making mistakes. You can still learn how to do vibrato online.

How to Learn Violin Vibrato

Are you ready to learn vibrato?

How do you do it?

This technique can require a huge amount of work to perfect. Don’t give up after the first or second try. Only after ten or twenty attempts will you start getting it. Once you start succeeding, you’ll forget all those failed attempts.

So where should you start?

Which are the best warm-up techniques for violin players?
You should always warm up before you consider picking up your violin. (Source: Bairyna)

Warming up your wrists is important. You’ll also need to warm up your forearms and your fingers.

Your fingertips will press the violin strings onto the neck, after all. This is how you make a given note. However, when doing vibrato, the finger needs to pivot. Then the forearm's going to do a lot of work towards the back-and-forth motion that gives you the sound.

Once you’ve got this, you’ll be able to control the speed and depth of your vibrato. You’ll need to make sure that your violin is being held correctly  between your chin and shoulder and that your arm is doing its job. Bit by bit, you’ll get your fingers pivoting. Of course, don’t drop your violin!

When you do this, your arms won’t really be holding the musical instrument and you run the risk of dropping it. This is why you need to practise. Once you’ve got it, you can work on improving the sound of your vibrato. Of course, don’t get carried away and start throwing in vibrato wherever you can.

It’s important to know where and when to use vibrato since overuse will diminish the powerful effect it can have. There are many pieces that never use it at all. You need to use it responsibly.

Firstly, you need to master a song and play it without any vibrato. Once you’ve mastered the song, you’ll know the best moments to use it. Your inner artist will tell you when the moment’s right.

Learning Violin Vibrato: The Keys to Success

Once somebody’s explained vibrato, it can sound really easy to do. However, you need to practise a lot before you’ll get it right.

You’ll need to do a lot of exercises just to get this seemingly small movement correct. Firstly, take your time to make sure you’re holding the violin correctly between your chin and shoulder. In other words, get into the proper position. You need to be straight and able to take your hand off the neck.

This would be a good time to warm up your wrists, which isn’t always easy. Being relaxed is the secret to good posture. A stressed violinist will struggle to play correctly. The same goes for any musician, actually. Doing a few breathing exercises can help you relax. Then, and only then, can you start doing the back-and-forth motion with your arms. The goal being to loosen up your arms ready for the big moment.

You can work on this movement for days at a time. Once you’re comfortable, you can start working on speeding up the movement.

Which fingers do you use for vibrato on the violin?
Your left hand has never been more important. (Source: h061152)

Finally, choose a note and get your finger ready. Repeat the movement with your arm while keeping your finger on the string. The pivoting will result in a light back-and-forth motion.

Try these exercises a few times each session either during your free time or with a teacher. Also, violin teachers near me or you can help you perfect your fingering and ensure you don't pick p any bad habits. Now that you know what to do, it’s time to practise.

Why not try it on electric violins?

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.