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Good vs Bad Vibrato


(@randyellefson)
Eminent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 25
Topic starter  

I often see people criticize some player's for their vibrato without saying what's bad or good, so I'm curious - what makes a good or bad vibrato and who, IYHO, has which kind? If you can post a video to show your point, that would be cool.

Thanks,
Rand

Full streaming audio of my instrumental guitar albums is available at http://www.randyellefson.com, or download me playing "Dee" by Randy Rhoads at http://www.randyellefson.com/music/serenade/Dee_Randy_Ellefson.mp3


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(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 8306
 

i don't know. it's really a matter of taste and whether it hits you right or sour. i guess you can have a vibrato that doesn't fit the song or one that goes too flat or too sharp or is just weak. all i can say is that being able to control your vibrato is important (pitch,depth and speed), as opposed to just wiggling your fingers and hoping for the best. there are a few different types of vibrato. my favorite is jimi hendrix's and a lot of people love bb king's. they sound quite different and use different techniques, but both are pretty much the pinnacle of their styles. steve vai's website has an article about 3 types of finger vibrato that explains the basics http://www.vai.com/LittleBlackDots/84/vibrato.html and there's also vibrato using a whammy bar, and of course, slide vibrato.


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 10340
 

Another couple of guitarists noted for their use of vibrato; Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Billy Gibbons and the late Paul Kossoff. Interesting to note that of all the guitarists mentioned so far, they're all primarily blues/blues-rock guitarists apart from Vai.

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@boxboy)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1226
 

I think Jason has it right. Largely it comes down to expression.
To my ears, this Steve Winwood solo has perfect vibrato (approx 2:08 to 3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DYC61HzmtM

Mind you, I like everything about that solo. :)

Don


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(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

It's definitely part of personal expression.

Music is a language; you can express the same thing awkwardly or eloquently. I think of pitch and rhythm as being like a movie script - any actor can deliver the exact same lines, but no two will do it exactly the same way. So the nuance of performance - the "musicality" of how something is expressed - is dependent of how you tell the entire story line of a piece.

So the articulation and phrasing isn't going to have a 'right' or 'wrong'. Vibrato can be large or tight, fast or slow. Staccato phrases can be sharply delivered, or lightly danced. Dynamics and other shadings are on a spectrum; get a note just a touch too loud or soft and you change the entire delivery. It's good when it fits the story you're telling.

Vibrato is just one of those things that's easy to throw stones at, because it's so hard to control. You could easily spend ten years discovering what you can do with this one seemingly simple technique.

When I'm trying to teach a student 'musicality', I want them to hear the MUSIC, not the guitar. One good way to do that is to step outside the box, and listen to how other instruments express the music. That gets you away from worrying about the guitar for a while, and lets you be free to LISTEN :)

So for an example of how technique (overall, not just vibrato) creates nuance, listen to three great cellists playing the same piece:

Pablo Casals
Mstislav Rostopovich
Yo-Yo Ma

Same notes, same general timing (Ma takes a bit more liberty than the others), but a completely different feeling from each artist. All are 'good' - they're among the best in the world. Listen to them yourself - which one is 'better'? Why? What did he express that the others didn't, since the 'script' is the same?

Some time back I heard Benjamin Verdery give a master class on classical guitar. I remember him saying (I'm paraphrasing to the best of my recollection) "Learning a piece is hard. We have to spend a lot of time learning what notes to play. But it is only after we've done that we can begin the real work: learning what the music has to say to us, and what we can say through the music."

So ultimately, I wouldn't worry so much about what makes vibrato good or bad. In my opinion, vibrato (or any other technique) will never be good or bad - it's what you can say with it that matters. If you have nothing to say, you can polish up your vibrato as much as you like, and it will only be window dressing. Discover what you have to say, and vibrato will be a tool to express it... and you'll know what to do with it, and your ears will tell you when you have it right.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@notes_norton)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

100% agreed with the personal interpretation posts.

My advice.

1) One size does not fit all. A strong vibrato on one note of a song might be best and a slow or subtle one on another note in the same song.

2) Listen to a variety of music, different songs, different styles, different artists, and different instruments. Analyze the vibrato used and learn how to copy it. Keep doing this until you have a large vocabulary of different vibratos under your belt. They you will have a tool kit to use whenever you want, plus the listening experience will help you know when you want to use whatever you can.

3) Vibrato speed does not have to be constant. Many horn players and vocalists start a note out with no vibrato and then gradually increase it.

4) There is no wrong way, just choices. What is good for you might be terrible to another. Don't worry about trying to please everybody, instead try to be true to the song you are playing.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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(@gotdablues)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 129
 

Well there can certainly be Vibrato thats done poorly!! Just like doing a bend poorly...I.E. Bend off pitch, or with no sense of timing. Vibratos and Bends are IMHO closely related. There was a time not all too long ago when I could not bend correctly, and ya know what? My vibrato was'nt worth listening to either. Once I got my bend correct, the vibrato seemed to fall right in. :D

Pat


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(@randyellefson)
Eminent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 25
Topic starter  

Good replies.

The reason I ask is that lately, I've seen people bashing the vibrato of one well known player after another in forums, and doing so with huge confidence, like "if he would just fix his damn vibrato already".

It made me wonder what people think is wrong with someone's vibrato or they're just blowing smoke out their you know what; I suspected the latter, as that's seemingly what the internet is for

Full streaming audio of my instrumental guitar albums is available at http://www.randyellefson.com, or download me playing "Dee" by Randy Rhoads at http://www.randyellefson.com/music/serenade/Dee_Randy_Ellefson.mp3


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(@rparker)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5492
 

I'm still pretty green at this guitar thing and started learning any sort of lead or solo way later than chords, strumming and partial chord playing. Vibrato was suggested to me by a GN'er currently on a break as being the most important tool for a solo or lead guitar passage. It's also one that I only get right about once every 5-10 attempts. Partly due to both the language of music and the getting out of tune bit. When it happens well, though, it is a real inspirational moment. Kind of like that one golf shot that keeps you going back to the course.

Once in a while it just comes out well, as if intended. Maybe subconciously at best.

I've used it to cover up note decay awfulness that I have (yes, guitars kept intonated properly) in my lead playing.

My favorite and often all too often used "tool" is bending, but I've never been able to employ both vibrato and bending at the same time with any form of consistency. I also cannot do slide vibrato, period. I don't play a whole lot of slide, but I do try to cover it up with effects in my GT-10 like one named "Vibrato" and others like Flanger and some reverb. I've also done some slide with a light touch on a Bigsby and gotten pleasing results.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


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(@notes_norton)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

Some singers have vibrato that turns me off. I call it "machine gun vibrato" and it's very fast, very strong, and never varies. Ella Fitzgerald is a good example of this kind of vibrato. But I do like Ella's singing, even if I dislike her vibrato -- and it is purely a matter of personal taste - there is nothing wrong with it. I just prefer a more subtle vibrato for most musical situations.

Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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