Ask Harry Wimmer
Q & A#4

Can Vibrato be taught?
  Q. When I was a student, I was told, "just shake your hand and vibrate!"
There must be a better way!?

A. My teacher, a famous performer with a lovely tone, also told me
pityingly that Vibrato could not be taught.

I realized much later that he was trying to say that the EMOTION in Vibrato (that which expresses intensity, passion, accent , nuance, excitement) was too personal to be teachable.

What can be taught is the mechanical MOTION of Vibrato, and that can cover control of speed, width, evenness, continuity and relaxation of the motion etc. etc..

The type of Vibrato that gives you the greatest speed and control is the Hand Vibrato (Hand-Arm Rotation) Here is a basic exercise that might be of help:
Exercise 1The Cat's Meow!  For Evenness of Rotation

Step 1:Try the motion in the air

Using the Thumb as pivot, (touching Middle Finger),
NOW ROLL IT AWAY FROM YOU, returning to original position.
Rolling the complete left hand lower arm unit toward you and away from you

Step 2
:Play slow whole bows
(a)2nd Finger.Slow 2nd Finger Vibrato
* 2nd Finger pitch goes about 1/4 note below (flat) and returns to Eb
NOTE: Play on fleshy finger pad.
Roll with a relaxed motion but don't let up on contact.
IMAGE: Cat meowing, siren sounds, gooey, "sticky" like molasses.

Repeat on G - D - A Strings

(b)3rd Finger Slow 3rd Finger Vibrato
NOTE: Thumb remains where comfortable for pivoting, does not squeeze.

(c)1st Finger Slow 1st Finger Vibrato
(d)4th Finger Slow 4th Finger Vibrato
3rd Finger stays on string for support, other fingers close.

Step 3:
Once the relaxed, even vibrato motion has been achieved, it can be speeded up by playing four groups of on a Whole Bow, then 's, 's etc.

There is much more to this, but beyond the scope of this Q & A.
The important thing to remember: the Vibrato motion CAN be taught!


If you found this Q & A helpful, or for further questions and comments, e-mail Harry Wimmer

On toQ & A #5?Home

For still more topics, return to Top 10 Q & A's or to Ask Harry Wimmer.

Learn more
about the ongoing
The Joy of Cello PlayingBooks available online from:

This site created and maintained by Harry Wimmer ( Thanks to Shirley Givens (
for her imaginative illustrations. Thanks to Kevin Wimmer ( for his selfless and expert assistance.
Design and content ©1999-2006 by Harry Wimmer. Artwork ©1999 by Shirley Givens.
All materials on this website are limited to personal, non-commercial use.