Vibrato

Vibrato is one of the most effective weapons of a musician. In other words, the players’ or singers’ vibrato production usually proves to experienced or even amateur listeners that they are great musicians. As Leopold Auer told, you should put the vibrato to proper artistic use, as your servant, not your master. (Auer)

Terminology of vibrato was assumedly not standardized until the 20th century. However, vibrato in the Western music has been documented since the middle ages. During the 16th century vibrato became fashionable as a mannerist ornament. Generally, singing schools would eventually accept it as some sort of continuous device (described by Zacconi in 1592 as ‘art eventually turned to music’) on the one hand, but the authorities and master of players such as L. Auer were against the continuous and exceedingly exaggerated vibrato types –which contradicts the natural base of music. (Vibrato)

According to sources that I have read, and according to my experience, there is much information related with the vibrato technique. Maybe the most interesting vibrato technique which I have currently learned is two-finger vibrato (the gipsy trill). Additionally the article of Oxford Music Online gives the crucial example referring to ‘two finger’ vibrato that “one unclear passage in Mersenne could point to it, but more likely a beat (mordent) is meant; Tartini refers to it in passing. Rocking of the fingers has always been the usual technique for producing vibrato on string instruments of the violin family. The amount of wrist or arm movement differs according to different schools of violin playing.” (Vibrato)

On the other hand, the vibrato production until 20th century was usually measured in sphere of playing and as an ornament, not part of the music. For example; in ensemble music of the 17th and 18th centuries, measured vibrato is often the only kind accepted as specific technique, which relies on ‘carefully gauged fluctuation’ in intensity and helps the player to reduce the risks of intonation problems and to stay together. (Vibrato)

Measured vibrato was also used in orchestral music throughout the 17th, 18th and (in part of the) 19th centuries, in order to underline passages. The main purpose of making (measured) vibrato was to control the pressure while changing the bow.

Besides, the normal vibrato is produced in an extended way, but both measured and normal vibrato has not as strong emotional connotations as measured vibrato has and measured vibrato produces some degree of continuity, unlike an ornamental ‘normal’ vibrato. (Vibrato)

Vibrato primarily means to heighten, to embellish and beautify a singing passage or tone (like portamento). As a matter of fact, Auer says in his book, both singers and players of instruments frequently abuse the effect of vibrato just as they do the portamento. (Auer) Generally he mentions the bad vibrato usages by pupils and he adds that, some groups of the violinists find the vibrato as a convenient and reliable device for hiding bad intonation or bad tone production. He also complains that, some groups of violinists are misguided in their beliefs which are related with the idea “that an eternal vibrato is the secret of soulful playing, or piquancy in performance. He additionally makes (another) valuable example and he compares the vibrato production either in good or bad taste, the very salty soup or ‘the roast too highly peppered with cayenne”…

He too believes that the vibrato is an effect, an embellishment. As we understand the sentence he states in his book that you should use the vibrato as a servant not as master. (Auer) Lastly he accepts the fact that he has no tolerance of excessive vibrato, and forbids his students “…using the vibrato at all on notes which are not sustained…” and he earnestly advises them “…not to abuse it in the case of sustained notes which succeed each other in a phrase…” (Auer)

Source

  1. Auer, Leopold, ‘Violin Playing as I Teach it’, Frederick A. Stokes Company, 2009 http://petrucci.mus.auth.gr/imglnks/usimg/7/7d/IMSLP29626-PMLP66515-Auer_Violin_Playng.pdf,  17.12.2012
  2. G. Moens-Haenen. “Vibrato.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 18 Dec. 2012. <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/29287&gt;.

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