Secrets of the Vibrato Part 2

“The Sizzle”

Dounis referred to the impulse which starts the vibrato as the “sizzle.” He gave the example of touching a hot surface, like a frying pan. He also said “the sizzle” was the spark plug that ignited the vibrato. This is a single impulse similar to a guitarist who plucks his string in to emulate a legato. He must give the impulse enough force or pluck it hard enough to carry the sound to the next note. The vibrato is the same. The initial “shake” has to be enough to carry it through the note. 

Therefore, if a player learns how to isolate this initial shake, then he or she can begin to understand how the vibrato and the left hand technique works altogether. 

Pumping Rather Than Releasing the Vibrato

If you can’t isolate or feel the initial shake of the vibrato then you might be “pumping” the vibrato, which leads to all kinds of problems physical and musical. 

Here’s how it works…

The vibrato is ignited by the “sizzle” or initial shake and then rebounds passively until the next note is played. If it keeps being re-initiated then you are “pumping” it. Pumping has a certain kind of sound to it which you may call “over vibrato.” But in any case, it tires the hand and often you feel like you are struggling to play the passage.

This a a very common problem that is often overlooked or not recognized by players and can easily lead to fatigue or just a sense of struggling to play a passage and not knowing what is causing the struggling.  

If the vibrato is balanced and initiated and then released properly, then there is a much greater sense of ease and the sound rings more and it is much easier for the player to make the phrases sound like they are “soaring.”  

This is a great example of the relationship between physical comfort, balance and proper alignment and the feeling of releasing the expression. 

The Direction of the Vibrato Changes in the Upper Positions

An often overlooked fact of a good vibrato is the change of direction of the vibrato depending on where you are on the cello.  

Here is what I mean... 

The direction of the vibrato always follows the line of the knuckles. The knuckles on the third joint of your fingers. Imagine if you drew a straight line across the knuckles; that would be the direction of the vibrato. In the lower positions the direction of the imaginary line is essentially parallel to the string. 

The Direction Changes as you move into the Higher Positions

Now slide your fingers on any string up to the end of the fingerboard and then look at your knuckles, you will see the imaginary line is now pointing to the left and is not parallel to the string like as it was before.  

The point of this fact is when you are vibrating in the upper positions you must change the direction of the vibrato. This is one of the reasons players have trouble with the vibrato in the upper positions.

In part three of this series on vibrato I will consider the following:

  1. Vibrato and expression
  2. The connection between the voice and vibrato

Also check out all the wonderful insights of Dounis in his only published interview on the Master The Cello Blog.