Excessive Vibrato

Brian Bowen

Active Member
In another thread, Dave Payn included a statement apparently made by Vaughan Williams:

… probably a similar scenario to Vaughan Williams' Henry V Overture which lay unperformed for some 47 years. The composer's wishes that trumpets should be used and that 'the vulgar sentimental vibrato that disfigures most brass band performances should be strictly avoided' maybe had something to do with it.
While the statement, if correct, by RVW may seem a little extreme, I do think that vibrato is often used to excess in bands and is probably one of the reasons people (including composers) from the world of serious music are discomforted by it and tend to look down on brass bands. (Certain kinds of vibrato = the flat cap image.)

It's worth comparing the matter with choral groups: Solo singers perform with varying amounts of vibrato, but the best choirs iron out much of it and achieve a more homogenous tone and superior blend.
 

lynchie

Active Member
I was listening to the Black Dyke "Best of Brass" CD the other week and that's packed full of vib!! Luckily, I think today most of the top conductors and players have realised that there's a time and a place for wobbling, and so things are getting a little bit more musical!
 

deave

Member
lynchie said:
I was listening to the Black Dyke "Best of Brass" CD the other week and that's packed full of vib!! Luckily, I think today most of the top conductors and players have realised that there's a time and a place for wobbling, and so things are getting a little bit more musical!
you think vibrato means your un-musical ?
 

mikelyons

Supporting Member
I agree with Lynchie. Permanent vibrato is often a sign of poor tecnique and some players use it to cover up intonation problems.

Like every other technique, vibrato has its place. Sometimes it's appropriate and sometimes it's not.

If you can't control your vibrato - seek help! :wink:

I think the title of the thread says it all excessive vibrato
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
Absolutely! But opera's not about the music, is it?

Wasn't it from performances of operatic materials that bandsmen originally developed their persistent wobbly habits? Or have I just made that up?
 

Bryan_sop

Active Member
I think Excessive vibrato sounds horrible. I think people do it to cover up tuning issues, if you warble around enough, your in tune in some parts of the 'warble' I suppose!

I like what Miles Davis' teacher told Miles when he was young - Stop shaking so much......you'll shake enough when you get old!!

I do however think, that in the right context, a subtle vibrato sounds fantastic. But not shaking around as if you're sitting on a pneumatic drill!!!
 

mikelyons

Supporting Member
MoominDave said:
Absolutely! But opera's not about the music, is it?

Wasn't it from performances of operatic materials that bandsmen originally developed their persistent wobbly habits? Or have I just made that up?
Possibly, but even in Opera, too much vibrato is a bad thing. In the olden days, (which I can't actually remember) there was a fad for orchestral players and singers to use a lot of vibrato to express the emotion in the music. However, it became obvious that this was not a good thing. Some famous ladies were particularly noted for the width of their vibrato, particularly Clara Butt. Hence the pejorative term "A touch of the Clara Butts" when someone overdoes the vibrato

Do I sound a bit like the hitch hiker's guide? :oops:

The best quote I've ever read about opera is:

An unalterable and unquestioned law of the musical world required that the German text of French operas sung by Swedish artists should be translated into Italian for the clearer understanding of English speaking audiences.
 

deave

Member
lynchie said:
no I think permanent vibrato makes you unmusical
! omg !

Recently, Phillip McCann was asked to play a solo in a piece which required "no vib" ... he refused to play without vibrato!!

HE MUST BE UN-MUSICAL !!
 

Sellers_Bird

Active Member
...and all this wealth of knowledge concerning vibrato comes from bass players and trombone players, who without a doubt most definately use vibrato the most....? :?
 

mikelyons

Supporting Member
That's just because you can hear the individual vibrations of our deep passion for the music we play.





Besides, what else can you do to make oom-pah interesting? :p

Anyway. if you hear me play with vibrato, it's usually 'cos I'm laughing at you!
 

Andy_Euph

Active Member
Vibrato is like anything else if its done well and is in the hands of people who understand how to use it, its fab...but if you get someone who doesn't understand the musical concept just wobbling there lips then its bound to be a bit dodgy
 

fitzy

Active Member
Too much vib is horrible! Unless you are 90 there is no excuse for it. Sop players are the worst sounding instrument with too much vib. It drives me mad!
It has to be used in moderation. Just like all good things! :guiness
 

lynchie

Active Member
deave said:
lynchie said:
no I think permanent vibrato makes you unmusical
! omg !

Recently, Phillip McCann was asked to play a solo in a piece which required "no vib" ... he refused to play without vibrato!!

HE MUST BE UN-MUSICAL !!
or just playing the piece wrong... :wink:

to be honest he's not my favourite cornet player, but that's not really a debate for here. I just think there are a lot of time when players should use no vib, or very little.

And I accept that trombone players use vib a lot, but it's something that in general we're trying to reduce to where and when it's needed. If you listen to the very best trombone players they have great control over their vib. (Unfortunately I'm not one of them, but I'm working on it)

And since we're name-dropping to try and prove a point, at a master class from Steve Sykes he went through types of Vibrato, and then through times when you should use a straight tone with no or very little vib... maybe he's unmusical... :roll:
 

PeterBale

Moderator
Staff member
As a (very) young clarinettist just moving onto saxophone, I wrote to the great Jack Brymer on the subject of vibrato, having just heard a broadcast by him on the radio. He wrote back a very kind letter, underlining much of what has already been said, ie that the use of vibrato will (should!) vary according to the music being played, and that it must always be within the context of what else is going on, and what the other players are doing.

In the past, there used to be much more in the way of national "schools" of orchestral brass playing, with Czechs and Russians in particular being noted for the distinctive sound of their french horns, which some people liked more than others. I think it is probably fair to say that in the past the norm, in brass band playing, was for there to be the constant use of vibrato, even if it was only slight - look at brass and scores and see how often the instruction "senza vib" appears, which implies that, without that instruction, some vibrato will be used.

In recent years, there certainly seems to have been a move towards cutting down that vibrato, maybe in part due to the number of players and conductors active in various areas of music, so that if a player or band seems to use more vibrato than is customary it tends to stick out and provokes comment.

Regarding the original comment by RVW I can well imagine him saying that, as he was noted for rather odd remarks, particularly towards the end of his life: in the score of his 9th symphony, calling amongst other things for a trio of saxophnoes and a flugel horn, he writes something to the effect that "if a flugel mouthpiece is not available, on no account must a trumpet mouthpiece be used instead" :shock:

Incidentally, it was after including "The Agincourt Song" in "Henry V" that he recommended the tune to the up-and-coming William Walton, which he then used himself to great effect.
 

ScrapingtheBottom

Active Member
I think it's because RVW had a crack at conducting his own works and probably encoutered the problems he made notes about.

Anyway, brass band music ecompasses many, many different styles and the musician should be able to appreciate these styles and play accordingly.

I find it difficult to understand why some trombonists insist on using vib in orchestral transcriptions, when, by and large, the trom parts are usuall a combo of trom and french horn parts in the orchestral work - most top orchestras (apart from the eastern european crew) do not use vibrato in these pieces and the band should relflect this style (it gives a nice contrast to melodies played be the cornets, which often require vibrato). Pieces such as past-time with good company require a kind of reedy almost bagpipe tone to give the greatest effect, where as slushy solos (like somewhere over the rainbow) require lots of vib (even slide vib) to sound authentic.

If you listen to the top brass players outside the banding world they have create control over their vibrato and tone and this adds a great amount of colour and texture to the pieces they are playing. Playing everything with vib is just the same as playing everything at mf - boring.
 

Dave Payn

Active Member
Brian Bowen said:
In another thread, Dave Payn included a statement apparently made by Vaughan Williams:

… probably a similar scenario to Vaughan Williams' Henry V Overture which lay unperformed for some 47 years. The composer's wishes that trumpets should be used and that 'the vulgar sentimental vibrato that disfigures most brass band performances should be strictly avoided' maybe had something to do with it.
While the statement, if correct, by RVW may seem a little extreme, I do think that vibrato is often used to excess in bands and is probably one of the reasons people (including composers) from the world of serious music are discomforted by it and tend to look down on brass bands. (Certain kinds of vibrato = the flat cap image.)

It's worth comparing the matter with choral groups: Solo singers perform with varying amounts of vibrato, but the best choirs iron out much of it and achieve a more homogenous tone and superior blend.
Firstly just to confirm that the 'note' about vibrato on Vaughan Williams Henry V is included in the inside cover of the Boosey and Hawkes score, but written by his colleague Roy Douglas. (Who lists the preferences attributed to RVW as being made by 'the composer' One should remember that this piece was originally written around 1932-33 when perhaps vibrato was more of a factor? Anyway, it didn't receive its first performance apparently, until October 3rd 1979!)

The only problem I have with vibrato in the brass band world is when I hear players using it in either fanfare type passages or other passages which might imply 'straight' playing, though this is less of an issue nowadays to be fair.
 
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