Vibrato in all its forms (probably)


The topic of vibrato comes up from time to time so I thought I would share my own varieties

word to the wise do not read on if you want a serious treatise on the topic and definitely do not read on if you value your sanity.

Yes vibrato
while playing a note nod your head vigorously

No vibrato
while playing shake your head rapidly

chicken vibrato
while playing flap your elbows rapidly

hula hoop vibrato
swing your hips side to side or front to back as a variation

knee wobble vibrato
waggle your knees together and apart as you play

foot shake vibrato
stand on one leg and shake the other vigorously

You can always do the regular things like chin, breath, or hand vibrato, but where is the fun in that.

I live for the day when I will see an entire cornet section flapping their elbows like they are trying to fly round the room while the euphoniums waggle their knees and the trombone section all stand on one leg and shake the other in unison.

Hula Hoop should be reserved for the tenor horns, and the bass players will probably have to make do with yes or no vibrato.

David Broad

Active Member
Sort of nerves really isn't it. Singers do it searching for something like the right note. Winds me up. Like Allegro, what has a nasty small unreliable car got to do with music?


@David Broad

You are right of course David, vibrato can be used as a kind of crutch to help us sound half decent when we have difficulty playing on pitch. This is not restricted to brass instruments alone of course.

Some players do not use vibrato at all they play pure clear pitches but others routinely use vibrato as a style choice.

Violinists can use vibrato to seek the pitch, violins being fretless there is an element of guesswork in "fretting" the note on the instruments neck.

The jazz guitarist when bending notes tries to accurately bend to the correct pitch and a form of vibrato can emerge as they seek the correct pitch be that a semitone or a full tone pitch bend.

In the brass world trombonists can use vibrato in pitch seeking.

In all these instruments greater experience brings greater accuracy and the need for pitch seeking lessens.

Problems can hit us when we least expect it however, I recall when trying a Bobby Shew mouthpiece in an Olds trumpet it drove me up the wall, that combination unexpectedly made the pitches very slippery the pitches were all over the place. It was like herding kittens trying to sound correctly pitched notes.

Vibrato in its purest form, is of course an intentional effect and its application can be either effective or tiresome.

I believe that for a while a strong and pronounced vibrato was quite acceptable in Brass Bands but in recent years a more subtle vibrato has become favoured.

Much the same as in the singing world stronger vibrato was favoured in the past but now a less strident vibrato is in vogue.

Vibrato can sound good and complement the performance but often it can sound inappropriate forced and false somewhat like a billy goat braying.

I think vibrato is bound together with pitch sounding note bending and slotting.

It is well known that in the trumpet world instruments such as the Bach Strad is commonplace in "legit" orchestral playing and a Martin Committee is not favoured. The reason is stated as the Bach strongly slots notes but the Committee is far looser and more slippery in pitching notes.

The Committee is far less predictable and harder to control pitch wise than the Bach. The orchestral player is wise to avoid the Committee.

Pitch bending and vibrato however is far easier on the Committee than the Bach so the Committee is the wise choice for a jazz player.

I agree David, vibrato should never be used to compensate for weak playing or weak singing for that matter.

On the other hand I have a natural vibrato that emerges as I play that sounds quite natural. I recall reading a treatise on recorder playing in which the author discussed vibrato and gave the opinion that a natural unconscious and subtle vibrato is to be encouraged so I am happy to allow this vibrato and not to fight it.

So there we have it, vibrato can be desirable, it can be unwanted and forced, and sometimes it is necessary, but always it should be used as appropriate to the piece and to the mood.
Last edited:

Product tMP members are discussing