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troubleinharlem's avatar

Any ideas on how to improve my cello vibrato?

Asked by troubleinharlem (7976points) February 23rd, 2010

I used to be a violinist, and vibrato for violins is a lot easier because the strings are less thick. But with a cello, the strings are a lot thicker and so vibrato is harder. My teacher says that my vibrato is for violins… so how can I change that?

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10 Answers

Rarebear's avatar

Edited by me. I like JPS’s response.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Much much more dramatic motion… It’ll actually seem almost silly at first – that’s how extreme it should be, then rope it in if it’s too much.

stump's avatar

I played the cello very badly for eight years. The vibrato is all in the wrist. Roll the finger along the string. That is the way I did it. But like I said, I played very badly.

fireinthepriory's avatar

GA, @JeanPaulSartre. Wanted to add that you could look up (good, preferably) cellists on youtube and imitate the motions they make in a mirror.

stratman37's avatar

you are fretting with the pads of your fingers and not your fingertips right? That would help, I think. I played guitar for years and recently switched to bass, and found that I was gonna run into problems if I didn’t stop trying to fret with my fingertips.

After that, it’s just a matter of building up your strength.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m curious, do you create by rubbing your finger pads back and forth in the same direction as the stem of the cello? Or do you do it by pulling the strings back and forth at right angles to the direction of the other method?

stump's avatar

I did it by rolling my finger tip along the direction of the neck of the cello. @stratman37 You can use your fingertips if you have built up decent calluses.

loser's avatar

Interesting. I learned vibrato on cello before I could do it on violin. The best suggestion I can give you is to slowly do the motion over and over on each finger. Not full blast, just slowly and let the muscles work up. And exaggerate the motion too. Good luck!

stratman37's avatar

@stump Yeah, I still have my callouses from guitar, but the strings on the bass are just so big that if I try to fret the bass with my fingertips they tend to roll off.

liminal's avatar

Well, run this by your teacher. This is how I learned. (Not liminal—I’m her partner using her account, at her request!)

Never forget, the motion starts all the way back at the elbow.

Sit in playing position with your instrument. You can put your bow down and rest your bow hand on your right knee. Raise your left hand into a playing position, placing your 2nd finger (middle finger) on the D string somewhere in the vicinity of 2nd position. Say, on about a G natural. With a motion that originates from your elbow, and without depressing the string, move your second finger slowly back to about an E, then up to about a B flat. (so, between approximately ½ position to 4th position) The exact notes don’t matter. Keeping your 2nd finger at a constant nearly right angle to the string, just like your normal playing position, move back and forth in a relaxed fashion between the two positions. Feel your elbow really contributing and propelling the motion. Once you get the feel of that, and your speed between the two positions is about 1 second for a round trip, then your ready for part 2.

Gently and gradually narrow your range of motion (so, start moving between about an F natural and an A, then an F# and an A, the F# and G#, etc.) As you narrow your range of motion imagine the pad of your 2d finger getting sticky ever so gradually. Start depressing the string, again very gradually, as you narrow your range of motion. Likewise, increase your speed gradually, though keep it comfortable and relaxed always. (Speed is not the point!) As you your finger pad gets stickier and the string begins to depress, start converging back on the G vicinity where you started. When the exercise comes to the last stage, the string will be depressed fully as if you are actually playing the note, your elbow will still be propelling and managing your motion, but since you are now “landed” you will feel the tip of your finger bone riding back and forth on the pad of your finger which is itself in contact with the string and the neck.

Now you will start to notice the way the mass of your hand is actually a factor in the motion in a way that probably it is not for the violin (not sure—I do not play the violin). Sitting on that G-ish note, you should have a lot of motion originating still back from the elbow and manifesting in your hand which is moving rather rapidly now in an almost vertical fashion. The difference is that now all this motion is “tethered” at a single point on the string.

Final point: In a mature vibrato, your knuckles should not be rotating, primarily, but rather moving parallel to the neck of the cello just like it was before when you were exaggerating between ½ and 4th position. If your emphasis is on a rotation-like motion, like tipping a bottle, then probably you’ve taken your elbow out of the effort and are trying to manage the motion from your wrist.

There are some more nuances that I don’t think I can describe here in words, but if you can get the feel of that motion then you will be well on your way! Then start practicing with the weaker fingers on other strings.

Good luck! And please, run this by your teacher.

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