What is Vibrato?

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What is Vibrato

We have some cool terminology in music. If you’re not well versed you may not know what these words all mean. What is vibrato? Let’s get scientific today and explore a super important term called ‘vibrato’.

Vibrato is basically a slight fluctuation of pitch that occurs when the air speed is fast enough that it oscillates. Whew! There are a lot of big words in there!

Fluctuation is when something doesn’t stay steady. Oscillation describes something that moves back and forth at a consistent speed, kind of like a pendulum.

Music is the most interesting when it changes from what you expect to happen.

There are as many variations of vibrato possible as there are depths and widths of fluctuation possible in one pitch…basically, that’s a lot. In order to make vibrato sound good, it has to oscillate at a depth and speed that matches the note you’re playing. You see, each pitch vibrates at a specific rate per second. For example pretend C in the staff looks like this:What is Vibrato 1

C is already oscillating at a specific rate, so our vibrato has to oscillate at a speed that complements or fits inside the speed of C. A little like this:What is Vibrato 2

High notes above the staff starting at about E need a deeper wider and deeper vibrato to be heard their oscillations. Low notes need quite shallow vibrato and usually on the faster side.

Here are some examples of good and not so good vibrato:

What is Vibrato 3What is Vibrato 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1.      Is a basic, consistent vibrato.
  2.      This vibrato doesn’t fit inside of the sound anymore, so it ruins the intonation, and is too big for the pitch.   
  3.      This vibrato is the one to use if you want something that sounds really light and the vibrato is almost not noticeable.
  4.      This is what some people call a “shimmery” vibrato.
  5.       A more intense shimmer.

And the list could go on.

Music is the most interesting when it changes from what you expect to happen. Like when a flat or sharp comes and you have to think about whether or not it fits. It catches your attention. Vibrato is used for the same thing. When you change the speed and the depth of your vibrato, it is like you’ve changed the mood of the note. This catches people’s attention and highlights the character differences in a piece of music. Sometimes it’s good to leave the vibrato out completely, because that catches attention too.   

If we don’t use vibrato, music would be pretty bland, kinda like not putting salt on your potatoes.

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

2 thoughts on “What is Vibrato?”

  1. Hi Lisa, I guess I’d have to hear you to be sure if you have a nice (natural) sounding vibrato or not. The exercises only work if you do them long enough (it takes about 4-6 weeks of consistent studies). If you want me to take a listen I’d love to: https://learnfluteonline.com/feedback/ you can leave me an audio recording there. Just play to your computer and it’ll send it to me. 🙂 Rebecca

  2. Hi Rebecca! Is there such thing as natural vibrato? Or are you constantly moving your diaphragm to make it happen?

    I have the vibrato modules, and I’ve tried the exercises, but I can’t put the practice into my playing, but I find that some vibrato comes out when I am playing anyway, so I’m not sure what my body is doing or if it coming from my throat, but I don’t think so because it doesn’t sound like nanny-goat. To me it sounds nice, and to my fellow musicians it sounds nice. I’m not trying to make it happen, so what is happening??

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