When violinists play, their left hands always seem to shake. But it’s not because they’re nervous. Violinists, violists, cellists, and double bass players all use a technique called vibrato.
The technique is to rock the fingers of the left hand back and forth on the strings as the notes are played, causing a slight oscillation in pitch for each note. And why do string players use vibrato? Because notes with vibrato—vibrated notes—sound richer and warmer than non-vibrated notes. But it’s not just a matter of turning the mechanism on or off. Because the oscillations can be controlled—faster or slower, wider or narrower—the accomplished string player has many types of vibrato at his or her command… a wide range of possibilities. Vibrato, in fact, is one of the string player’s most important tools for varying the sound of the instrument… for changing tone quality and intensity from phrase to phrase or even from note to note.
A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.