How to Do Vibrato on a Violin

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So you have learned how to play the violin or viola, and you are pretty satisfied with how you play. So what is missing?  Vibrato--a sound that you may describe as graceful or shaky and is caused by changes in pitch--may be the thing your music is lacking. This article will discuss vibrato and how to do it.


  1. Understand how your wrist is supposed to move as you vibrate. Do not hold your instrument, but hold your left hand in the air as if you are ready to play the instrument.
  2. As you hold your left hand in this fashion, imagine that someone is holding a pencil just centimeters away from the side of your hand. Try to move your wrist, but not your arm, so that your hand touches the imaginary pencil. Keep in mind that, while you vibrate, the only thing you should be trying to move is your wrist, back and forth, as if there were two pencils on either side and you were trying to brush them as your hand moves. This is the movement you shall use for vibrato. While doing this movement, your left hand should remain extremely relaxed.
  3. Try it with your instrument. First you should try the vibrato movement without actually playing, and you should attempt to do it slowly. Vibrato works best when only one finger is on the string. You may try vibrato with any finger you would like, although it is usually easier to do on the 2nd and 3rd fingers. I, however, do not recommend attempting vibrato on the 4th finger until you have mastered it on the rest of the fingers.
  4. Keep in mind that your finger should never slide on the string. It rolls against the fingerboard, rather than slipping back and forth. Again, keep in mind that your wrist should be moving, and not your arm. You should also not have to put effort into rolling your finger against the string. Because your wrist is in the vibrato motion, your finger should roll on its own.
  5. Try bowing the string that your vibrating finger is on. You will hear the pitch lowering. That is because, as you vibrate, your finger should first be on the correct pitch, and then roll towards the scroll, which will lower the pitch. After that, your finger should roll back towards the previous pitch. This is what causes the shaky sound in vibrato.
  6. Move very slowly when learning, to develop muscle memory. Your finger should roll against the string so slowly that you can hear the lowering of pitch. And then, after that, the raising of pitch.
  7. Practice this slowly until you feel very comfortable. Learning vibrato may take a lot of time, but it is very much worth it.


  • If you arent sure that you are doing it correctly, you should definitely get some help from a teacher or another musician before proceeding with trying to learn. Once you learn vibrato the wrong way, it is terribly difficult to get out of those bad habits.
  • Use a shoulder rest to minimize the risk of shoulder injuries. Shoulder rests are also preferred over sponges, since the sponge will make the violin/viola bounce as you vibrato, making it even harder. Shoulder rests are as important as the bow you use to play your instrument.
  • Your arm should not move as you vibrate, only your wrist. Sometimes it helps to have someone hold your arm still as you practice it.
  • The key to vibrating correctly is having your wrist extremely relaxed so that it can move quickly.
  • If you get extremely frustrated while practicing vibrato (I know I do!) then it would be best to not practice it very long, but to practice it every day. The more frustration builds up, the tenser your wrist becomes and the more difficult it is to vibrate.
  • Please note that on the violin and viola, there are 3 types of vibrato- Arm, wrist, and finger. This article describes the wrist vibrato, the most common type. Some people cannot master a finger or wrist vibrato but can develop a very beautiful full arm vibrato.
  • If you ever really want to do vibrato really expressively in a piece and can not get it right, the best is just feel the music and relax your hand. Then do the vibrato and it sounds like magic.


  • With playing the violin or viola, there is a risk that you may develop injuries in the neck or shoulder. Shoulder rests certainly minimize potential shoulder injuries.
  • If you perform vibrato incorrectly this can be bad for your health and cause you to get carpal tunnel syndrome.

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