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Vibrato (Hand Style) on Technique

Vibrato is a very important technique and conveys a lot of emotion. Without it you playing will likely sound flat and uninspired. Many people seem to pick it up without 'learning' it, but for the majority of players it will need practice. In this lesson I take you through the most common form of vibrato, which comes from the movement of the hand.

Video Lesson

The Basics

The aim of vibrato is to make the guitar sing. Take a little time listen closely to a great singer and try and notice the way that they hold a note and let it's pitch go gently up and down. That is usually what you are trying to achieve with vibrato.

There are three common techniques which you should try to master, and then you can experiment with blending them, or making your own style of vibrato. The three types are Classical, Standard and Free. These are just my names for them and you might find them called other names from other teachers.

Standard Vibrato

The standard vibrato used by the majority of guitarists in most styles is this one. It can be subtle or outrageous, wide or small, sharp, smooth and a thousand other adjectives! This is the one that you really should try and master.

The technique used is very similar to that used for string bending, so if you have not seen the lesson on that technique, you might like to check that out too: TE-005 • String Bending.

The "secret" to getting this type of vibrato working well is to get a solid pivot point. Without your first finger locked up against the neck, it's difficult to get the right 'mechanics' - though once you have the right feel for it, locking the pivot point becomes less necessary.

You should be able to use this type of vibrato with any finger, but it is most commonly done with the first or 3rd fingers (the same as bending), so give those fingers the best workout.

It should be noted that this vibrato is a lot harder on strings 1 and 6 (the outside strings) because you can only push the string in one direction, or you risk pulling the string off the neck, which can sound awful.

Practical Exercise
Again before using this exercise , you should work on getting the D note sorted, and make sure that your technique is correct.

You should remember too that you ought to experiment a lot with this type, make it wide and fast (like for rock guitar) and then small and slow (for a ballad) and everywhere in between!

For this I would recommend that you just play random notes all over the fingerboard and alternate which finger you use to do the vibrato. Start with your first finger and play any note with vibrato, it really doesn't matter what note. Then put your second finger somewhere else, a different string and a different area of the neck and play another note with your vibrato. Then continue doing this with your third and fourth fingers, each time moving to a new part of the guitar neck. The idea here is to get used to using the vibrato all over the neck with all your fingers. You need to be able to get this going anywhere!

Remember that this tab is an EXAMPLE - you should use random notes, and just keep the finger order!

Standard vibrato

The Three E's

There are three very important things to remember when you are working on your vibrato:

Try and copy your favourite player's vibrato. Try and make your guitar sound exactly like theirs. This will take time. Work at it. Then copy someone else's vibrato. You will find that the types that come naturally to you will stick and the others will pass. Copying others will help you find you own voice! I think this is best done by a learning a particular lick and then really trying to make it sound EXACTLY like the record.

Once you have the basic techniques under your fingers you should experiment as much as possible and try and find new ways of doing things. Try blending styles of vibrato, or techniques... there is a lot of things to try... through exploring you will learn a LOT.

When you do your vibrato it should feel easy and natural. If it doesn't, then something is wrong and you need to fix it. Try to find the problem yourself and if you can't, seek advice from someone... or try the forum!



Lesson ID: TE-103