how do you teach vibrato?


Deanna said: Mar 27, 2007
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

I’m a new teacher (teaching two years) and most of my students are beginners in Bk 1 violin. I recently have received a transfer student ( moved from the states to Canada) who is in the beginning of Bk 4. She has a great set-up, nice posture and bowhold. She doesn’t play with vibrato and she said her teacher had just started some prelim exercises for wrist vibrato.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to teach vibrato? Please pass on any wisdom, as I feel very inexperienced! Thanks!

Connie Sunday said: Mar 27, 2007
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I have some resources about vibraro and how to teach it on the Violin/Viola FAQ at:

I hope this is helpful,

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

Gabriel Villasurda said: Mar 27, 2007
Gabriel VillasurdaViolin, Viola
81 posts

Here’s my process.

Have the student do the following steps.

  1. With no instrument or bow, make a fist with left hand.

  2. Teacher makes a target with palm of hand for student to punch (students love this part)

  3. Now have student punch with BACK of hand. Punch repeatedly—2-3 times per second. Motion will come from whole arm; wrist does NOT bend.

  4. Put violin in playing position. Pull left thumb a little under the neck so that the side of the index finger is NOT TOUCHING the neck by a distance of the thickness of a business card. You will need to check this CLEARANCE as the process goes forward. The index cannot grab the neck. This step is very important.

  5. Put 2nd finger on F# on the D string. No other fingers. 2nd finger works best.

  6. Now recreate the PUNCHING motion. If the student forgets, go back to steps 1 through 3.

  7. Teacher can draw the bow while student vibrates. Student can hold the lower bout of the violin with the right hand to steady everything.

  8. There are only three controls to vibrato: ON/OFF, SPEED, and DEPTH. If it stops, start it again. Ideal speed for early vibrato is 3 times per second. Depth refers to the pitch variation; you want enough range to be noticed but not enough to cause nausea.

  9. When the student begins to bow him/herself, other problems will occur—mostly about separating the oscillating motion of the left arm from the smooth motion of the right arm. It is good to get the vibrato motion right with teacher bowing before having the student try to do both.

  10. Leaning the scroll of the violin against the wall helps steady everything when then student goes solo.

  11. Most common mistakes: the CLEARANCE (step 4) and trying to bend the left wrist. Recreate the punching motion with the back of the hand (step 3)

This is ARM VIBRATO. Every good player can do both ARM and WRIST vibrato. You need ARM for big and bravura passages. Use WRIST for soft tender moments. BTW arm vibrato is impossible in very high positions. I have had good luck starting from the ARM approach. This method avoids the icky little fast, nervous result and also the totally unwanted Finger Vibrato.

I have used this approach in a class situation and in the studio. If you do the steps, I can guarantee you’ll have a vibrato in under 5 minutes.

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

Mia said: Mar 27, 2007
Mia Hagarty
Suzuki Association Member
7 posts

Edward Kreitman has a nice chapter on vibrato in his book, “Teaching from the Balance Point.” More info can be found here.


Deanna said: Mar 28, 2007
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

Thanks so much, everyone.
I do have teaching from the balance point so I will look up the chapter.

Gabriel, I have taught the “arm vibrato” as you described before to another student. I just didn’t know if I should do that with this student since she’s started some wrist vibrato exercises already.

Thanks again!

Gabriel Villasurda said: Mar 29, 2007
Gabriel VillasurdaViolin, Viola
81 posts

If the wrist vibrato is going, keep with it. The attributes of a good vibrato (speed, depth, on/off) are the same. You can get into heaven with either kind.


Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

Jorge Rodriguez Ochoa said: May 28, 2014
 Violin, Piano
1 posts

For wrist vibrato I Like to do a couple of different things.

  1. Put a ball or orange between the left hand and the violin's upper bouts. Start the wrist motion in quarter notes.

  2. Place your L.H. wrist in third position with your wrist touching the upper bout and try making a wiggly sound in rhythms with one note. 2nd finger is the strongest so you could start with this one or with 1st finger if comfortable. Try quarters, eights, triplets and 16th notes.

  3. Make sure to point out the backward motion of the wrist. This should feel like a rebound rather than a "reach back" intention.

Listen and mimic players with wrist vibrato that you like. : )

Hope this helps you,


Ashley Morris said: Aug 16, 2014
 2 posts

The following method for teaching vibrato:
You can read the full info here

  1. Start earlier rather than later in a student’s studies. This teacher begins vibrato in Suzuki Book 1 at Minuet 1 (Bach) which is in the latter part of the book.
  2. The student MUST practive vibrato EACh day with the metronome. (Select a fine, loud, metronome so the beat can be heard easily over the playing)
  3. Start the training at 60 on the metronome. Use a series as follows…
    Pizza—8 in a down bow,(Say the word as the finger moves)
    Pepperoni—8 in an upbow
    Italy—8 in a down bow
    Mozzarella—8 in an upbow
  4. Do this for each finger on each string every day.
  5. When the student has mastered the correct movement at 60, move the metronome speed up 4 degrees to 64 and so forth. (It will take several weeks of work at each metronome speed.)
  6. Students of this teacher LOVE to play vibrato and play it very well. Even the “junior” pieces in Books 1 and 2 sound incredible with vibrato.

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