Canadian Flutist and Teacher
Question: How long does it take to adapt to using vibrato and what could I do to improve it?
If you have trouble with "nanny goat vibrato", a tight throat or throat noises, read about that here.
Vernon Hill’s book called "THE FLUTEPLAYER’S BOOK" is also excellent and well worth buying. It comes with a CD of sound samples of all flute techniques as well.
Google search results below for online reading:
Online articles on Flute vibrato "How to create flute vibrato":
Articles to look for in University music library in "periodicals":
Articles by Robert Willoughby:
Flute Tone and Intonation,Flute Talk (December 1994): 11;
originally in The Instrumentalist Magazine (October 1950).
Flute Vibrato, Flute Talk (January 1992): 24-25
In depth study of flute vibrato:
Famous flutist's sound samples (fast/slowed down) of vibrato:
General vibrato ideas to do with flute tone:
History of vibrato usage (strings/flute)
1. Yawn your throat open slightly, and keep it open as you play, so that the air coming from your lungs has a nice, open, relaxed "pipeline", and meets no constriction from your lungs to your lip opening. Play like that every day consciously experimenting with how relaxed your throat can be.
2. After a week or so of this....now that you're comfortable with relaxing your throat: Start adding a gut push onto a long-held note.
It's like saying: AAAaaaaAAAAAaaaaaAAAAA
3. As you begin to get control over the gut pushes, after several days practice, pulsate the loud "AAA" in rhythm. For example, set the metronome on a nice, easy, not too fast 4/4 time and pulse rhythmically. aaaaAAAAaaaaAAAAaaaaAAAAaaaaAAA.
4. Slowly but surely you'll find that you can do a slow easy pulse.
example: think: BLUE-ber-ry BLUE-ber-ry and play:
5. Next, once you've spent a few days on triplet pulses, try eighth note pulses based on your 4/4 rhythm you established earlier.
The trick is to leave no silences in the sound but to get the gut muscles used to pushing the air in rhythmic bursts.
The faster you eventually get, the less the gut muscles will actually have to move, and you'll find you can use much smaller muscles higher up under the thorax (in the uppermost part of the chest).
Try steps one and two and get back to us with your own specific observations, will you?
Help! I have a "nanny-goat" vibrato
You can yawn your throat open, and leave it completely relaxed. Imagine that it's a hollow pipe that is just a conduit for the air to go, unimpeded from your lungs to your lip opening. You may find that you used to "throw" your sound from high up in your chest and throat, so now, experiment with sending it from the lowest part of your lungs, and experiment and hear the difference when your throat is entirely relaxed and well open.
To start actual vibrato practice, begin with your vibrato low in your belly with a very obvious and exaggerated "HA!" (like a pirate saying: "HA! You think you can steal MY treasure chest! HA HA HA!!")
Now apply it to a long whole note on the flute, perhaps a low G, and with your throat yawned completely open say: "HA...HA..HA...HA...HAAAAAAAAAA!"
If you're running out of air, try two HAs and then a hold. The hold builds up your belly muscles, and reminds you to have a full tone and an open throat. And be sure the sound does not die inbetween each ha. You should hear the note the whole time. This also sounds like a kid bumping downstairs on their bum and saying :"LO-OK MO-OM-OM-OM!" or whatever.)
Next, after you've got the hang of this; say HA! on every eighth note inside a whole note. (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha = 8)
Next say HA! with triplets on every quarter.
Keep your throat totally open. Don't use it to help.
Use only your ab muscles.
As you gradually co-ordinate this (may take several days or weeks depending on your focus and diligence. :>)...see if you can say HA! on 1/16th notes, but go slowly and carefully, so that you don't freak out and tense up again. Every new practice session go back to no vibrato, open throat, then HA on quarters, eighths, triplets and THEN sixteenths.
Over several days, with the metronome helping you, you can attempt this at a slightly faster speeds and you will find that the belly "HA!" has moved up slightly higher in your upper chest area.
When you increase the speed still further, you will feel a slight sensation at the very base of your throat.
In fact, in order to speed up, you'll have to make the pulsations higher and less dramaticly loud.
Eventually (and I've seen certain students do it all in one day...so don't be too hard on yourself...everyone goes at a different rate, and having a person showing you DOES make it happen WAY faster) you'll be able to do a nice even vibrato that's taking place somewhere between the belly and the lower throat.
Don't let the nanny goat dude make a comeback. Keep your throat out of it. :>)
You can also practice this while singing a plain note (try it while staring blankly at your computer, even! Or while washing the dishes etc.).
This method is covered in Galway's book: The Flute (Schirmer published; hardcover, in public libraries), in a light way, and is fully covered in The Physical Flute, by Fiona Wilkinson.
Both the above books, plus the Trevor Wye book 4 called "Vibrato" are avail. at www.fluteworld.com
Good luck. Jen Cluff.
VIBRATO AND BREATH PULSE DISCUSSION FROM FLUTENET For intermediates:
> I'm looking for a piece of music that can really help me brush up on my vibrato skills. I just got "The Flutists's Detache Book" by Robert Stallman (grade 3 at fluteworld) to give you an idea of my level. (Incidentally, thank you Jen for the suggestion of this wonderful book. I just love it. I highly recommend it too.) Anyway, if someone can suggest a piece that I can use – S.
I'd like to try and help using the books and music you already have,if possible. Any piece of music can be used to develop both:
a) Breath pulse (breath emphasis)
A brief explanation of the differences can be found in Vernon Hill's 'Flute Player's Book', which I'll quote below. And you can certainly use your "Flutist's Detache Book" by Stallman to work on the former, the 'breath pulse' first, which, in turn, will give you greater control of the musculature that produces vibrato.
Quote from Vernon Hill:
Uses and effects of Detache:
- it brings tongued passages to life (Note: such as found in
- it gives conviction to combined articulations such as two-slurred, two tongued.
- it is essential (when used with 'hard' sound) for good articulation on low notes
- it gives vitality to slurred passages (if you wish), and allows you to express two quite different moods in a slurred passage without changing volume.
- it is used for fast slurred octaves, sfz, fp, and to make grace notes be "alive" or "cheeky"
- it is used to 'lean' on individual notes within a long series of fast notes, both for bringing out the tune and bringing out the rhythmic pulse within a group of notes
- it is a very important tool in changing the mood of a piece, and in keeping vitality within pianissimo passages.
S., I would learn this technique to go with your Stallman book, and take the easiest etude from Stallman, and play it slowly, all-slurred, adding breath pulses one per note.
If you have the Vernon Hill book, his exercises that develop a noviceto use breath pulses are found on pages 19-21.
They are basically measured PULSING exercises:
HA-HA-HA-HA, four pulses, one on each of a group of four sixteenths.
Once you have mastered the 'breath pulse' you will find vibrato MUCH easier to work on (it's less muscular and more intuitive, but you will already have developed the muscles that will become involved already.)
Now to Vernon Hill on Vibrato:
First of all, it is absolutely essential to be able to play a perfectly straight note without any bumps or pulses. You may have realized that the process which our body to create vibrato has a lot of similarities to those we use for detache as described in chapter 4. In fact, a good control of various exercises as described in that chapter will ensure that you have most of the necessary muscle tone required to produce most types of vibrato.
If you don't yet have much control over your detache, I would strongly recommend that you spend more time improving in that area before pursuing vibrato much further."
The difference between vibrato and detache:
Detache is a breath pulse which is predominantly a volume variation.Its speed is exactly coordinated with the notes and rhythm.
Vibrato is predominantly a 'pitch' variation.
A beautiful vibrato really requires a great deal of finesse in order to achieve a...natural sound. It needs to be smooth and ringing, and generally without those heavy breath pulses one often associates with flute vibrato. You need to be able to hear the result clearly in your head in advance, in order to successfully produce it in real life....take every opportunity to listen to lovely natural sounding vibrato on both flute and violin.
Exercises continue on pg. 73-77.
Hope this helps.Jen :>)
Firstly, there are many many varieties of vibrato intensity.
In Fiona Wilkinson's "The Physical Flute" she has you practice from no vibrato to a very shallow vibrato, gradually adding more and more intensity to the wave (peaks and lows) of the vibrato.She then suggests that you match these with tone colours.ie:
no vibrato + very quiet and hollow tone
Intense vibrato + quiet, hushed tone
This is all covered in one page of Wilkinson's book, with an experimental chart so you can combine all possible combinations while you experiment.
The next idea is to listen to violinists and singers to see where they choose to:
a) start a note without vibrato, and then colour it gradually with a chosen vibrato ( various speeds and intensities can be tried until you feel the note has the right colouring as your artistry dictates etc.)
c) start a note with no vibrato, add a shimmer of it, and then taper back to no vibrato.
One thing remains true.
I attended a Jeanne Baxtresser masterclass a few months ago in which she said that vibrato should be present on held notes only - not on moving notes. This makes moving lines sound much smoother and enhances the effectiveness of a phrase.
Also, the quality of the vibrato (the speed and amplitude) needs to vary depending on the tessitura, dynamic, etc. of a particular piece. Starting a note with a straight tone and then gradually adding vibrato can be a very effective tool to begin phrases and differentiate between different sections of a piece.
However, if this becomes a habit, you will have to retrain yourself to play vibrato at the beginning of a note instead of partway into it!! Playing vibrato partway into a note in the middle of a phrase breaks up the phrase.
The use of vibrato also needs to be sensitive to the period of the music. For example, although a very heavy vibrato (big amplitude) is appropriate in various modern pieces, it sounds completely wrong in Bach. In fact, when playing Bach one needs to be very careful not to overuse vibrato (as so many flute players have a tendency of doing!).
If you are in doubt as to whether or not vibrato fits in a phrase, go with less rather than more. The audience is more interested in hearing the music than in hearing how well you can vibrate.
I hope this helps!!
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