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David's Tip of the Day: Different Types of Tremolo and Vibrato - Part 9, Vibrato (HarpNinja)

David Barrett Admin's picture

The throat vibrato is generally easier to produce at a faster speed. Though powerful... think Paul Butterfield... that intensity is not always appropriate. Gary Smith has a silky-smooth slow vibrato and I remember him saying to me at age 16 that slowing it down was really a challenge... and it was. It took me about a year to produce a good vibrato and another couple of years to slow it down.

The mouth and tongue (in their relaxed state) are influenced by the throat tremolo to produce the vibrato. What I feel when I slow my vibrato down is that I simply slow down my tremolo.

At first I couldn't do this, because my tongue wasn't in the perfect place for my mouth to be tuned to the note I was playing (I was close enough for the fast vibrato... the intense tremolo and louder playing moved my tongue more, forcing it into the range where the movement influenced the pitch of that reed). As time went on, my mouth tuning became more precise and all that was required was to slow down my tremolo.

So, your practice. Practice your tremolo only, slowing it down where you're opening and closing your vocal folds two times per second. Try this same speed for your vibrato, resisting the urge to tense any muscles. Focus on having your tongue and mouth tuned to that reed. The slow vibrato will come, even at this slow rate... if your tongue is relaxed and in the correct place.