As we've been mentioning a lot of guitar techniques recently in our complete guides to "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Cowboys From Hell," we thought it would be cool to make something interesting and educative for the reference.
So, today, we kick off our new rubric, with a Complete Guide to the Vibrato technique. Read it, tell us what you think about it and if you have anything to add, share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Vibrato is a constant rhythmic bending of a string. You gotta do bends up and down quickly to create a moving sound.
Vibrato helps add intensity and variety to musical phrases, lengthens the sustain of notes and bent notes, and gives the guitar a human-like voice quality.
Steps to Perform Vibrato
- Fret a note on the fretboard with your finger. Play that note.
- While the note still sounds, use a little extra pressure pushing the string down on the fretboard, then bend the string up and down while turning the string back to its normal position or alternate rolling your finger from side to side within the fret.
Types of Vibrato
Vibrato is played Vertically and Horizontally using the muscles of the wrist to support the fingers while the fingers perform the vibrato motions.
Horizontal vibrato means that your vibrato is generated by shifting your fretting hand finger from side to side within the fret. This vibrato type has a more limited range than vertical vibrato and is generally used in situations to create a subtle, but noticeable vibrato. This type is regularly used on the classical guitar and sometimes on the electric guitar as well.
The biggest disadvantage of this type of vibrato is that it is hard to get any more than a small change in pitch from it - you can't use it to get a wide vibrato. This means that it isn't the best type of vibrato for a heavy rock song because that kind of music is usually better served by a stronger, more dynamic vibrato. However, use it in a softer context and you'll be fine.
Playing vertically means bending the string up or down to create vibrato. This motion provides a wider range of note possibilities than horizontal vibrato. It makes no difference whether the string is bent up or down, it produces the same pitch. Bending direction is decided by the player's preference or location on the fretboard.
Some players create vibrato by combining horizontal and vertical vibrato into a circular motion with a narrow to wide pitch range.
Vertical vibrato can be divided into types, according to movements, produced by the left hand:
- finger vibrato;
- wrist vibrato;
- whole-hand vibrato;
- arm (elbow) vibrato.
Finger vibrato is achieved by keeping thumb behind the neck and using fingers for vibrato. There is a popular belief, that finger vibrato can result in loss of control. But guitar strings are pretty thin, so finger muscles have more than enough strength to stretch and manipulate them in a controlled way.
Wrist vibrato is the most common motion which is achieved by placing thumb over the top of the neck and then rotating your wrist to vibrate the string. It's also called BB King style.
Whole-hand vibrato involves the entire hand. You should keep your thumb behind the neck and move your hand up and down from the wrist to generate the vibrations.
Arm (elbow) vibrato
Arm (or elbow) vibrato is the most severe and hard to control a type of vibrato. Elbow is the main area, where you produce the vibrato from. Fingers, hand, and wrist are held tight and rigid and thumb is held away from the neck, so it's difficult to control the vibration. It's very fast and radical type of vibrato.
Circular vibrato is a combination of vertical vibrato and horizontal vibrato, where a sound is created by a circular motion. Steve Vai is a well-known user of this technique.
Greg Howe and a few others actually slide their fingers between the fret above and below the "original" note, creating a fast, wide, and interesting "vibrato" effect. In extreme cases, players will create a wide-ranged intense vibrato by using a motion spanning across 5 frets or more. This is unusual, though, and can be easily duplicated with much less effort by using vertical vibrato.
This technique is often used by fusion guitarists, that's why sometimes it's called fusion vibrato.
Often we need to create a vibrating sound not just for one string, but for a few. This type of vibrato is called chordal vibrato.
This type of vibrato produced by the joints in your fingers.
Shaking neck vibratoVibrato effect can be achieved by pulling and pushing the guitar neck.
Vibrato on bends
Adding vibrato on bends can help you make your solos more impressive, but it takes time and practice to learn. To add vibrato to your string bends, follow these steps:
1. Bend to pitch and hold without vibrato.
2. Bend to pitch and add vibrato (e.g. wrist vibrato).
3. Bend to pitch, hold, and then add vibrato.
Depth indicates how much the pitch differs from the original pitch. There are 3 main types of depth:
- Narrow: a quarter step
- Moderate: a half step
- Wide: a whole step
Vibrato rate (or speed) indicates how fast the pitch fluctuates back and forth from the original pitch. There are 3 main types of vibrato rate:
Reasons to Use Vibrato
Vibrato increases intensity and expressiveness of guitar sound if when vibrato isn't used or used too little, notes have less sustain and passages sound less interesting, but remember that if vibrato is used too often, it loses its effect on the listener and becomes gimmicky.
Vibrato doesn't mean you have to shake your hand super fast until the string will swing from the top to the bottom of the neck. In fact, good vibrato technique begins from a relaxed motion that will add just a tiny extra natural vibe to the note you're playing.
The point most people are missing when playing vibrato is time. Vibrato must be in time as well as the other notes.
You need to be accurate with vibrato because it can produce unwanted noises, so you should also get better at muting to prevent it.
Another mistake is to start vibrating the note as soon as you play it. This can make you sound out of tune.
Don't use as much vibrato as possible. Some people think that emotional playing means using it a lot. Think of vibrato as spices for a meal, you don't need a lot of it to make dish tasty.
In tabs, vibrato is usually represented by the tilde '~' symbol.
Songs to Practice Vibrato
AC/DC - Hells Bells
Music video by AC/DC performing Hells Bells. (C) 1981 J. Albert & Son (Pty.) Ltd.
Hells Bells Guitar Lesson Part 1 - AC/DC - All Riffs
Hells Bells Guitar Lesson Part 2 - AC/DC - Solo
Metallica - Fade To Black
Metallica: Fade to Black (live performance)
Filmed live at The Opera House in Toronto, Canada on November 29, 2016.
Fade To Black Guitar Lesson - Metallica - Intro Solo & Interlude
Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb (outro solo)
Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb (live performance)
A live performance from October 20, 1994, PULSE
Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb Guitar Lesson - Outro Solo (First Half)
Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb Guitar Lesson - Outro Solo (Second Half)