How to Play Vibrato on Guitar

There actually is a simple way to track your progress with this aspect of lead guitar phrasing by following the process I will explain for you in this lesson.

Ultimate Guitar
When was the last time you thought about your vibrato and analyzed how good it sounds? Although I'm sure you realize its importance for making your guitar playing sound great, for most guitar players this technique rarely gets the practice it deserves. More importantly, I would bet that you don't REALLY know how to correctly test the progress of your vibrato over a period of practicing. There actually is a simple way to track your progress with this aspect of lead guitar phrasing by following the process I will explain for you in this lesson. To start, study the video below where I will show you how simple it is to assess your level of mastery over vibrato. Watch the video below before reading further:
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Now that you have seen the process of tracking your progress with vibrato, identify your maximum speed of playing vibrato in a controlled way. When you have that established, follow the steps below in your upcoming practice sessions to regularly monitor your improvement with vibrato on guitar: 1. Log the metronome tempos at which you are able to play vibrato technique, just like you track your progress with speed building exercises (scale sequences, arpeggios etc). Of course when you do vibrato in actual music, it doesn't need to be strictly in time all the time, but you must have the skill to allow yourself to make it so, if needed. THAT is what will make it possible to choose the best and most expressive way of using vibrato in your songs and melodies. Knowing the precise metronome tempo at which you can do controlled vibrato will give you the perfect indication of how this area of your technique is progressing. 2. Listen to your vibrato being played at "half tempo" (you can easily do this on a computer recording program like Pro Tools). This will make it easier for your ear to detect the intonation and consistency of the vibrato pulses against the drums or the metronome. This will help you to judge your progress more easily as your vibrato becomes faster. 3. Don't spend all of your practice time (for vibrato) practicing on only 1 pitch. You must also work on this skill in the real-life application scenarios of guitar licks and solos. Although this seems obvious, many people get stuck in practicing a certain technique in isolation without applying it into the real world. 4. When soloing over jam tracks, experiment with playing vibrato using a variety of note values on the pulses/bends of the technique (you can hear me demonstrate this in the video). This is NOT the same as simply "practicing to a metronome" because your mind will work (and listen) in a new way when soloing in a musical context vs. playing in isolation. Finally, don't forget the reason why you are going through this approach in the first place: to make your guitar playing sound GOOD. This means don't become obsessed with "how fast" you can do vibrato at the expense of its other elements. Vibrato that is slow and musical will always sound better in the context of music than a faster one that isn't controlled. The point is: don't sacrifice the quality of sound of the vibrato when chasing speed. Implement the above points into your practicing and you will start to see your vibrato (and your guitar playing) sound much better than ever before. To see the 2nd part of the video above, study this page about guitar vibrato. About The Author: Mike Philippov is a professional musician, guitar instructor and author. His educational articles on practicing guitar are read worldwide. Visit to get more free resources and lessons on improving your guitar playing.

19 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Shouldn't this be called how to whammy without a whammy bar?
    dont get if that was a joke or not, but no, this article is best called "how to play vibrato on guitar". whammy is just what you call the stick on the trem, vibrato is what you do with the whammy bar(mainly).
    My vibrato is much narrower than that most of the time. I get the rhythm aspect, but that's only one part of vibrato. This lesson is actually (for me, anyway) better for improving bend-to-pitch accuracy.
    I agree, I think of vibrato typically to be minor bends, like 1/4 to 1/2 step. It's a subtle thing to add a little depth. In the vid, while this guy is technically much more proficient, the vibrato is just obnoxious to me. I can't stand his playing. You want a vibrato lesson, listen to any of the blues King players, Clapton, Page. It's obvious in slow blues while not being shoved down your throat, like this guy's doing. All imo of course
    I agree, but obnoxious vibrato really does help get the point across. Also Steve Vai's vibrato is an interesting idea:
    Vai is such a beast of a player, just phenomenal. But it's impossible for me to hear his sweet playing over that 'look' he's gone with. This is an advantage to the blind lol
    David gilmour is the best! All his solo are with vibrato, not to much, just with feeling!
    I think the vibrato is not subtle at all in the video (sounds more like quick back and forth half-a-step bends).
    Blind In 1 Ear
    vibrato in the video was way to wide, too much tension playing played with, never explained technique (although it sucks so i don't want to) and you or him never went of different methods of vibrato, only one. and probably the worst one. that kind of vibrato gets old and cheesy fast. pulling down like that also causes tension and less control. pushing up on the strings and having the power come from the pivot of the wrist is how you do proper vibrato. this guy is shaking the whole guitar. terrible technique and example.
    one thing Id add is that its best to practice on clean, round frets. its much harder to practice your vibrato if your frets are in need of a dressing. also another thing you might like to try out is a lighter string gauge(if your not obssessed with fat strings).