Finger vibrato

Finger vibrato is vibrato produced on a string instrument by cyclic hand movements. Despite the name, normally the entire hand moves, and sometimes the entire upper arm. It can also refer to vibrato on some woodwind instruments, achieved by lowering one or more fingers over one of the uncovered holes in a trill-like manner. This flattens the note periodically creating the vibrato.


There are three types of violin vibrato: finger, wrist, and full-arm. In finger vibrato, the performer only moves his/her fingers; in full-arm, the performer pulls his/her arm back and forth on the violin but only minimally changes his/her finger's position, creating a change of tone.

Throughout the 20th century, finger vibrato was normally used in playing all members of the violin family unless otherwise indicated. Toward the end of the century, playing without vibrato became a more accepted technique.


In its pure form, vibrato is usually achieved by twisting the wrist rapidly to bend the note slightly, moving to and from the root note. However, the same techniques are applied at a slower speed to get pitch alterations.

In contemporary music, finger vibrato is also routinely used by classical guitarists on longer notes, to create an impression of a longer sustain. The technique is also used by jazz bassists to add depth of tone.

Radial pitch-shifting (string bending)

Radial pitch-shifting (also referred to as "string bending" or "bending") is produced by moving the stopped (held down) string with the left hand in a direction perpendicular to its axis and parallel to the fingerboard. While this type of pitch-shifting is most commonly associated with rock guitar, it is extremely popular in blues, country and popcite web |title=A Couple Guitar Tips |publisher=How To Play Blues Guitar |date=2008-07-30 |accessdate=2008-07-31 |url=] .

Basic technique

To produce a bend the guitarist puts a finger on the string and then, while pressing the string down on the fret, strikes a tone, and pushes the string either up or down. This has the effect of stretching the string and thus makes its pitch higher. Generally a bend on the 1st-3rd strings will go "up" vertically as seen from the guitarist's point of view and a bend on the 4th-6th will go "down". The technique can also be used with distortion to make "squealies".

Sometimes the guitarist will bend a note on a certain string up, while playing the note the string is being bent to on another string, creating an effect called a "unison bend."

Bending is usually limited to 1-2 semitones, but 3 semitone bends are not uncommon and skilled players occasionally use bends of as much as 5 semitonescite web |title=A Couple Guitar Tips |publisher=How To Play Blues Guitar |date=2008-07-30 |accessdate=2008-07-31 |url=] (the interval of a perfect fourth) as can be heard in the solo played by David Gilmour on the song "Another Brick In the Wall Pt.2" from Pink Floyd's album "The Wall." Bending in general, but especially large bends of 3 or more semitones, puts stress on the strings which often causes them to go out of tune and increases the likelihood of string breakage.


* The most difficult moment for beginners practicing bends is getting the note bent to proper pitch. Usually the bend changes note pitch exactly by 1 semitone or 1 whole tone (2 semitones), and most beginners fail to bend a string exactly to proper pitch, producing "overbends" and "underbends". Most guitar teachers advise playing the target note on a higher fret, listening closely to its sound and trying to bend the string aiming to get exactly the same pitch.
* Especially in Blues playing, the target note can be slightly higher or lower than the fretted note one or two frets higher. It can be a quarter tone or not even exactly that, but a tone which is not present in the tempered scale, being a natural third or seventh instead (or close to it). These are the blue notes, one of which is e.g. between minor and major third. The exact location varies from performer to performer. This is microtonality and involves a lot of individual musical feeling, for the tone which conveys the intended emotion must be reached as exact as a tempered tone, otherwise it will sound just wrong.
* Bending (especially heavy bending, more than 1 semitone) usually involves touching more than 1 string with a left (fretting) hand, as seen in the illustration.

Axial pitch-shifting

Axial vibrato is produced by moving stopped (held down) string with the left hand in a direction parallel to its axis, which increases or reduces the tension on the string and thereby alters the pitch. This type of vibrato is typically used by classical guitarists (see Classical guitar technique). It is also used to achieve a Backward, reverse or release bend, involving pressing the string on the fret, pulling it up (along its axis) to stretch the string first, and then striking the string. This causes the note to go flat, the reverse direction of straight bend.

Behind-the-nut pitch-shifting

: "Also known as "Behind-the-nut bending"

Press the string between the nut and the machine head (tuning key), and the pitch will shift.

* Classical guitar (nylon-string): This works on the unwound strings on a classical (nylon-string) guitar, and also works better on the strings whose heads (tuning keys) are further from the nut
* Bass guitar: works on all strings

The particular advantage of this technique is that unstopped notes can be pitch shifted (bent).


* Several strings can be bent at once.
* Innumerable bend patterns exist: for example, straight bending of a string 2 semitones up, then 1 semitone down, then 1 up, then 2 down.


Keyboard instruments

Finger vibrato is also a standard part of clavichord technique, known as "Bebung".

Until the first half of the 20th century, the clavichord was the only keyboard instrument on which finger vibrato was possible. In 1928, Maurice Martenot invented the Ondes Martenot, featuring a keyboard which can be laterally rocked back and forth -- inspired by his experience as a cellist. Other finger vibrato techniques may also be used on pressure sensitive electronic keyboards with appropriate sounds and patches. For example, the Rodgers digital church organs may be provided with an optional voice for the upper keyboard which provides a solo trumpet with velocity-sensitive volume and pressure-sensitive pitch, allowing a skilled player to play a very realistic trumpet solo.

Wind instruments

Finger vibrato is used on several woodwind instruments, in both classical and traditional music. In Baroque music, it was called "flattement" in French and used, usually on long notes, on the Baroque flute and recorder, and noted in the writings of Jacques-Martin Hotteterre and Michel Corrette. In Irish music, it is used on the uillean pipes and pennywhistle.

ee also



External links

* [ Vibrato Lesson - Beginner Guitar] Learn how to apply the vibrato on guitar
* [ Jerry Donahue Interview] ; contains useful information

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