Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lesson #133C (6/9/13): Vibrato and another excuse not to practice...

I'm unsure how many lessons I've taken since my last lesson post on March 6th at 120 lessons since I haven't been keeping track, but if I average one lesson per week than I should be at 133 lessons. Granted I missed a few weeks of lessons, but I also doubled up on lessons during a few week as well to prepare for the concert, so this should average out.... can't believe I haven't entered my lesson notes since March 6th!

I had put vibrato on hold since I didn't have any time to practice it due to the concert, but had started to practice it a few days before my lessons, and surprisingly, it was coming to me much more easily than before! I think the ideas just needed to simmer for a bit! :)

I had been working on vibrato with Clayton during the previous week and we discovered that my finger was not lying flat against the string, which was one of the reasons I couldn't hear my vibrato as much as I should! I had my finger too much on the side of the string when it should be right on top of the string (the fleshy part of the finger). He took a photo to show me, since to me it felt like I was on top of the string when I really was on the side. There's light under my finger which shows that I'm not on top of the string. Also, my finger and motion should be in alignment (parallel) with the fingerboard.

One of the issues I have with vibrato is that my back and shoulders would tense up. I have some neck and upper back issues (used to go to a chiropractor to do some traction a few years ago), so when I start feeling too tense I know I have to stop, otherwise my neck would bother me for a few days and I would have to go get massages. 

Anyway, we worked on opening up the arm and making sure I was relaxed while vibrating. He also tapped the back of my shoulder blade area to give some "feedback" to make sure I wasn't tensing that region while vibrating. He also wants me to experiment on moving my arm/hand unit around to find the most comfortable relaxed position while maintaining the same position. 

Vibrato sound
Clayton wants me to focus on getting a nice thick vibrato sound, right now it's kind of all of the place with no real pulse and at random speeds! Also, for now focus on vibrating half notes until I get comfortable vibrating otherwise trying vibrate faster notes tenses up, which is what commonly happens. 

The more relaxed I am, the bigger and fatter the vibrato will sound, so I've been trying to focus on getting my "underarm flab" to shake while I do vibrato! ...ack, underarm flab... *sigh*... apparently if the flabby stuff can jiggle around it means the correct muscles are not being activated and are relaxed, and hence the jiggle. Great immediate feedback as to whether I'm doing it correctly!

It takes me a while to get my vibrato going, so I need to be aware that the vibrato should be heard at the beginning of the note. :) 

Moving my finger
Another issue I have with vibrato, is when I start to vibrate, my finger starts to slide around, especially when I'm going to the next note. Therefore, Clayton gave me an exercise to help with this problem.
Starting on any note, pretend to put the next finger down by reaching and moving around the finger (like doing an extension) without putting my finger down and without affecting my vibrato. My finger should stay firmly planted in the same spot without any squeezing and by only using weight. ...still not sure how to accomplish this (my finger just seems to move on it's own!), but I'm still practicing it. 

Another excuse not to practice... 
I’ve been slacking on the cello practicing front because my husband adopted a cat for me for my birthday a few weeks ago! I initially wanted a dog because I wanted take it on walks or whatever, but I’m super busy (work full time, part time student during the Fall and Spring, organizing for my cello group, and I’m always on my computer when I’m at home) so that wasn’t very practical, so we adopted a 2 year old dilute tortie cat instead! 

We renamed her Snuggles or “Snugs” for short because she loves to cuddle and purr! She acts more like a dog too – she plays fetch, follows me around the house, comes when I whistle, greets me at the door and approaches guests to be petted! A very friendly social cat! She's very talkative - she doesn't "meow," but "chirps" a lot. I guess she's also fairly small for a cat since she's only 7 pounds, but I've discovered that works well because she can sit in my lap while I'm on my laptop. ...hhhmmm... behaves like a dog and poops in a litter box!! Best of both worlds! :D


I’ll try to keep my posts at a minimum with regards to my newly adopted feline buddy, but… 


  1. Interesting thoughts on vibrato. I play viola, so obviously there are some differences between a horizontal fingerboard and your vertical one. But I am struggling with a lot of the same vibrato things you are, especially starting the vibrato at the right time and holding it across notes. Anyway, thanks for posting about it.

  2. Puppy-cats for the win! You really lucked out with that one ;) I have seen one or two cats that are AS cute as that, but not cuter.