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Rick Graham - Unlocking Your Musical Potential Part 1: Developing Vibrato Technique

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 30 **

Hi everyone, hope you are all well out there! For this issue I’d like to focus our attention on vibrato technique. Vibrato, for me, is one of the most important techniques of all. I personally feel that this particular technique is often neglected by guitarists even though it is something which can help your musicianship immeasurably.

Approached in the right way, it can transform the way you approach phrasing and really help to improve your aural skills. I like to think of vibrato technique as essentially a different form of string bending in that they are both a manipulation of pitch for expressive means. Vibrato tends to be a repeated oscillation of the pitch as opposed to string bending which, more often than not, is used over longer durations and without the repeats that vibrato has.

A good starting point to practising vibrato is to take a single fretted note and apply a repeated semi-tone bend. The important thing here is that the target pitch (note you are bending to) is the same every time and also that you return to the original pitch (fretted note) every time. Even though there may be some occasions where we could manipulate that for our own means, in this tutorial the focus is on developing a solid vibrato technique so this is the priority for the moment. Try to practice this as slowly as possible to start with as this will really highlight the control that you have over your intonation and control of the string. Once you become more confident that your control is improving, try to speed up the string bends so that it sounds like one whole movement rather than separate movements.

Once you feel that you have grasped this, the next logical step (taking it further than in the video) is to take this basic principal and apply it across all six strings.

Start with the 6th string at the 5th fret and we will do the semi-tone bend using a downward movement starting with the 1st finger. Remember to use the whole wrist when you are applying vibrato.

It is NOT a movement of the finger but a movement of the finger and wrist as a whole. Once we have done that we can move on to the 5th string, same fret as before and apply the vibrato there. Then continue using the 4th string and 3rd string.

When we reach the 2nd string, try applying the vibrato in an upward motion as opposed to downward. This can help due to lack of fretboard space, which can restrict the wideness of the vibrato. This is by no means necessary, though.

It may feel a little strange at first but with a little practice you will be fine.

The next step is to change fingers of the left hand and apply your vibrato using the 2nd then 3rd then 4th fingers. If you can work on achieving the same control over your vibrato, whichever finger you are using, you will be much better off.

Once you feel comfortable with that you can then start changing your target pitch by applying a whole-tone bend. This will give you a completely different sound to the former and will require more control so proceed with caution and be sure that your intonation is as perfect as it can be.

There are many other ways we can create vibrato so I suggest you experiment with what I have given you and find a sound which is a sound your ears agree with and take it from there. Remember that my approach is just to give you some guidelines on how I do it so take what you need from it to create your own way of expressing yourself. Hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson and see you next issue!


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