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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000074.txt from 2001/04

From: (Tony Pay)
Subj: [kl] What you *can* say about vibrato
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2001 05:30:21 -0400

I'm going away early tomorrow, and don't have time to write this

However, just quickly, it's worth noticing that there *is* a trade-off
involved in the use of vibrato, which is more easily seen by thinking of
what happens on string instruments. (It applies to wind instruments
too, but the physical situation is more easily imagined by thinking of

Left hand vibrato on string instruments involves periodic modulation of
tone-colour as well as of pitch -- in fact, artificially generated pitch
modulation without tone-colour modulation sounds very strange. Now, if
you get good players to experiment with playing string instruments
without left hand vibrato, they find that the sound they produce
initially is too dead and lifeless. Their response is to begin to use a
modulation of tone colour produced not by the left hand, but by the bow.
This modulation takes place over longer time-scales, sometimes of the
duration of the bow-stroke. In other words, they learn to use the bow
in order to create tonal envelopes on longer timescales than the period
of a vibrato. This is another expressive device, creating another
sound-world that has its own qualities.

A good wind player can do the same -- using different techniques, of
course. It has a natural relationship to the structure of speech.

So it is an objective fact that if you commit to constant tone-colour
modulation over short timescales (vibrato), you lose some of the
possibility of making tone-colour modulation over longer timescales
evident to the listener.

Now, some music responds well to the use of vibrato, some not so well.
I happen to believe that a particularly important part of classical
music is the showing of phrase shapes, not only by dynamic modulation,
but by tonal modulation, so that the beginning of a classical phrase has
a different sound from its end. See:

Hence, I tend to like less, or even no vibrato, in classical music.

There are degrees and degrees of all this, of course. Joachim used
left-hand vibrato for special parts of a phrase, and bow-modulation for
overall shape. There is also such a thing as bow-vibrato.....

_________ Tony Pay
|ony:-) 79 Southmoor Rd
| |ay Oxford OX2 6RE GMN artist:
tel/fax 01865 553339

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