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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000178.txt from 2005/08

From: "Bryan Crumpler" <>
Subj: [kl] Vibrato, color, vibration (was Stolzman & Copland Concerto)
Date: Thu, 11 Aug 2005 19:32:04 -0400

>From: (Ormondtoby Montoya)
>Vibrato and color are meaningful words to me, but what is "vibration" in
>this context?

The point of using the term "vibration" was to eliminate the link to the
sound aspect and to get readers to focus on the technique and the physical
act of vibrating the airflow or diaphram or firmness of the embouchure.
Vibrating the sound is actually a good thing. But I don't mean going into
convulsions like a Shoot-Me-Up Elmo doll or like the vibrator on your phone
or an electronic dildo for the kinky. It's just that when we talk about
vibrato, people like it to link more to the "sound" and/or the sound of
another instrumentalist we've heard before. But unless we're all hearing
the same vibrato sound in our heads when we read emails, it makes this topic
very difficult to discuss. That's the only reason I was talking about it in
terms of an actual "vibration".

I'll explain... (and this is just my view)

"Vibrato" is rapid, regular, constant, and involves variations in *pitch*
around a particular tone. That you vibrate (or that you are "vibrating")
does not necessarily mean that you are producing "vibrato" as we know it
Richard Stolzman style.

By "coloring" I mean *controlling* your air, embouchure, and/or diaphram in
a way that produces variation in quality and timbre of the sound... not the
pitch. The keyword here is "control." Although it can be repetitive as with
vibrato, this variation does not have to be at constant, periodic intervals.
And it also doesn't necessarily have to do with alterations in the pitch

When you're controlling the vibration or variation in a way that enhances
the sound and makes it expressive and musical... then you are not vibrating
for the sake of quivering constantly on a note - or from note to note. You
are making a *conscious* effort to produce a *musical* sound as opposed to
the unconscious mechanical effort needed to simply vibrate, palpitate, and
oscillate to produce vibrato centered around a pitch.

Think of it in terms of a string player. Bow speed, bow pressure, and
pressure on the fingerboard have *much* more to do with the character of the
sound than wiggling the hand. It is the wiggling of the hand (the vibration)
that varies the pitch, thereby producing vibrato. BUT when the player starts
doing things like increasing speed of the vibration, or slowing it down, or
even varying the amplitude while still at the same frequency... this is
coloring. Doing things like that *ask* for the listener's attention -- you
aren't giving them anything they can habituate to.

Quite honestly, the more you listen to Stolzman, the more you habituate to
the vibration in his sound and can focus on what he actually does with it.
The fact that he vibrates in certainly NOT nuanced at all. **Everyone**
notices he uses vibrato. But they don't notice any nuance beyond that. They
don't notice the changes of speed in his vibrato, or how he gives contrast
between a climactic point and a resolution moment by *not* vibrating. They
don't notice when he vibrates faster to give the feeling of moving forward
and getting louder, or when he vibrates slower to give a feeling of
relaxation and tranquility. They don't notice when he bites off the tone in
a way that makes all your muscles tense only to lay you down on a bed of
feathers by dropping the jaw and tongue to make a smooth, airy, relaxed
sound. Most people don't really notice any of that or even notice that he's
making any contrast. They just notice the weeble wobble in his sound... and
say... UGGH... VIBRATO! But this is what I mean by the vibrato not being the
problem, but the loss of pitch or tonal quality that we clarinetists are so
picky about if and when you go overboard. But that's no different from
anything else. Too much sugar in your coffee and it's just really hot

Any clearer?


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