by Tom HessYou are probably already aware that vibrato is a super important technique to learn, but only a small portion of guitar players truly understand how to master it.In contrast, there are countless players who have accepted having poor vibrato as their reality, and many others who just think it will get better on its own (which it generally doesn’t). Fact is, if your vibrato isn’t high quality, your playing won’t sound good.
Before you can make your vibrato sound totally pro, you’ll have to focus on breaking it down to its essential parts and developing each part on its own. Then you have to put it all together. Watch the video below to see how the process of developing great vibrato works:
The following are five key pieces of advice that will put you on the right path towards mastering vibrato and making your guitar playing sound amazing:
1. Understand Precisely What You Are Searching For
Whenever you practice vibrato, you must be aware of what sound you are trying to create (and what sound you DON’T want to create).
Great vibrato and terrible vibrato are like night and day (watch the video above to see the difference). For instance, great vibrato technique is always:
- 100% controlled
- In tune
- Appropriate for the context it is being used in
(Terrible vibrato is not at all like these things)
However, this isn’t to say that your vibrato needs to sound exactly the same every time you use it. Your vibrato may be entirely different depending on your own personal style and the musical situation in which you are using it.
For example, it may make sense to use a narrow vibrato like so: listen now.
Or perhaps, if you want to express intensity in your music, you could use a wide vibrato like this: listen now.
Both of these examples used vibrato that is played with excellent control (and both are in perfect tune). However, they could sound great or terrible depending on the musical situation in which they are being used. Additionally, these are just a couple examples of great vibrato (there are many more).
Here is what vibrato that is not controlled, and out of tune sounds like: listen now. This will never sound good in any musical situation.
Work on discovering which vibrato style achieves the particular emotion you want to express and try to create this whenever you practice. To get help with this, download this free eBook about adding emotion and intensity to your guitar licks.
2. Make Sure The Physical Catches Up To The Mental
Physically playing vibrato is not really that hard. You just have to use your thumb as an anchor around the neck around the neck and rotate your forearm/wrist to produce vibrato. On the other hand, it’s much harder to train your hands to create the exact sound you hear in your head.
Whenever your vibrato doesn’t sound very good, don’t just accept it. Instead, be proactive by asking yourself: “What is missing here?” Is the vibrato too narrow? Is it too wide? Is it out of tune?” Asking these kinds of things will help you train your hands to achieve the sound you really want to achieve.
To improve your ear for hearing great sounding vibrato, do the following:
1. Focus on how your favorite guitar players use vibrato and try what they do as you practice.
2. Try to translate the vibrato used by your favorite singers onto your guitar (to understand this better, read this article on how to play better sounding guitar solos).
3. Work on switching between amazing vibrato and bad vibrato by intentionally playing it very narrow, very wide, too fast, out of tune, etc. By doing this, you will be able to easily identify whenever you or anyone else is playing poor vibrato.
3. Develop Solid Vibrato For Bent And Unbent Notes
As soon as you can play great vibrato on unbent notes, use the same approach to make bent notes sound totally amazing.
Complete each of these steps:
Step 1. Select a note that you want to bend and identify the pitch you want to bend to. For instance: start on the pitch for fret 2 of the G string, and bend up to the pitch of fret 4.
Step 2. Pick the first note and apply the bend.
Step 3. Once you’ve matched the desired pitch you are bending to, let it ring out for a second.
Step 4. Pick the string one more time and apply vibrato to it.
Step 5. Go through the previous steps several times.
Step 6. Switch to a new part of the fretboard that isn’t close to the area where you just played (such as playing above the 20th fret, or on the lower strings around the lower frets) and repeat this whole process again. Do this for several minutes.
To listen to what this sounds like, watch this video at approximately 2:55:
4. Learn How To Use “Delayed Vibrato”
Rather than immediately using vibrato once a note is played, allow the note ring out for a moment or so... THEN apply vibrato to it. This will help make your phrasing sound better in the following two ways:
1. Delayed vibrato brings more attention to the vibrato itself, and makes your playing sound more intense.
2. Using this kind of approach with vibrato will prevent you from rushing and using the technique in an out of control manner.
Check out how delayed vibrato is used at 3:18 in the video above.
That said, there definitely are times when employing vibrato right after a note is played sounds cool. However, it is ten times easier to do this in a consistent, controlled manner when you know how to use delayed vibrato.
5. Work On Vibrato Integration Through Variations
Training vibrato away from all other areas of your playing is not going to help you become a better player as fast. You must learn to use vibrato in all contexts, with any technique it can be applied to. Think of a short guitar lick and work on creating tons of phrasing variations on it (by changing up how the notes are played). This will help you to seamlessly integrate vibrato into your guitar playing.
To learn of how to do this (and to get help with developing great vibrato), download this free eBook about playing emotional guitar solo licks.
About The Author:
Tom Hess is a successful professional guitar player, composer and international guitar teacher. He also helps musicians learn guitar online and reach their guitar playing goals. Visit his rock and metal guitar lessons site to read more articles about guitar playing, plus get free guitar tips and guitar playing resources.