"Viva Vibrato"

Reviewed by Irene Sharp

Viva Vibrato is a bright, attractive, instructive manual for beginning students learning the secrets of how to produce a vibrato. The volume I looked at was designed for the cello, but there are books for violin, viola, and bass as well.

It is difficult to write about sound and music because they are so intangible. It is also difficult to write about physical motions and sensations because they are so personal. Writing a cookbook is much easier because you get your ingredients together, cook them a certain way and 'voila' you have your food ready to taste.

It would have been helpful if the authors, Gerald Fischbach and Robert Frost, had included a CD or cassette with their book so that the student could hear the different types of vibrato. I feel educating the brain ear is all important, so that the student can hear what they are after. Also, I believe that, if the left hand foundation is secure, the vibrato follows very naturally. Perhaps an explanation is necessary that (in the case of the cello) the fingers of the left hand must cling tenaciously to the string, while the arm is in charge of moving the hand. The arm must feel extremely light in order to be able to move for the vibrato and shifting, and the string must be pulled toward the body by the fingers in order to accomplish the pitches that are needed. The act of attaching the fingers to the string by pulling toward the body rather than pushing frees the thumb so that it is not pushing against the neck of the cello.

In many instances, if the left hand is balanced, the vibrato will happen by itself. A beautiful vibrato is proof that the left hand and arm are working well. Occasionally, some exercises may be necessary to help the vibrato, but basically one must first see that the left hand is clinging to the string and that the arm is light, otherwise the vibrato will not be forthcoming. The student must be aware that the left hand plays the notes and the left arm moves the hand. Therefore the finger only moves in response to the movement of the arm, and not of its own instigation. Though the various exercises in the book are attractively presented (although the language is too gimmicky for me), I think they miss the basic needs of producing a fine vibrato: knowing what sound you want to produce and knowing how to produce it.

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