Posted: March 31, 2010 by Paul H in Tips & Tricks
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Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 3.40.08 PMI was just reading the Guitar World forum and I noticed a guy was asking about how to improve his vibrato. I have an answer.

Unless you’re one of those, one in a thousand guys, who naturally vibratos well without thinking about it, developing this technique will take a conscious effort. 

This exercise has worked great for me and a lot of my students, I did this every day for at least a year and it works! The end goal is to make whatever note you land on, sound great with your own signature.

Set your metronome at a tempo, say, 110 bpm. Then vibrato quarter notes on every string with every finger. Each string and finger combination, 4 bars. For example, vibrato 4 bars with your index finger on the 5th fret on the high E, then on the 6th fret with your second finger on the high E, then 7th fret with your third finger, then 8th fret with your pinky. Then move to the B string and repeat, then the G string, etc. Move this around to different positions on the neck so you don’t wear out all your frets at the 5th position.

This 110 bpm tempo is extremely slow. If you can control your vibrato easily at this tempo try 8th notes, or speed up the metronome. The goal is to control your vibrato evenly, nothing worse than a nanny goat vibrato or a vibrato that indicates fear like uncontrollable shaking.

Couple other points. You will need to mute the strings adjacent to the one you are vibrating so you don’t create a lot of extra noise. Most guys mute with their left hand index finger if they are vibratoing with their 2nd, 3rd or 4th fingers. Also, use more then one finger to support the vibrating finger when possible. Another point, most guitarists vibrato by pulling downward and pivoting, using the index finger knuckle as a fulcrum point on the neck. Pulling downward works on all the strings except for the high E, on that one you have to vibrato upward or you’ll pull the string off the neck.

This fulcrum point pivot vibrato is the one BB King and the other blues masters pioneered. Some guitarists use different styles, Eric Clapton for example, when he vibratos with his index finger, the only part of his hand touching the neck is his finger tip on the string. Michael Schenker and Billy Gibbons use variations on this technique too. These guys are among the best, watch their hands on youtube. 

As soon as your vibrato gets even and you mute the extra, unwated string noise then all of the sudden other guitarists will want to know what pickups you use, what secret distortion pedal you have etc. Vibrato and clean playing will reveal your true tone.

Here’s a video of this exercise.

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  1. JimDouglas says:

    Thanks Paul! When did vibrato become a natural thing for you; in other words, was it gradual or did you plug in one day and you just felt confident with it? Also, what would you say is the “typical” BPM for a nice wide vibrato?

    B-t-w, I can already tell this exercise is going to be just what the Doctor ordered!

    • Hanson says:

      Yes, I woke up one day and my vibrato was really the way I wanted it to be. But, it was after hundreds of days waking up and practicing it with the exercise I described. I also jammed along with my drum machine or jam tracks focusing on vibrato in perfectly even slow rhythmic groupings. Practice it slow, 8th notes around 110-120 BPM is okay if you feel like you have control, if not go slower.

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