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A basicly flawed article[edit]

The two biggest causes of misunderstanding are generated by people, including respectable scholars, who write that "vibrato" was "once an ornament." It wasn't. Tremolo (Bebung, etc.) was once an ornament, and, yes, it was used only on long notes, but it was not vibrato. Furthermore, an "ornament" is something that stands out against the texture of the music - a fleeting, expressive enhancement, a trill, a mordent, a turn, (a ring upon the finger, a diamond stud in the tongue, a jewel nestled into the bellybutton) - but not an ongoing, abstract aspect of sound itself. Singers, as we know, probably always had used continuous vibrato in their natural sound, and not a single historical source presents evidence to the contrary. It makes no sense that the violinists who imitated them simply did not notice this fact, recreating only their gruesome goat trills and ornamental shakes! According to Geminiani's own treatises, he (and others) used vibrato on every note possible. Writing from Austria, even that dour and cautious pedagogue Leopold Mozart was forced to admit, reluctantly, that many players to his knowledge did likewise. The adoption of an expressive, "continuous" vibrato was apparently a progressive trend. Equally, we can reject the speculation of Sir Roger Norrington, who tells us that the continuous vibrato was first established in modern times, not even the result of a slow evolution, but a mere fad. Norrington writes, "What was new in the 20th century was the idea of a continuous vibrato, used on every note, however short." Upon reading further, we are most astonished (and heartily amused) to learn that "the great Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler seems to have started the fashion, drawing on the style of cafe musicians and Hungarian and Gypsy fiddlers."(!)

As it turns out, Norrington's statement about Kreisler is lifted (without acknowledgement) straight from Carl Flesch's The Art of Violin Playing, but the part about the Gypsies is just pure baloney. None of it makes any sense. To begin with, it is not possible to achieve vibrato on "every note, no matter how short" (one is truly surprised to learn that a major conductor would be unaware of this simple technical fact.) But that Fritz Kreisler transmitted his "continuous" vibrato to us from Hungarian and Gypsy fiddlers is the very height of unwashed speculation. Kreisler studied with Hellmesberger at the Vienna Conservatory and with Massart at the Paris Conservatory. His technique was clearly formed when he made his début at the age of nine, possibly before he ever entered a Hungarian café and decidedly before his mama would have allowed him to spend much time with the Gypsies. And apart from an inappropriate ethnic fantasy, how could Norrington "know" that Gypsies and Hungarians of the late 19th century used "continuous vibrato" in violin playing? After a hard day polishing their earrings and telling each other's fortunes, did they then also drink too much wine and dance the night away behind their wagons? (See David Montgomery: The Vibrato Thing *[1])—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:00, 4 February 2007

COMMENT regarding the above: "Singers, as we know, probably always had used continuous vibrato in their natural sound, and not a single historical source presents evidence to the contrary." This statement is misleading. An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. We do not know at all what "singers" did, as we have no recordings of "singers". We have some manuscripts that we know instructed some particular singers to sing with vibrato. We know nothing about how other singers sang manuscripts that lacked any such instruction. We could not possibly know whether a majority, much less most or all singers used vibrato, especially when we start talking about all persons who sang. I strongly suspect that the majority did not, based on what we hear today in the wider world, where there is no one correct way to sing. Point being, we don't know and cannot know, so long as only the past is our guide. So, perhaps more unwashed speculation.

There seems to be a settled opinion among some "experts" that vibrato is always present in the natural voice, that it is safe and natural, and that singing in pure tone (vibrato free) is wrong and harmful. Alas, the planet is full of people who sing beautifully without vibrato, and this is no recent fad. There are no scientific studies that show that singing "straight" is harmful (nor the opposite, that vibrato is harmful). My opinion is that forcing vibrato onto a voice that naturally sings straight/pure tone may be harmful over long time spans, and that forcing a person who has a natural vibrato to sing without it would have the same harmful effect. The main point here is that there is no evidence whatsoever that all (or most) singers in the past sang with natural vibrato, and what we see around the world today (outside the classical music tribe) suggests the contrary.

If someone were to do a survey of, lets say 10,000 adults randomly selected around the world, I think you would find the following: If asked to sing, most people would not be able to sing in tune (and most might not give a rip). Of these non-singers, the majority would "sing" out of tune in straight tone, and the minority would "sing" out of tune with a natural vibrato. Taking the minority of humans who could sing, I think you would find that most of those, (these are the folks who can sing in tune within their own range) the majority would sing "straight" (no vibrato) and the rest would have a natural vibrato. In support of this thesis, I would point out that when people talk, they talk in straight tone, and only very rarely with a natural vibrato (excepting some aged persons).

If this is true (and of course I think it is) it says nothing about the value of vibrato either way, but it does suggest that, if "imitating what singers do" (yes I paraphrase) is our reason for violins and flutes to maintain a continuous vibrato, maybe we should think again.

The above expected survey results are still another example of "unwashed speculation", this time on my part, with the caveat that this is something that could at least be verified in principle.

My experience is outside the classical/opera universe, (I am of the folk/traditional music tribe) and what I hear out in the world, across many cultures is the following: singers mostly sing in straight tone, with vibrato used to ornament as an expression of emotion (or not at all). The use of constant vocal vibrato, as is exemplified in opera singing, makes impossible the "blending" of voices. Blending in this case means the partial alignments of wave peaks and troughs where there is a mathematical relationship between two or more pitches. For example, with two singers singing an octave apart, every wave crest sung by the lower singer is perfectly aligned in time with every second wave crest sung by the higher voice (if in tune and vibrato free). Fourths and fifths have similar simple fraction relationships and are especially sweet sounding when sung straight without any vibrato. In my opinion, the continuous vibrato so beloved by opera singers and classically trained instrumentalists needs to be re-examined, not just treated as a best practices "must do".

The points made above about Sir Norrington are good ones, and it may be the case that his historical arguments are incorrect. But, on purely esthetic grounds, he is onto something. When vibrato is removed from the orchestral toolbox for a particular piece, other things can come out or are made possible. Harmonic clarity is enhanced, subtle bowing speed and pressure changes can be heard, and vibrato is then available as an emotional signifier, if used sparingly. This does not mean that we should get rid of vibrato, I know lots of people love it. I regard myself as an extreme advocate for letting the anti-vibrato musicians do their thing within the classical music universe, as they are free to do out in the wide world. Vibrato is not going away, but toning it down a bit, getting it off that "required technique" pedestal would be nice.

I think of a musical note as being like a cake, and things that can be done to the note along the way (vibrato included) as frosting on the cake. In some parts of the classical music universe, there seems to be standardized training that says, cover the cake with tons and tons of only one kind of frosting, and don't worry if no one can find the cake.

I submit for your review this opinion: Continuous vibrato cannot be expressive for the same reason that running any emotional signal on autopilot is not expressive. If you hear a person say "I love you" that can be read as expressing something. If the same person says "I love you" over and over again for three hours straight you will conclude that they have a mental problem.

Vibrato as a subject has to involve opinions and disagreement. This page is doomed to be a mess, and I think that is OK. There is no other way to advance our collective musical civilization.... (talk) 08:52, 12 July 2012 (UTC)

Imprecise Mumbo-Jumbo[edit]

This paragraph is pretty full of imprecise language. "Spinning the sound around the room" would be ok as a description of an effect, but it's stated as fact. I don't know enough about what the original author was talking about to clean this up, but I think it needs re-writing with more of an eye to actual facts, instead of the fuzzy descriptions of appearance that people often resort to.

The effect is intended to add warmth to a note, and in the case of bowed strings, adds a shimmer to the sound, as the sound pattern emitted by a well-made instrument virtually "points" in different directions with slight variations in pitch. This effect interacts with the room acoustics to add interest to the sound, in much the same way as an acoustic guitarist may swing the box around on a final sustain, or the rotating baffle of a Leslie speaker will spin the sound around the room.

-- 01:13, 22 September 2006 (UTC)

Follow the link to the Leslie speaker, which literally "spins the sound around the room" like a kid swinging a flashlight beam in circles. This text is meant as a description of that fact, as well as the documented fact that "the sound pattern emitted by a well-made instrument virtually "points" in different directions with slight variations in pitch." Any sonar designer knows how an acoustic projector array can point sound in a focused beam. There's that flashlight analogy coming in handy again. Any one who has spent some time listening to actual string instruments may be able to hear this for themselves. Recorded sound through speakers or earphones does not show this; you need to hear it live. See here and here. __Just plain Bill 22:31, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

Voice Vibrato[edit]

Why is there nothing regarding voice vibrato and its techniques? What a disappointment... 08:31, 2 May 2006 (UTC)

If you ever come back and see this, kindly consider jumping in and adding verifiable pieces about what you do know. It's a tasty soup simmering here, started with nothing but some water and a stone. __ Just plain Bill 14:24, 6 May 2006 (UTC)

As a musician with more than a passing interest in vocal vibrato (definition, physiology, history, etc) I agree that much more needs to be said. If the argument is true that all instrumental vibrato has followed from attempts to mimic vocal vibrato, then any musician should be interested to know as much as possible about that which created the need for so many different techniques in instumental music. Unfortunately, this is a topic that seems more subjective than not. For instance, I haven't seen much scientific evidence relating to non-Western usage of vocal vibrato, or scientific studies which attempt to verify to precisely what extent vocal vibrato is naturally occuring. (I found a thesis which measured variables in vibrato, but only among a few classically trained women.) Does any other culture apply it similarly and to the extent that Western classical music does? Evidence of this would seem fundamental to the argument that our notion and current trend of vocal vibrato in Western classical music is "natural". I want facts seperated from opinion...which seems very difficult on this subject. We know that some form of vibrato is naturally occurring due to the mechanisms involved in our voices...but to what extent does this shape what we hear and accept today as a "normal" amount of vibrato? We know that vibrato was used to some extent for at least the past few hundred years, but didn't become widely accepted as a norm until the last 80 years or so. What caused this trend? I've heard that as venues became larger and larger, more vibrato was needed to sustain the decibel levels required of the voice, but to what extent is this true? How much louder and safer is a voice with vibrato compared to one without? This would be hard to test given so many different variables, but wouldn't it be great if we could? I often wonder how much of our sense of vibrato is simply a learned, mimicked behavior, passed on from generation to generation through constant conditioning. I believe it's possible that if one is raised from birth exposed to vocal vibrato, one will sing with vocal vibrato. But if one is not exposed to vibrato, will it still naturally occur, and to what extent? I find questions like this fascinating. So much music uses vibrato as a fundementally basic tool for expression...and yet we know relatively little about its genesis via the human voice.


Someone removed:

It is sometimes known as tremolo, but that word is less frequently used because it can also mean a rapid repetition of one note, or between several different notes.

I've put it back - "tremolo" is used very frequently in non-classical contexts to refer to vibrato (think "tremolo guitar effect", "tremolo organ") and it's important to mention this, I think. --Camembert

Actually, since writing that last night, I've realised that in fact when "tremolo" is used in this way, it often isn't referring to a rapid change in pitch, but rather a rapid change in intensity, which isn't vibrato at all. Still, I'm convinced the word "tremolo" is used to mean "vibrato" sometimes - when I look in an oldish (1946) music dictionary I have, I see it says that it was once used as a synonym for vibrato. So maybe the sentence needs rewriting, but it does need to be in. --Camembert
The tremolo bar on an electric guitar does to pitch variation, so it should really be a vibrato bar. The use of the tremolo bar, is often called tremolo. -- User:GWO

After 5 minutes of Google research, I'm convinced that the terms tremolo and vibrato are often used interchangeably. As a player of the electric bass guitar, I must report that a knob marked "vibrato" on an amplifier is almost certainly going to change the VOLUME of the output, rather than its pitch.

Much as I would love to be able to have a decisive definition -- such as pitch (or frequency) modulation is vibrato and amplitude modulation is tremolo -- I fear we must bow to general usage. I suggest therefore that we emphasize the two kinds of modulations, and duck out of any controversy over what FM or AM should be called.

We cannot create a standard where none exists. Let's just describe the two concepts, and repont the terms that people use when referring to those concepts. Anyone who comes across confusion when actually using these concepts when describing a performance can always fall back on a quick definition, like, "it keeps the pitch the same but alternates the volume rapidly" when asked what a certain knob does. Or, "I want you to bend the note up and down in pitch a little bit, as fast as you can."

My 2 cents. --Ed Poor 12:40 Sep 27, 2002 (UTC)

Also, I just noticed that both vibrato and tremolo refer to pitch modulation. Where is the Wikipedia article describing the effect which "keeps the pitch the same but alternates the volume rapidly"? --Ed Poor 12:46 Sep 27, 2002 (UTC)

That is probably due to "volume-altering" being a recent concept -- I don't think any "classical" instruments can do it. Hmm.. *thinks*. Pipe organs should be able to. what do organists call it? -- Tarquin
My big dictionary of music says the ussie is very confused. it says the terms V and T are used in reverse meaning in conection with the voice & strigned instruments . the plot thickens :( -- Tarquin
I agree about the ussie being confused! ;-) I'd hate to have to give up spell-checking, NPOV refereeing and copy-editing to *shudder* actually contribute to an article!! But it looks like I may have to write this one myself... --Ed Poor

Well my formal music training is classical (though my vocation is modern electronic music), and I've never heard vibrato refer to anything other than a rapid variation in pitch. Tremolo on the other hand, seems to be a bit of a catch-all word, sometimes meaning vibrato (especially in a derogatary way when talking about a singer doing it too much), sometimes rapidly repeating one note (especially on a mandolin or piano, with string instruments often having the word tremolando used instead), and sometimes rapidly changing volume (as in certain organs and groovy psychadelic guitar effects).

I don't know, but my feeling is that the vibrato article isn't too bad as it stands (of course I would say that as I wrote it), but if people know of other common uses of the word, of course they should be included. I have to say though, that in a classical context at least, vibrato is completely unambiguous, or else composers like Bartok wouldn't be able to write instructions like senza vibrato in their scores.

Tremolo is more troublesome than vibrato, I admit, but to my eyes, the article over there right now is about it being a fluctuation in intensity, not a fluctuation in pitch, which seems basically right. I know it says that tremolo sometimes happens between two or more notes, but that's really secondary to the fact that these notes are switching on and off very rapidly, if you see what I mean - I guess this needs to be made clearer. It also needs expanding to include fluctuations smaller than stopping and starting.

Enough of this, I'm supposed to be having a break from the wikipedia... :) --Camembert


Could some of you well informed folks take a look at the wah-wah article? Ortolan88


I happened to hear on Radio 3 this morning that vibrato didn't become common in orchestral performance till the 1930s: it was used for expression occasionally in solos largely. Schoenberg apparently described it as the "unpleasant sound of a billy goat". Anyne have any more on this? -- Tarquin 08:56 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)

Funny you should mention that - in today's Grauniad there's a piece by the conductor Roger Norrington on this very thing. He goes into some detail - for instance, he says that the Berlin Philharmonic didn't record with "serious vibrato" until 1935, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra not until 1940. I'll see if I can stick some of this in the article later today (if nobody else gets there before me), and try to put it into a wider context. Interesting subject. --Camembert
Cool! I just jotted down the above as I heard it; they said the same dates. -- Tarquin
Made a quick start on expanding this, but I've not got time to go into specifics right now - I'll try to get this done tomorrow (Sunday). --Camembert

Whack statement on jazz[edit]

Wack statement on jazz: Where does this come from?

In jazz it tends to be used selectively , with many jazz musicians not using vibrato except where they want to create a specific effect.

What is this about? Who are they talking about? I can't think of any jazz sax player who doesn't play with vibrato. The closest were Bud Freeman and Chu Berry, but they were in the 1920s and 1930s. I'm pretty sure the same goes for trumpet and trombone in jazz. No musicologist, but I don't buy it. Ortolan88

I concur. I thought it was a staple of the jazz style. -- Goatasaur
[deleting my previous rambling, which wasn't particularly interesting]

I've changed that bit to something that seems closer to the truth. It's not something I've thought about too much though, and I daresay others know much more than me, so if it needs tweaking (or, indeed, a complete rewrite), feel free to change it. --Camembert

Much improved, Camembert. I added a note that Miles used a mute a lot, which to my untutored, but not inexperienced, ear adds a buzz that might well be replacing normal vibrato. (One of the articles on brass, maybe, could have something on the mute. Discussed a little under wah-wah, but that's only one kind.)
Coleman Hawkins once worked on a "jazz for kids" tutorial album. The producer asked him to play a passage with and without vibrato to demonstrate the difference. Hawkins, certainly otherwise a master of his instrument, simply could not play without vibrato.
Personal note, other people know so much more than I do, not having studied music or played any instrument seriously, so I am loath to change these technical articles, which is why I came in on the talk page. Sorry about that "wack", but it really did throw me for a loop. Ortolan88
Thanks, Ortolan, and apologies for my earlier rambling - I wrote it this morning when I was feeling a bit irritable. I promise not to look at talk pages again before I've had my morning coffee :)
Hawkins not being able to play without vibrato is interesting - a lot of classical musicians (at least string players) and (especially) singers, are the same. I'll see if I can add something about that. As for Miles' mute - it won't have added vibrato (inasmuch as it won't have made the pitch of the note rapidly rise and fall), but, as you say, it did change the sound, and meant that it wasn't that completely "bare" trumpet sound. Whether it acts as a sort of surrogate vibrato, I don't know. That's probably one for the musical psychologists.
The place to write about mutes, incidentally, might be in a dedicated mute article. There we can cover all the brass mutes (which come in several forms, and have several different sounds), woodwind mutes (which tend to take the form of a hankerchief stuffed up the end of the instrument) and string mutes (which come in various forms, including clothes pegs, but which all have the same effect). I'll see if I can get some notes together on that. --Camembert
Ortolan, same here. I always feel like I'm talking out of my hat when I discuss music because I've had little formal education with it. :) -- Goatasaur

spelling correction and a bigger issue[edit]

spelling: bottom of page one symphony has an extra "o" between m and p

The bigger issue concerns the citation by Martin Agricola Musica instrumentalis deudch which is dated 1529? How could he have made generalizations about music up to the baroque in 1529, with 70 years still to go before the official "Baroque". If this is indeed the correct date isn't it stretching things a bit far to assume that a comment made in 1529 would still be applicable to music of the 19th century?


Distinction between vocal and instrumental vibrato[edit]

I came to this article looking for technical information on vocal vibrato. While it is mentioned, instrumental vibrato is by far the main focus here. This was also highlighted by the seeming non-sequitur sentence at the end of the article which states "Whitney Houston is one of the best contemporary employers of vibrato." The paragraph it is tacked onto had been talking about instrumental vibrato and unless Whitney plays an instrument I am not aware of it doesn't really seem to fit. (At the very least, that closing sentence is an opinion and not a fact and should be moved or removed). So, I'd like to propose either a separate article on vocal vibrato, or a separate section within this article to focus on singers that employ the technique as part of their style, dangers of overuse, etc.

---ThaughtPolice 17:05, 1 August 2005 (UTC)

Same here; but I came looking for BASIC information on vocal vibrato--in particular, an answer to my question, "Is vocal vibrato natural or trained or some combination?" If anyone else cares, see, which I obtained via the "Ask" search engine on the question, "How can you sing with vibrato?" I'm not a Wikipedia pro, and I hope this "Talk" entry is appropriate. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:17, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

Contradictory info in violin article about intonation, and pitch perception[edit]

The section on vibrato in the [article] contradicts the assertion in this article that "a helpful side effect is that it can help to disguise bad tuning." The violin article states:

It is often thought that vibrato can partially disguise an out of tune note, the intuitive idea being that the ear should not be able track pitch as accurately when it is moving up and down. However, recent experimental work finds no such effect: the human ear detects the upper pitch of the vibrato, then the lower one (not the mean frequency). So nobody can cover bad intonation with vibrato.

Anyone more knowledgeable than I care to comment? This article ought to be the source for complete and accurate information on the subject, of course. -- Kbh3rd 19:50, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

I have more cred as a logician than as a classical musician (although I do play fretless acoustic bass guitar from time to time, in fact that's my instrument in the photo). So here I'll speak as logician: The quote above from the violin article fails to support its conclusion logically, and appears to be rhetoric presenting a POV. The question is how we perceive the pitch of a vibrato note, that is considering it as a single note, not as two notes as the quote seems to suggest. It's not said whether or not the experimental work quoted even attempted to determine what the perception of the pitch of this single note was, so its failure to find the effect of being unable to track pitch accurately shows nothing. In addition, the final sentence nobody can say is phrased as you would expect one side of a debate to be phrased. It is out of place in an encyclopedia article. Andrewa 18:40, 26 February 2006 (UTC)
Since last October the Violin article has been overhauled and reorganized a bit. The relevant verbiage in its vibrato section now says "Vibrato does little, if anything, to disguise an out-of-tune note: in other words, vibrato is a poor substitute for good intonation." Mere unsupported statement, perhaps, but it would be tough to claim otherwise with a straight face. Just plain Bill 23:47, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

It's not neccesarily used to disguise bad pitch, it's rather used to move the finger inconspicously when needed. (sorry about all the spelling errors) --kralahome 20:35, 4 December 2005 (UTC)

OK, it can be part of fixing a badly placed finger... but poor intonation with vibrato is still poor intonation, "a pig with lipstick," so to say. :-) Just plain Bill 16:12, 8 January 2006 (UTC)
There's more about this on the violin article talk page, also LDHan 15:39, 24 January 2006 (UTC)


I think this article was initially written by someone who dislikes vibrato and wants it excluded from all music. I know there are such sans vibrato fans. Whatever. But now with all other edits it's a mess. Someone should rewrite this whole thing from a natural point of view. —Preceding unsigned comment added by ??? (talkcontribs)

It is a bit heavy on two points: 1) that vibrato is sometimes used to mask poor intonation, and 2) that there was much contention over the use of vibrato before the 19th century. Regarding this second point, that argument is pretty much over, except where "period" performances are concerned, so I agree that some toning down of the overly-pendantic and equivocal tone would be good. ==ILike2BeAnonymous 17:46, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

More vibrato politics[edit]

I removed this paragraph:

A precursor to vibrato was the trillo (not to be confused with a trill), used in vocal music in the early 17th century, where a singer would rapidly repeat the same note on one syllable. The effect was much more strident than that of vibrato, and is compared by some to the bleating of a sheep.

The unattributed "bleating of a sheep" comment smells of POV, but more importantly the notion of a "precursor to vibrato" makes no sense to me. Vibrato has been around for as long as the human voice. Is this just a leftover from the original biased article, or is there something worth preserving here?

On a related note, two of the three links at the end of the article are to virulently anti-vibrato web pages. I suppose it's worth covering the controversy over the use of vibrato (about which I know next to nothing), but these pages are so nasty and condescending that I'm inclined to just delete the links.

-- BenRG 01:25, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

It says trillo should not be confused with trill, yet article on trill kind of says it's the same thing. I don't think anything is worth preserving there, but mentioning trill isn't a bad idea, as vibrato is kind of a smooth trill in my opinion. Those links.. remove them or add links in favor of vibrato (actually that sounds a bit stupid, vibrato is simply a nice effect, who cares what some old violin teachers think)

Sound Files on Vibrato - Tremolo - Beating - Bebung[edit]

I produced some sound files to show the differences vibrato - tremolo - beating ("Schwebung") - bebung for the German Wikipedia, because there is much confusion on these terms and IMHO mechanically produced sound files are very helpfull to show the differences. I posted them here too, but ILike2BeAnonymous deleted them, saying "Remove sound files; mechanically produced vibrato isn't what's wanted here". Is it true that You all dont want them? I think if anyone has better files showing the differences and produced by musicians, my files could be replaced, but why deleting them now?. I'll revert the deletion once, but dont want to produce any rediculous edit war. Reinhard -- 19:51, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

I have restored them. In reply to the edit history comment "I really don't think these mechanically-produced vibrato examples are appropriate. (Real ones might be OK.)": I do like them. I don't think personal aesthetics are a good criterion for inclusion. Also, they are real examples of vibrato, just not ones that were produced with traditional musical instruments. Are you suggesting that only vibrato created by a traditional musical instrument can be on this page? You can remove them after you have replaced them with something better. Nohat 01:23, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

First of all, I've never bought that logic used frequently around here: "I put some crap in this article, so you need to replace it with something better instead of instead of just taking it out". Sorry, but no. Those examples are not real vibrato, in that they're not produced by a human being, which is the commonly-understood subject of this article. If there were absolutely no other sound samples of vibrato available, they might be suitable, but since they're not, they shouldn't be in here. +ILike2BeAnonymous 03:11, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
There should be two reasons to make sound files here. The first is to show different historical and/or nowadays vibrato practices. It would be very interesting to hear e.g. a finger vibrato and a bow vibrato produced by a historic string instrument. The vibrato in baroque music as used as an ornament was very variable concerning to the effect produced. It was used as "feminine" "sweet" "soft" effect up to effects of extreme states of excitement. There was not "the one" but many kinds of vibrato. In this context, sounds files could help to understand the "language" of historic music.
On the other hand, if you want to understand historic sources and find a common terminology to communicate on vibrato things, you need examples in a reductionistic way. In most cases musical vibrato is a combination. Singers vibrato is primary pitch, but also amplitude and timbre modulation. The same is even with finger vibrato on strings, where formant matching adds a amplitude and timbre modulation too. So these "musical" vibratos, since being combinations, will not help to find the differences among the terms. IMHO mechanically produced sound files are not "some crap" but the only way to clearly show the different components of Vibrato. Reinhard -- 09:34, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
The assertion that they are not "real vibrato" and that they are not "produced by a human being" are bogus. They most certainly were produced by a human being, and they most certainly are "real vibrato". An anti-technology traditionalist bias is not a valid argument. Further, as Reinhard explains, unlike recordings from a traditional musical instrument (or singer), the vibrato in these sound files is not polluted with other distortions that might be confused with vibrato by a naive listener. Nohat 17:31, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
I challenge that last assertion about how the sound of these samples isn't "polluted". Keep in mind that almost all the vibrato that an actual listener is likely to hear is that produced by humans on traditional instruments, not machines, and therefore it will be so "polluted", instead of the supposedly "idealized" samples here—so to me, that's another compelling argument why any samples of vibrato should be of the "real thing" (i.e., human-produced with traditional instruments or voice). Nothing particular against the machine-produced samples; they're interesting, but, I think, not as suitable. It's kind of like trying to illustrate an oil painting technique with a digitally-produced picture. +ILike2BeAnonymous 23:52, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

Reorg, merge, and that sort of thing[edit]

I've reorganised the article under a number of headings. It probably doesn't flow as well as it used to, but now it's hopefully easier to locate the information you're after. Feel free to rewrite it, preferably around the new major headings that I introduced. I'm hoping that sections of the Finger vibrato article can be incorporated here under the Techniques section.

-- TimNelson (talk) 03:33, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Vibrato wars[edit]

If the article was at one time anti-vib, it had certainly swung to the other extreme, with all Norrington statements being "allegedly" and pro-vib opinions presented as fact. Have tidied these up, and made the controversy explicit by adding the "Vibrato wars" heading. Norrington's claims certainly benefit from challenge, but the challenges themselves are still badly sourced. --Straw Cat (talk) 14:27, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

Vibrato depth, room acoustics[edit]

The current content in the "Other information" section is rather weak. Could do with some references to back up the claims, and reorganising into relevant sections. Maybe a new section discussing the depth of vibrato used in different contexts would be useful - e.g. styles or players that use minimal or no vibrato, and "typical" amounts of vibrato used by singers (classical and otherwise), instrumental players. The figure of "no more than a semitone" is currently quoted, but I think vibrato quite often exceeds this for classical singing for example. A few guideline figures on this would be useful.

Also, the comments about the sound radiation patterns from a "well-made instrument" are suspect. Radiation patterns from all instruments become increasingly directional at higher frequencies, but there's no evidence I know of to say that this is more true for "well made" instruments. Lower frequency components of a note will be much less directional. Having said that, the interaction of directional effects as vibrato is used are worth commenting on - but probably better in more general terms, e.g. something along the lines of "significant changes in the predominant direction in which an instrument radiates sound can occur for different frequencies, so as the player alters the pitch during vibrato, additional perceptual effects related to the sound radiated and reflected in a room may contribute to the sound quality achieved for vibrato" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:14, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

In the case of bowed strings, yes, the effect is indeed more pronounced in a well-made instrument, with light, well-graduated plates made from carefully chosen wood. A ruggedly built tank-like violin doesn't have the flexibility to vibrate evenly in the various modes required, and the sound will show it. Here is where Martin Schleske says:

A change in the shape of the excitation pattern causes significantly larger neuronal excitation differences in the brain’s hearing process than a plain periodic frequency shift of a largely homogeneous excitation pattern.
What does this mean in terms of the acoustic properties of the violin’s resonance profile? The greater the resonance density of the instrument (number of resonances per frequency band) and the lower the resonance damping, the greater the extent to which even tiny variations by the player (such as vibrato and bowing changes) will produce a change in the neuronal excitation and thus an increase in the perceptibility of the note.

In that quote the "excitation pattern" refers to the physical shape of the vibration pattern on the basilar membrane of the ear.
Some time ago, the Schleske site had polar plots of the directional nature of a violin's radiation pattern at different frequencies. It was not just "becoming increasingly directional" (or narrowing of the main lobe) but pointing in different directions, or exhibiting different configurations of "side lobes" in the absence of a well defined main lobe. Put another way, it is not a matter of focusing a searchlight beam, but altering the configuration of mirrors on the mirrored ball. OK, that metaphor may be a stretch, but still it comes pretty close to what I'm trying to say here. __Just plain Bill (talk) 03:24, 23 May 2009 (UTC)

The addition of the Weinreich reference for the directionality discussion definitely helps the vibrato article. However, the "well-made instrument" comment is not supported by this reference, which talks about stringed instruments in general. To me, the "well-made instrument" comment is subjective, and not a neutral point of view. My preference would be to either remove this phrase and talk about the directionality of stringed instruments in general, or to add further references to support the "well-made" comment. I'm pretty familiar with the research papers in this area, and I'm not aware of any consensus view that suggests well-made instruments are more directional than standard instruments.

A comment on how the directionality becomes (much) stronger at higher frequencies might also be useful, as this should be easy to support with references. And yes - this doesn't simply mean sound radiation in the same direction that's more strongly "focussed" (narrower lobes), but I meant in general terms that the variation of sound radiation with angle becomes much greater and more complex at higher frequencies. This will be true for most instruments. unsigned, byt Howard Wright 20:09, 21 September 2009

As the original text referred to bowed strings (whose vibrato is much more pronounced than that of fretted instruments) the "well-made" does apply. In the world of violin family instruments, the difference between a well-made instrument and a stoutly built factory fiddle, commonly called a "violin-shaped object" or a "wall-hanger" is stark and unmistakable. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 14:02, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

Lousy, not up to standard.[edit]

Nothing substantial about vocal vibrato, which in "Classical" music is the real problem. Opera fans are stupid freaks on it, and to me, it disfigures most opera into once in a while unlistenability. Also, about instrumental vibrato, I have heard all my life that Joachim's Quartet was the first ensemble to play with constant vibrato. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Beenhere (talkcontribs) 18:54, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Illustration doesn't illustrate[edit]

The illustration at the begining of the article which alleges to show the difference between "tremolo" and "vibrato" does no such thing. What is does seem to show is the difference between a discontinuous DC source and a continuous AC source -- interesting, but nothing to do with this article. Tremolo (one definition, anyway) is a periodic variation in /amplitude/; vibrato is a periodic variation in frequency. The diagram shows neither of these. Assuming frequencies in the range of hearing the top wave would be heard as a series of clicks, and the bottom wave would be heard as a continuous tone, without any variation of pitch. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 22:09, 5 June 2010 (UTC).

I agree it may not be the clearest of illustrations, but look again. The way I read that display, the horizontal axis is time, vertical axis is frequency, and the Z-axis (brightness) is amplitude. The upper interrupted line shows an amplitude-varying signal at a steady frequency, and the lower trace shows a frequency-varying signal at steady amplitude, more or less. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 22:34, 5 June 2010 (UTC)

Unfounded claim about early/primitive recordings[edit]

In the article, it is claimed: "Defenders of vibrato object that the sonic limitations of older recordings, particularly with respect to overtones and high frequency information, make an uncontroversial assessment of earlier playing techniques very difficult."

Unfortunately, it is not made clear that this claim is unfounded, if not misleading. The phenomena of vibrato and tremolo both have NOTHING to do with "overtones and high frequency information", but with rhythmic volume and/or frequency changes of the tone as such, so they logically cannot become imperceptible just because part of the upper frequency range is lacking. A band-pass filter (cutting out both very low and very high frequencies, as usually happens on early cylinder or 78rpm recordings) is simply not capable of turning a tone played/sung with vibrato into a straight tone! On the contrary, most early (pre-1930) recordings were done, for technical reasons, in very small studio rooms with little reverberation and thus give a "close-miked" effect to voices and solo instruments; this technique over-emphasizes rather than diminishes any vibrato employed by the performer - one reason why certain singers like Caruso or Melba who sang with very little vibrato recorded more successfully than others at the time. The only thing that might happen with a poor recording is that an artificial vibrato-like sound is introduced by mechanical wow and flutter (periodic variations of disc or tape speed during recording), but if you hear steady tones with no or very little vibrato you can always be confident they were played/sung that way, no matter how distorted or constricted the recording may be.

The nonsense about "primitive early recordings reproducing notes sung/played with vibrato as straight vibrato-less tones" has already spread to various critics and reviewers(usually to ridicule those modern "classical" singers who eschew the commonplace wide vibrato unheard-of before the 1950s, following the style heard on early 20th-century recordings), so I feel a rebuttal is necessary in the main Wikipedia article on the subject. ChrisZ78 (talk) 18:26, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Folk Music Singers Never Use Vibrato???[edit]

Pardon?! Has the author ever listened to just a single line sung at full voice by Joan Baez or Ewan McColl? (I'm not providing links to these names, for anyone who needs to look them up should not make statements about "folk music" at all except to express their ignorance of the subject). —Preceding unsigned comment added by ChrisZ78 (talkcontribs) 18:03, 10 July 2010 (UTC)

Yes, there are exceptions and JB is a famous one; there is footage of her doing her operatic style and laughing about it with Dylan in, I think, Don't Look Back. The majority of folk singers seem to prefer using grace notes or, in Carthy's case, a kind of slur towards the tone.Straw Cat (talk) 11:32, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

Too Judgemental[edit]

This article exhibits many subjective and harsh comments that do not inform, but merely instruct. When reading parts of this article, it seems that the writer(s) are pushing their own agendas and could care less about citing sources, but are far more fixated on interpreting them in the guise of some sort of belligerent naysayer toward historically-informed performance and anything else thereunto appertaining. Historically-informed performance, scholarship, and so forth do not exist for the purpose of finding out how musicians from the past performed to the tee; however, some who have contributed to this article seem to enjoy knocking over this proverbial “straw man” by making such ridiculous comments that are not factual, but merely opinion—something that extends beyond the boundaries of acceptability in an encyclopedia-like forum such as Wikipedia. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Orgelspielerkmd (talkcontribs) 05:31, 29 January 2011 (UTC)

Leslie Speaker Discussion Wierdness[edit]

I'm pretty sure that the leslie speaker works on a principle of directivity modulation, rather than through amplitude modulation. The change in SPL caused by the horn rotating is likely to be in the order of fractions of a dB for any listener more than 15 feet away from the speaker, except for the fact that much of the High Frequency generated is reflected by the horn, and sent in a different direction to the listener. When the horn faces the listener the HF will be much stronger, as HF is absorbed when it reflects more than LF is. This would indeed result in a level difference as the reflected sound would be lower in level than the direct path sound, but this is not due primarily to distance from the source. The spectral difference would be very noticeable, kind of like a wahwah pedal. I would be surprised if the LF (<100Hz) was affected very much at all by either effect. Therefore the leslie speaker probably results in primarily neither a pitch vibrato, nor an intensity vibrato, but a spectral vibrato which is not really mentioned by the article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:54, 17 March 2011 (UTC)

I too find the Leslie discussion weird. It's true that the Doppler effect, combined with oscillation in distance, would create vibrato, but the Doppler variation is going to be extremely small since the Leslie speaker only moves by a few tens of centimetres relative to the mic or the listener. Definitely needs citations to justify that section, otherwise it is unfounded speculation and should be removed entirely.--mcld (talk) 19:52, 8 April 2013 (UTC)

Norrington Prom 2008[edit]

Yes, Norrington conducted Elgar non-vibrato at the 2008 Proms, but not the Enigma Variations. It was the First Symphony, in Prom 7. Greeted with some warmth, as it happens. An important experiment. Pity the article couldn't be bothered to get it right.Delahays (talk) 19:35, 26 August 2012 (UTC)


The historical parts of this article are rather heavily partisan against period performance practice. Evidence against the use of constant vibrato in the standard modern practice are continually presented and then dismissed with weasel words. Section "Vibrato's use in various musical genres" could probably use a POV tag. --♦♦♦Vlmastra♦♦♦ (talk) 17:03, 30 September 2012 (UTC)

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