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Here are some ideas on the development and usage of vibrato:
  • There are basically two different schools of thought on flute vibrato:
  • It makes sense to act based on the idea that both the diaphragm and throat are involved, and many teachers present vibrato in this way.
  • As you develop the ability to introduce vibrato into your sound, it is important to recognize that there is no one speed for vibrato. The context of the musical phrase and the position in the range of the flute will determine what is appropriate.
  • During a single note, the speed of the vibrato will change. Generally, the vibrato will start slowly, then speed up as the note is played. Listen for that in the videos referenced here and in other performances.

Vibrato Exercises

These exercises will help to develop the ability to create a vibrato that you can control, varying the speed and intensity as you feel is appropriate.
  • Without the flute:
    • Set your metronome to 60 beats per minute (bpm).
    • Sing a short syllable "ha", one per beat, continuing for several beats.
    • Feel the "ha" being generated with your whole torso, from your diaphragm all the way up to your throat.
    • Once you have the feeling of being in control of the short "ha", keep the air going so you have an accented "ah" with each beat and a sustained note connecting the accents.
    • Gradually increase the metronome speed until, after a few practice sessions, you can do the pulses at a marking of 120 bpm.
  • After practicing the exercise above, do the following with the flute:
    • Begin on a note in the middle range, perhaps C in the middle of the staff.
    • Set your metronome to 60 beats per minute.
    • Play a short accented note, one per beat. Don't pay as much attention to the quality of your sound as to the evenness of your accent pulses.
    • The aim is to have the same feeling as described above, of generating the pulse with your whole torso.
    • Once you are consistent with this, connect the pulses into a continuous note with an accent on each beat.
    • After doing a series of notes on C, continue chromatically or in a scalewise fashion down to G, then back up to C, then continue up to the next G.
    • As you increase the pulse of the sung "ha", practice the exercise with the flute at the same increasing speed.
  • Next steps:
    • At a metronome marking of 120 bpm, smooth out the vibrato so instead of a single pulse, the sound has more of an even wave shape.
    • Move over the same range of the flute as indicated above, practicing the smooth undulation of the sound.
    • Set the metronome back to 60 bpm and practice creating three pulses per beat (triplets). At this speed, you will probably feel the control of the pulse moving from a strong diaphragm push to an area higher up, more in the windpipe.
    • Continue practicing, gradually moving the metronome marking up as you gain consistency and evenness with your rhythmic pulses.
  • Integrate vibrato into your etudes and music:
    • Find longer notes in your studies where you can introduce vibrato.
    • Work with varying the rhythm and intensity of the vibrato based on the musical situation.
    • Find places where the note length is not necessarily very long, but where you can introduce a bit of vibrato to add richness and intensity to the phrasing.

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©2014 Brad Johnson
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