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Developing your guitar vibrato technique

June 15, 2018

There are three common ways to add vibrato to your playing that most guitarists will use, these include the classical technique of sliding up and down the fret. The more contemporary "pivot method' where your index finger creates a pivot point with the neck of the guitar, you then use your wrist to bend the string repeatedly, often close to a semitone in pitch and then return to the original pitch. The third technique known as full arm vibrato provides a more extreme sound, with a wider variance in pitch and also often a quicker technique, in order to perform this, you fret the note you want to play and then remove the palm of your hand away from contacting to neck, this allows you to use your full arm to provide the momentum to bend the string.


For many years I relied solely on the classical sliding vibrato technique, this was helpful in the beginning stages of playing as it allowed me to play a quick vibrato before I had developed the adequate finger strength to perform the other types of vibrato. Over time though I found that my playing had limited expression as the classical vibrato technique only allowed me to make small changes in pitch.

I decided to work on learning the "pivot method" as this would allow me greater control of the range of pitch I could alternate and over time would allow me more control over the speed of the vibrato. 

To begin with I found practicing very frustrating as I felt like I wasn't progressing quick enough, I began to question whether it would be possible to play this type of vibrato or if I was just genetically incapable. I decided to try and incorporate the technique in all of my playing to try and build up my strength and to not worry too much about the speed of the vibrato to begin with. 

Over time I noticed that my playing had improved a lot, and during my time practicing this technique I came across a few tips that I would recommend to anyone just starting with this technique.


1. Practice changing the pitch by a semitone each time

2. Practice the technique across all playing, rather than just practicing vibrato on its own, try and incorporate it with a song that your learning, this will help to prevent you getting frustrated a the beginning as you develop your finger strength.

3. Between the 9th and 14th fret on the D and G strings are the easiest places to begin practicing pivot vibrato as there is less tension on the strings.


In the future I shall create a video providing a greater description on how to perform each vibrato technique but until then I here are some artists that I recommend watching to help gain a greater understanding. Have fun practicing.


"Pivot Method"

BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Misch, John Mayer


Extreme Vibrato

Zakk Wylde, Angus Young  



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