Flute vibrato technique

6

what makes a flutist’s sound alive is the flute vibrato technique

How to play the flute beautifully

Produce a nice, rich and clean sound on the flute


 

This blog is about producing a beautiful, vivid and harmonically rich sound with the help of vibrato.

 

We will discuss how to use flute vibrato technique and control of it throughout a musical piece.

 

Did you ever think, wow, this is a beautiful sound, but couldn’t really say why it stuck out?

You thought it was warm, alive, welcoming, seducing even and very elegant?

That is the good and natural use of vibrato, when the rest of the flute technique is covered.

If you play in tune, rhythmically perfect, nice and appropriate phrasing,

dynamics and articulation, and you change your timbre with the use of harmonics,

if you do all of that and somebody else does too, what is it what makes the difference?

Right, the vibrato.


Awareness and adequate use of a flutist’s vibrato technique can make all the difference.

It is very personal and flutists usually develop it from imitating singers.

 

And that is where we start, too. Watch the video link here!

 

https://youtu.be/Osrih13OCWE

 

What is vibrato and how is it developed?

Flute vibrato technique


 

Beware, it comes from the very bottom!

 

May I introduce you to my colleague, the fantastic opera singer from Rome: Federica Raja.

She joined me and my Duo partner, the pianist Monica Calvo in our Duo Fantasie.

We love to talk about how to produce a beautiful sound and the use of our air flow as a singer and as a flutist. Vibrato is an audible symptom of our use of the air stream. It originates and is controlled by our diaphragm.

If you missed out on diaphragmatic breathing please have a look at the post by clicking on the link, to cover your grounds!

 

flute and soprano vibrato

 

 

So how do you play vibrato on a flute, same as singing?

Flute vibrato technique


 

You do not play or do vibrato on a flute.

Vibrato is a form of expression.

It is part of the overall musical and communicative quality of a performer and is an integral part of the produced sound throughout the whole performance.

It’s conscious changes turns it into a means of expression.

Vibrato as part of the sound quality comes from the lower muscles of your breathing apparatus and is known as natural vibrato. It actually means a shaking, trembling or acoustically speaking an oscillation between two very close pitches, or much better two extreme ends of one pitch.

This shaking in the sound is the result of a change in air pressure.

As we are no machines, when we sing or play the flute, the air will have natural changes in its pressure, and this makes the sound feel alive and not artificial.

 

But flute vibrato technique is not


Now, there are some singers, who we will not name, but who exaggerate and sometimes make us hate vibrato all together, because we lose stability of the melody and it sounds more like a Woolf crying to the moon.

That is because singers add a second variable which is the tension of the vocal chords and can get their vibrato to cover large intervals if they can produce those changes fast enough. When the pitch changes to a different sound and it is changing quickly between those two, without any measurement of subdivision, just really fast, we would rather speak of one sort of tremolo then.

For the sake of completeness there is also another way to produce tremolo which is repeating the same note very fast to fill up the entire musical value of that sound, without sub divisional measurement. This is often used by violins and cellos to create suspense or denote that something important is going on and we should pay attention.

Basically, it is also not an embellishment as a trill might be, but an intrinsic part of the quality of your sound. Needless to say that can be used to underline or highlight certain musical expressions, phrasing or articulation.

 

Unfortunately all three, excessive vibrato, tremolo and trills, are often used to hide poor intonation as well


That sad, is sadly true, that if you are not sure about being in tune, by adding a huge vibrato that covers several tunings, your audience won’t say you were out of tune….

BUT they might justly accuse you of poor musical style, using vibrato not for musical phrasing reasons, or even in a piece of music from a period when it was not used at all.

Clear, not shaky, not trembling sounds were preferred, for example in Renaissance music.

From Barcoque Music on vibrato was used to different extends. Instruments however were imitating the human voice. Especially the flute. So sometimes we had moon worshipers also among us in the flute section!

This is why we should be aware of what a vibrato actually is and prepare it carefully.

Here are some practical exercises to create a beautiful natural vibrato,

 

We should try to avoid excessive, uncontrolled use of this substance!

Flute vibrato technique


 

Whenever you feel that in a piece you are playing there is something missing, check if you can improve any of these first:

  • phrasing,
  • sound quality
  • and articulation,
  • dynamics
  • quality of legato

 

flute and soprano

 

If those are all covered and you feel you can’t do any better on those aspects for now,

try to imagine a vibrato choreography.

If you do not know what I mean by that check out my other two articles first

and then go on to create your very own vibrato choreography on your piece.

Pay attention to follow it and control what you are doing. You can study this following the exercises

topflute put together for you——–> here.

You can always change your breathing dance, but you should never go blindly.

That makes the difference between someone we like to listen to, because he or she, playing an instrument, is actually communicating something.

 

 

Duo Fantasie

 

I hope you do relate and have some own ideas to share!

Please do so in the comment section.

Share this post on social media to help me keep up doing this for you!

Janie

founder of

                     topflute.com

and         myflutelife.com

how to tune a piccolo for playing in a symphony orchestra

 

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6 Replies to “Flute vibrato technique”

  1. Hello Jana. Great post. Let me start by saying that you play beautifully. You definitely have a lot of knowledge in your chosen instrument. Being a musician for over 37 years, I understand much of what you were explaining and describing. Vibrato is performed several different ways on the guitar with each technique producing a different type of vibrato. In vocal vibrato, it follows much more closely with what you shared with us here. One thing that I wanted to mention is in regards to holding long notes. I found that rather than using vibrato immediately upon arriving at the note to be held, it adds a more fluid sound when you land on the note to be held, hold the constant tone, and then bring the vibrato in toward the end of the note held. I would love to get your opinion on this as well. Thank you again.
    Michael

    1. Hi Michael, thank you for commenting my post! You are completely right, the vibrato with the guitar is different than singing or playing the flute. If you do not add vibrato to a sound on the guitar, there is none (or only the quickly diminishing swinging of the cord).

      But when you play the flute or sing, there is always this natural vibrato in the sound due to holding the sound with a physiological air stream, as if it was our bow and we can adjust pressure, velocity and contact area, while holding a sound. So to have one more tool of expression as a flutist we can learn to control the vibrato and manipulate it.

      Thank you for your suggestion of starting the note with no extra vibrato, that is a good idea in many cases. And then adding it towards the end. I see how that can be very beautiful on a guitar for the sound is in decrescendo if you don’t use tremolo or electronics.

      With the flute when we come with a crescendo and vibrato to a climax sound, it is in the musical phrasing itself that you start with a slow vibrato and then accelerate it to go on or leave the note or finish the sound in piano.

      This is very interesting putting it into words and speaking to an instrumentalist about it.

      Vibrato is great when you enhance legato, thus changing the pitch. But sometimes, also on a long note, in reality the harmony changes through its musical value and using vibrato as though the sound was changing can make it more interesting, and also adjust the intonation in a subtle way if the harmonic function of the long sound changes.

      Thank you for your question and for the input.
      It made me think a little more about the subject and understand it in a broader perspective.
      Thanks again,

      Jana

  2. The article was very informative! I was listening to the videos while reading the article and it made for a great experience! Hope to see more from you!
    -Amber

  3. Thanks for explaining the vibrato in general as a sound. And congratulations on expansion from duo to trio. 🙂 I have to say that I enjoyed reading your post. I have very little experience with music, but you explain it so that it’s easy to understand. Thanks again for sharing and I wish you guys the best of luck in your future career! Ivan

    1. Thank you, Ivan!
      I appreciate you getting into this topic and following our Duo-Trio growth!
      The vibrato technique is very specific and there are so many different opinions on it, sometimes even a tabu..
      I’m trying to explain how to use vibrato in flute playing, so I hope it can be of value to those interested.
      Happy you enjoyed reading it, thanks for letting me know.
      Janie

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