Vibrato is a very important technique and conveys a lot of emotion. Without it you playing will likely sound flat and uninspired. Many people seem to pick it up without 'learning' it, but for the majority of players it will need practice. In this lesson I take you through the most common forms of vibrato, but we focus on the most common 'mechanics' of the pivot (the same mechanics that we use for String Bending).
The standard 'Hand' vibrato used by the majority of guitarists in most styles is this one. It can be subtle or outrageous, wide or small, sharp, smooth and a thousand other adjectives! This is the one that you really should try and master.
The technique used is very similar to that used for string bending, so if you are used to the mechanics of String Bending you most likely won't find it particularly difficult.
The "secret" to getting this type of vibrato working well is to get a solid pivot point. Without your first finger locked up against the neck, it's difficult to get the right 'mechanics' - though once you have the right feel for it, locking the pivot point becomes less necessary.
You should be able to use this type of vibrato with any finger, but it is most commonly done with the first or 3rd fingers (the same as bending), so give those fingers the best workout.
It should be noted that this vibrato is a lot harder on strings 1 and 6 (the outside strings) because you can only push the string in one direction, or you risk pulling the string off the neck, which can sound awful.
The Three E's
There are three very important things to remember when you are working on your vibrato:
Try and copy your favourite player's vibrato. Try and make your guitar sound exactly like theirs. This will take time. Work at it. Then copy someone else's vibrato. You will find that the types that come naturally to you will stick and the others will pass. Copying others will help you find you own voice! I think this is best done by a learning a particular lick and then really trying to make it sound EXACTLY like the record.
Once you have the basic techniques under your fingers you should experiment as much as possible and try and find new ways of doing things. Try blending styles of vibrato, or techniques... there is a lot of things to try... through exploring you will learn a LOT.
When you do your vibrato it should feel easy and natural. If it doesn't, then something is wrong and you need to fix it. You may find you find the solution through experimenting, or you may have to seek assistance from someone who has it down!
Each lesson I want to recommend a great Blues album to you, make sure you are aware of the great blues music that you'll be learning on your journey.
Robben Ford & Jimmy Witherspoon Live (around 1976)
Robben was just a youngster when he made this album with the legend 'Spoon, but his playing is off the scale!! In fact it's not just the playing, but the use of dynamics and touch that are so incredible on this album. It's one I 'borrow' loads of licks from!! ;)
Here's a sample backing track from my Jam Blues II collection, a Blues in A in the style of BB King. You can download and jam over it and if you enjoy it, please consider buying the rest of the album, they're all great fun for jamming!
Doing your bending practice over a backing track will help keep your ear tuned in and make sure you're keeping the bends in tune (which is very tricky without some kind of reference!).