Guitar Techniques – Vibrato

What is vibrato?

Vibrato is an EXTREMELY important technique for you guitar playing. It is most commonly used in rock, blues and country guitar. Vibrato is a slight bend in pitch, which adds a certain “character” to the note. Vibrato is sometimes mistaken for tremolo, which is an entirely different technique. Tremolo is a slight fluctuation in the volume. Vibrato is usually represented by a squiggly line in to of the stave. However, you can add vibrato when you feel like it, usually when you hold long notes.

How do I do it?

There are many ways to do a proper vibrato, but I use the “up and down” method. Put your first finger on the 12th fret, 2nd string. Now, pick the note and push up on the string slightly. Just a few millimeters will do. Maximum one centimeter. Next, bring the string back to the original position, and pull down a few millimeters. Done that? Finally, do the whole thing in one smooth motion.

You are basically “waving” the string up and down. (Thus my self-named Up and Down method!). Once you’ve got that down, do it faster, so that it slowly starts to sound like that really great guitarist you heard the other day!

Vibrato on the top string

As you might’ve guessed, our usual technique in not going to work on the first string, as the string will probably go off the side. Thus, we use the “sideways” method. With this method, you basically sway your finger from side to side on the fret itself. No pushing up or down. This type of vibrato is generally favoured by classical guitarists. It is more subtle than the “up and down” method vibrato. The same rule applies to the 6th string as well.


Bending and vibrato is a marriage made in guitar heaven! When you combine those two together, you really do bring the note to life! However, when done wrongly, it can spoil the whole song. Especially in country guitars, where you have no distortion, uneven bending can spoil the song! You combine bending and vibrato together by raising a note to a semitone higher and back. This is achieved by using three fingers to push and pull the string. Make sure though, that you consistently bend to the same not. If you bend to uneven notes, it’s going to appear to the listener that you are some sort of amateur. Again, especially in country guitars, where no distortion is used.

Width and speed

A deeper look at how fast and wide your vibrato should be. Generally, the wider your vibrato, the slower it is, and vice versa. Rock songs usually have narrower and faster vibratos, while country music and blues have wider and slower bends. The speed and width is up to the player, so it’s up to you to control your vibrato!

Source by Srinivas Aswin Kannan

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