Vibrato is one of the most important guitar techniques to master if you want to sound like a pro. All the most skilled players have great vibrato, while the majority of other players simply think this skill it will just improve on its own (without practice). In reality, your vibrato technique MUST sound good, otherwise your overall guitar playing will sound like crap.
To develop amazing sounding vibrato, you have to strip down the technique to its bare essentials, work on developing each one in isolation and then begin integrating them all together.
The following are five key pieces of advice that will put you on the right path towards mastering vibrato and making your guitar playing sound amazing:
One. Understand Exactly What You Are Searching For
As you practice vibrato, know for certain what sound you are searching for and what sound you don’t want.
Truly amazing vibrato and really bad vibrato are nothing alike. Amazing vibrato is always:
- Played with control
- In tune
- Appropriate for the context it is being used in
(Really bad vibrato is not at all like all of these things)
Note that your vibrato shouldn’t be used in the exact same way all the time. It may be used totally differently based upon your playing style and the context it is being used in. Work on discovering which vibrato style achieves the particular emotion you want to express and try to create this whenever you practice.
Two. Make Sure The Physical Catches Up To The Mental
Physically playing vibrato is not really that hard. You just have to use your thumb as an anchor around the neck around the neck and rotate your forearm/wrist to produce vibrato. On the other hand, it’s much harder to train your hands to create the exact sound you hear in your head.
So what can you do to make this easier? If your vibrato doesn’t sound how you want it to, ask yourself: “What’s wrong with this?” Is the vibrato faster than I want it to be? Is it too slow and narrow? Am I playing it out of tune?” These are the types of questions you must continually ask yourself if you want to improve.
To quickly improve your ear for hearing when someone is using excellent vibrato, do this:
1. Pay close attention to how your favorite guitar players use vibrato in their playing.
2. Imitate the vibrato of your favorite singers using your guitar
3. Work on switching between amazing vibrato and bad vibrato by intentionally playing it very narrow, very wide, too fast, out of tune, etc. By doing this, you will be able to easily identify whenever you or anyone else is playing poor vibrato.
Three. Develop Solid Vibrato For Bent And Unbent Notes
As soon as you can play great vibrato on unbent notes, use the same approach to make bent notes sound totally amazing.
Complete each of these steps:
Step 1. Determine a note that you want to start on and choose the pitch you want to bend up to. As an example: begin on fret ten of the G string, then bend up to the pitch of fret twelve.
Step 2. Pick the starting note and bend it up.
Step 3. Once you’ve matched the desired pitch you are bending to, let it ring out for a second.
Step 4. Pick the string again and apply vibrato to it.
Step 5. Go through the previous steps several times.
Step 6. Switch to a new part of the fretboard that isn’t close to the area where you just played (such as playing above the 20th fret, or on the lower strings around the lower frets) and repeat this whole process again. Do this for several minutes.
Four. Find Out How To Use “Delayed Vibrato”
You don’t always have to apply vibrato as soon as you play a note – Instead, give the note a moment to ring out… and wham!… apply the vibrato. This will drastically improve your phrasing in the following two ways:
1. Delayed vibrato brings more attention to the vibrato itself, and makes your playing sound more intense.
2. Using this kind of approach with vibrato will prevent you from rushing and using the technique in an out of control manner.
That said, there definitely are times when employing vibrato right after a note is played sounds cool. However, it is ten times easier to do this in a consistent, controlled manner when you know how to use delayed vibrato.
Five. Work On Vibrato Integration Through Variations
Developing your vibrato technique separate from everything else is simply not enough. You have to learn how to add variance your vibrato so that it matches the music you are playing to. Think of a short guitar lick and work on creating tons of phrasing variations on it (by changing up how the notes are played). This will help you to seamlessly integrate vibrato into your guitar playing.