Vibrato Technique

Posted: 1/20/2011 12:20:08 PM

From: Florida

Joined: 11/15/2010

I've only been playing for a few months and I'm still trying to figure out what type of technique to use for vibrato.

In the DVD that came with my Etherwave, Clara Rockmore said that it's best to make vibrato by gently shaking the pitch hand back and forth, not to and from the antenna.

In Peter Pringle's DVD, he said that vibrato should be accomplished by moving to and from the pitch antenna.

I've found that by using the back and forth motion I get a more subtle, shallow, easily controllable vibrato.

When I try to move to and from the antenna it sounds more harsh. But to be fair, I've only been using the to-and-from technique for a few days (just got Peter's DVD), so it probably has more to do with being less accustomed to it.

I was just wondering which technique each of you prefer. Do any of you switch between the two techniques depending upon the circumstances?

Posted: 1/20/2011 12:28:42 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

I do a small circular motion (clockwise) when I do mine. It's barely perceptible though...
Posted: 1/20/2011 5:26:24 PM

From: A Coruña, Spain

Joined: 9/26/2010

I also saw the video that comes with the Etherwave and I don't remember Clara Rockmore saying that vibrato is best done by moving the hand back and forth... could you please point me to the part of the video where she says that? I'm interested because I didn't notice that and my impression from the videos is that she moves the hand to and from the pitch antenna, but I may be fooled by perspective...

In my particular case, I move the hand to and from the pitch antenna. If I move it back and forth, I get no or almost no vibrato at all. But this probably depends on the arm position in the particular method you are using. Peter Pringle would probably tell you to choose the thereminist whose music you like best and follow his/her technique as closely as you can.
Posted: 1/21/2011 6:09:23 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

chadivision is confusing Clara Rockmore with Lydia Kavina. It is Lydia who says (on MASTERING THE THEREMIN) that vibrato should not be played with a movement toward and away from the pitch antenna. Lydia plays vibrato with the "windshield wiper" technique, moving from side to side.

Clara Rockmore plays vibrato back and forth, directly toward and away from the antenna.

Vibrato technique should depend on what you want to hear. Some people don't much like vibrato, while others like it a lot. Some people like a fast and shallow vibrato, others like a much wider and slower vibrato. Most newcomers to the theremin, unless they are serious singers or string players, have never really thought about vibrato.

On my DVD (HOW TO PLAY THE THEREMIN) I use Clara Rockmore's back & forth vibrato technique which I compare to the movement you might make with your hand if you were erasing something with a Q-Tip.

My vibrato technique, however, has changed over the years since I made the DVD, and I use slightly less of it. The movement I use now is a little more up & down (rather than back & forth) comparable to making dots on a page with a pencil.

What you have to consider with the theremin is the size of the player. The bigger you are, the more effect your hand and arm movements will have on the EM field. Clara Rockmore was a tiny little woman, so when you watch her play you have to take that into account. I am 6'2" and if I make the same motions as Clara (relative to my size) the effect will be quite different.

You need to record yourself, listen back, and see what you like and what you don't like about your playing. You can't depend so much on your appraisal of your work when you are in the act of performing. Your judgment is compromised by your concentration on what you're doing, and by your desire to hear what you want to hear. P.P.

"People expect to go over to the theremin and IT PLAYS. No! It takes hard work, sensitivity, sensibility....attention to detail. You have to learn it and it's not easy. The music comes from the heart, the mind, and years and years and years of the study of music." Clara Rockmore
Posted: 1/24/2011 12:12:33 PM

From: Florida

Joined: 11/15/2010

Thanks for all of the replies.

Amethyste, I’ve never tried a circular motion, but I’ll give it a shot and see how it works for me.

Peter, you are right. That was Lydia Kavina that said that, not Clara Rockmore.

By the way, your DVD is really great. I’ve only gotten a chance to watch it once so far, but I’m planning on going back through it again as soon as possible. I’ve read a lot of posts here about aerial fingering and tried to apply the techniques based on the written descriptions. After watching your DVD, I realized that I had misunderstood a lot of what was being said here, and I had inadvertently invented my own technique (and not a very good one). After watching your DVD, I completely changed my aerial fingering technique. It felt really strange at first, but after only a couple of days I was already doing better with it than I had been with the approach I had been using for my first few months.

I finally got my home studio set up and working again (had a bunch of software problems, then after getting all that straightened out, I got a new desk and a patch bay, so I had to completely redo my whole setup). So I’m planning on doing some recording so that I can really listen to my playing, as you suggest. I remember years ago, the shock that I had when I first started recording guitar on my four-track cassette. I didn’t know how bad I was until then. I seriously thought there was something wrong with my four-track. There's no way I sound THAT bad!
Posted: 1/25/2011 11:05:53 AM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Sorry I'm late. I use a vibrato technique in which the motion goes between my self and the audience. However, which vibrato is used, will depend on your position relative to the pitch rod based on the kind of vibrato you want. A dart throw (self-audience) executed while to one side of the rod will give a shallow vibrato. The same method executed from behind the antenna now becomes a direct self-to-antenna method in which the vibrato will become very pronounced and deep.

It all comes down to experimentation.

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