Online Guitar Lessons

Home > Guitar Techniques

Guitar Techniques - Vibrato Control
Guest teacher series
Tom Hess

Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF

Tom Hess

Vibrato Control
by Tom Hess

Vibrato is one of the most, if not the most, expressive tools that we guitarists have in our arsenal of techniques.  Continuous musical phrases without the potent thrill of vibrato sound less dramatic than phrases with the right vibrato used in the right places and situations.

Classical singers spend many years and a lot of effort trying to master vibrato with their voice.  Many guitarists, however, don't spend much time trying to master this technique at all.  Many guitar teachers either don't value vibrato much themselves or just take the technique for granted and do not stress the importance of vibrato enough to their students.  It is unfortunate that the value of possessing a great vibrato technique is often underestimated.

I believe the best and most expressive vibrato is slow to moderate in speed but wide in range. There are times, however,  when a somewhat narrower range is needed (usually over slow and soft musical passages).  A fast vibrato can sometimes be effective, but use it with caution as it can lead to an out of control sound (and an out of tune sound if you are not careful).  I very rarely use a fast or narrow vibrato and my vibrato is never fast and narrow at the same time!

Here are the most common problems that many inexperienced guitarists have with their vibrato technique:

* The vibrato is too fast. This sounds like a small annoying insect buzzing around your ears, and the note usually sounds out of control.

* The vibrato is too narrow in range.  Unless you are playing in a slow and soft musical passage, this makes the note your playing sound weak and timid.

* Vibrato is not used enough.  Notes decay too quickly and sound lifeless. This can cause the end of musical phrases to sound boring.

* Vibrato is being over used.  Some players try to cram in vibrato at every possible chance they can. Overuse tends to lose its effectiveness on the listener.

* Vibrato is used either poorly or not at all on bent notes.  When a string is bent the note will naturally decay more quickly without a strong vibrato to support it.  If you don't already know this, adding vibrato to a note (especially a bent note) can drastically increase the life and sustain of the pitch.  

* The vibrato is not in tune!  (This one sounds really awful!) This is a common problem on bent notes and is caused by inconsistent bending of the string by the left hand (or the right hand if you play a left handed guitar. You must be careful to make sure that the string is being bent to the same place every time otherwise the pitch will be inconsistent and out of tune. Another cause of the note sounding out of tune is that the bent note is not being released (after each time that it is bent during the vibrato motion) to the exact same pitch every time.  If you have this problem and are having a hard time solving it, I recommend to practice using an electronic tuner that has needle meter.  Watch the needle and make sure that you are bending and releasing the note to the same place every time.  It will help if you do a slower vibrato while practicing with the tuner.

I highly recommend listening to players that have an impeccable vibrato technique.  Here is a short list of virtuosos that have helped me to shape my own vibrato: Yngwie Malmsteen, George Bellas, Andy LaRocque (plays in the King Diamond band) and Jason Becker.  There are, of course, other players who I think have excellent vibrato too -s here are a few more guitarist's vibratos to listen for:  John Petrucci, Marty Freidman, George Lynch and Eddie Van Halen (on the older Van Halen recordings). A great vibrato technique usually takes a long time to master.  It wasn't until after playing for many years that I felt that my own vibrato was where I wanted it to be.  Finally, I'd like to suggest to you not to overlook or underestimate the importance and effectiveness of this highly expressive technique.  Even after you master it, constantly work on it and continue to refine it always.

©2005 Tom Hess Music Corporation
All rights reserved. Used By Permission

About Tom Hess

Tom HessTom Hess is a touring musician, composer and the guitar player for the metal band Rhapsody Of Fire. He also teaches guitar players from around the world via online correspondence guitar lessons. Visit were you can find free video guitar lessons, free guitar playing resources and more guitar articles.

Guitar Lessons and Articles by Tom Hess on

Music Business & Career Articles

How To Transition From Your Day Job Into A Successful Music Career
How to Become a Professional Guitarist & Musician: Part 1
How to Become a Professional Guitarist & Musician: Part 2
How to Become a Professional Guitarist & Musician: Part 3
How to Become a Professional Guitarist & Musician: Part 4
Take the test - Determine your real goal as a guitarist
For Love or Money
Want to Become a Professional Musician?…Start Here
The Pursuit of the Record Deal
How to Make the Right Contacts in the Music Industry
Need Help Starting A Successful Career In Music?
How To Prepare For Gigs And Make Your Live Shows Better

Top 10 Mistakes People Make When Trying To Become Professional Musicians
How To Get More People To Come To Your Live Shows

Guitar Practice & Motivation Articles

The 80/20 Law
Fire and Inspiration
Can YOU Really Become a Great Guitar Player?
Plans Are NOT Goals
Top Secrets of Common Sense - Part 1
Musical Frustration
Why aren't you a better guitarist?
Most of you are totally out of balance
Begin at the End
An Analysis of Effective Guitar Practice - Part 1
How to Avoid Musical Burn Out
Perseverance - It Will Make You Or Break You!
Are You An Unhappy Musician? - 10 Ways To Get Musical Pain Relief
Practicing Guitar: Self Discipline or Fun?
How To Practice Guitar With A Limited Amount Of Time
11 Damaging Mistakes Guitar Players Make and How To Avoid Them
Get More From Your Guitar Practice
How To Fix Common Guitar Practice Problems

Articles for Guitar Students

Choosing a Teacher
Do you really need a teacher?
Getting No Results From Taking Guitar Lessons?
Are You a Bad Student?...I was! - Part 1

Articles for Guitar Teachers

Why You Struggle To Get Guitar Students
Top 9 Mistakes Guitar Teachers Usually Make
5 Big Mistakes You Should Avoid When Teaching Beginning Guitar Students

Teaching Chords To Beginning Guitar Students
Improve Your Guitar Teaching - Part 1
How To Get Started Teaching Guitar

Articles for Developing Your Creativity

Creativity and Expression - Part 1
Creativity and Expression - Part 2
Express Yourself
How to Develop Your Own Style - Part 1
How to Develop Your Own Style - Part 2
The Pursuit of Artistic Greatness

Guitar Technique, Songwriting & Ear Training Articles

Vibrato Control
Developing your ear
Songwriting - Part 1
Songwriting - Part 2
How To Improve Your Guitar Technique: Part 1
How To Improve Your Guitar Technique: Part 2
How To Practice For Maximum Guitar Speed - Part 3
How To Play Guitar Fast

Lead Guitar and Improvisation Lessons

How To Make A Great Guitar Solo
Improve Your Lead Guitar Playing

Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF

Guitar Courses

Rhythm Guitar Mastery
How to strum guitar like a pro, master rhythms, and build your vocabulary of essential chords

17 Essential Strum Patterns
Learn 17 Strums, 8 Bonus Songs + Chord Book

60s Rock Strumming Songs
Learn how to play 18 classic 60s rock tunes

70s Rock Strumming Songs
Learn how to play 20 classic 70s rock tunes

80s Rock Strumming Songs
Learn how to play 20 classic 80s rock tunes

90s Rock Strumming Songs
Learn how to play 20 classic 90s rock tunes

Modern Country Strumming Songs
Learn how to play 16 modern country songs

Guitar Lick Factory
A system for creating rock & blues guitar licks