Vibrato on Guitar - Essential Guitar Vibrato Technique
is a really simple and effective way of giving your solos feeling,
emotion and virtuosity. Vibrato on guitar involves bending and
releasing the fretted
string in repeating pulses. It's a way of allowing held notes to decay
more gracefully, punctuating your soloing phrases and making that
target note really sing!
As you can hopefully hear, the second clip is more emotionally involved
simply by adding vibratos to the held notes.
simple in theory, guitarists often struggle with the physical
application of vibrato. Done sloppily, it will make the note sound out
of tune. Done correctly, it'll make the note sing.
Even if you think
you're confident with vibrato, this lesson will help perfect your
technique and encourage you to squeeze as much emotion as you can out
those held notes.
Take a look at the below video for a great introduction to vibrato in a
The basic guitar vibrato technique
you start on or approach a held note in a solo, it's
important to first be aware of how long that note is to be
This will, in part, determine how quickly you apply the vibrato (if at
A good general "rule" is to let the note ring out in its natural state before you apply
the vibrato. Typically, you'll only want to let it ring for a fraction
of a second before the vibrato.
reason we do this is that, when a vibrato is applied, we are actually
bending slightly off the note's natural pitch. By letting the note rest
before the vibrato, we ensure the listener can hear a firm target note,
even if it's a mere hint, putting the subsequent vibrato into a more
defined context. That's one of the "secrets" to good sounding vibrato!
Begin with this simple exercise.
Apply the G string at
the 7th fret
using your ring (3rd)
finger (it can be any fret really, but just for the sake
Pluck and hold the note in its natural state for a brief moment and
begin to pull the string downwards,
bending the note by about half
As soon as you reach the peak of the bend, release it, just as slowly,
back to its relaxed position. Repeat this motion in a constant, pulsing
rhythm so each bend and release is the same length.
It should look and sound something like this...
when pulling the string downward, try to relax your hand and let momentum
do a lot of the work. Don't get too physically involved in pulling
the string like you do with regular bends. We want this to be as smooth
a movement as possible.
try and increase the urgency slightly. We still want to keep the
vibrato itself quite subtle (less than a half step bend), but we're not
going to hold the note as long. To make it more practical we're going
to lead to that target note using a simple 4 note phrase as follows
(fingering in blue,
click tab to hear)...
that, in tab, vibrato is either
after the held note, or a more formal symbol (sometimes
shortened to ~).
Often, however, vibrato won't be marked on a tab and it's up to you
when you apply it.
next logical step is to get all our fingers involved in applying
vibrato, since there'll be times when your other fingers will land on a
held note in a solo.
note about the 4th finger:
The pinky is the
weakest of our four fingers. To support this finger when playing a
vibrato, get your other three fingers behind it, pressed on the string
for support as you bend (see below)...
on to the index finger vibrato. The same motion applies no matter what
you use. Keep the bend-release pulsing evenly and smoothly...
We also need to ensure we're physically comfortable applying a vibrato
on all six strings
of the guitar.
Low E string...
Try something similar for the D and B strings (we've already done G).
And finally the high E string. As pulling the string down would take it
off the edge of the fretboard, we need to instead bend up for a high E
More advanced vibrato on guitar
Once you've mastered the basic guitar vibrato technique, you can start
experiment with using it in different ways.
For example, we might want a more jittery, lively vibrato as follows...
Still ensure that the bend pulses are evenly timed and the "width" of
the vibrato is consistant.
can also use bends to create wilder vibratos for a more virtuosity
(watch Zakk Wylde for some great use of wide vibrato). For
example, the video below shows me playing a whole step vibrato. All we
do is bend to the desired
pitch as usual and then release and re-bend in pulses to create the
You can also use
vibratos to move between two pitches within a scale. For example, let's
say our landing/target note was a major 3rd in the major scale. We
could use a vibrato to create a half step movement between the major
3rd and 4th...
Or a whole step, in this example between the flat 7th and root of the
minor pentatonic scale...
Get into the habit of applying vibratos to those held notes and make
them sing! Try also mixing vibrato with other lead techniques.