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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been trying to learn vibrato for some time now but I just don't seem to be getting it. Maybe I just need more practice, but I can never move my jaw fast enough or get a consistent bending pitch. Does anyone have any suggestions or advice?
 

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Think of your vibrato as having two parts, just like a sound wave.

First is the speed. This is simply how fast or slow you move your jaw up and down. It's like the wavelength of the soundwave if that helps you visualize it.

Second is the width. This is like the amplitude, or height, of the wavelength. It is determined by how far you open your jaw.

It's impossible to do one without doing the other, ie, you can't move your jaw without it being at some kind of speed. But I would suggest starting out really slow. Pick a single note - a top line F# is where I normally start students. Try to bend the pitch of the f# slowly with your jaw. The motion is similar to chewing. And keep in mind that you want the vibrato to go both above and below the center of your pitch. This means that you have to both open wider than your normal jaw position (lowering the pitch) and tighten up tighter than normal (pitch goes up.)

Once you feel confident that you can bend the pitch around - and I would suggest trying to get a good wide range, wider than you want your vibrato to ever be (aim for a total of at least a 1/4 step, preferably more like a 1/2 step+), then play with different speeds. Turn on the metronome and move your soundwave gradually faster and faster.

Always aim to keep the 'turns' in the soundwave rounded. This means no sudden jaw movements - keep it nice and smooth. When you get it right, it makes the tone sound like it is spiraling.

Good luck and if any of this doesn't make sense, send me a PM and I'll try to explain it better. -Mike
 

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Forgot to mention, practice different combinations of width and speed -ie, fast and narrow, fast and wide, slow and narrow, slow and wide etc. My idea is to go farther on the spectrum of each than you'll ever want to actually use in performance - ie, practice it slower and faster than you want to actually use; practice narrower and wider than you actually want to use. That way you'll feel comfortable when you settle somewhere in the middle. Where exactly to settle? Listen to as many other people do it as you can, and try to identify what it is that they do that you like. Then copy it.

Take care-
 

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Just remember a little bit goes a long way.
 

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I tried for at least a year and could never get it. Finally, I bought a flute and got hold of David Newman's 'Under a Woodstock Moon' with Summertime played on flute with a very big vibrato ..... and I was able to assimilate the breath vibrato without much effort once I could get a sound out of the flute. Transferring it to the sax was not immediate, but, there was no doubt it would work. It did. Not the perfect vibrato according to the purists, but it works for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I have always heard that you should only drop below the note and not go above it...
 

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Listen closer....yep, there's some vibrato.
Well of course there's going to be some naturally. But I remember reading that he deliberately tried to play without it as a rule, and use it sparingly as an exception.
 

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The idea of going above and below the pitch is that the center between the high point and low point of the pitch is what people hear as the 'true' pitch as far as intonation goes. So, if you only go down, then the pitch sounds flat when you add the vibrato. That's just how I was taught it. Honestly, the distance I go above center is probably less than how far I go below center...but I do try...
 

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So, if you only go down, then the pitch sounds flat when you add the vibrato. That's just how I was taught it. Honestly, the distance I go above center is probably less than how far I go below center...but I do try...
That's why I always tune a bit sharp. I don't think I raise the pitch at all when playing with vibrato, I like to keep a very relaxed embouchure.

However the ear compensates with vibrato, and does not necessarily hers the half way between peaks and troughs of the vibrato as the pitch centre anyway.
 

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But I remember reading that he (Miles) deliberately tried to play without it as a rule, and use it sparingly as an exception.
I think he did say something very like that, in fact. But his approach to tone production was different at different points in his career, I think. However, I would basically agree with you that his default tone was "pure" (in jazz terms). (couldn't think of better word than "pure"). I do actually think that's a good model for sax, at least for the first few years. Excessive/badly controlled/tasteless vibrato is an easy fault to fall into on sax. (IMO)

I have always heard that you should only drop below the note and not go above it...
Given the nature of the physical process, yes, I think that must be right. You are bending the note downwards as the jaw drops and bringing it back to pitch as the jaw moves back upwards, I think.
 

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I think he did say something very like that, in fact. But his approach to tone production was different at different points in his career, I think. However, I would basically agree with you that his default tone was "pure" (in jazz terms). (couldn't think of better word than "pure"). I do actually think that's a good model for sax, at least for the first few years. Excessive/badly controlled/tasteless vibrato is an easy fault to fall into on sax. (IMO).
I always thought a good example for vibrato on sax was violin.

And if you listen even closer, you'll find that it isn't a saxophone.


:D
 

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I have always heard that you should only drop below the note and not go above it...
I would disagree - dropping the pitch and then returning only to it's original intonation sounds very distorted to my ear - I like to imagine, when I practice, a straight line...here --> ---------------- That is the "vibrato center". If you imagine a wave (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e9/Wave.png) that is split evenly along the vertical axis, such that the change in pitch is even in its change both above and below the pitch.

To put it plainly - if you drop the pitch ten cents from "in tune", raise it twenty cents so that at the crest of the vibrato wave is ten cents above "in tune"...if that makes sense...

- J
 
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