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Discussion Starter #1
I grew up playing classical alto and flute, with a lot of instruction and practice on vibrato. I got pretty good with all sorts of vibrato subtleties.

Now I play mainly jazz tenor and somewhere picked up the idea that vibrato was old-fashioned and not cool. Thank goodness I have a teacher who recently set me straight. After he mentioned that I’d sound a lot more expressive on "You’ve Changed" with some vibrato, I pulled out my old toolkit and made instant progress.

Now I’m listening to all sorts of different players and hearing vibrato of all types everywhere. It’s hard to imagine I ever adopted such a silly idea and rejected years of training. Makes me wonder what else that I’m missing . . . Hopefully I’ll find out!

But just curious: did anyone else get the idea that vibrato wasn’t cool?
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
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Good vibrato is cool.

Bad vibrato sux. I once worked with a woman that was a “cabaret” singer - her vibrato was always ON, one speed, full depth, no ability to modulate it or control it. Horrid in any context but cabaret (and questionable then - definitely an acquired taste).

You’ll know the difference when you hear it.
 

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Vibrato was beaten out of me long ago, probably for good reason, but there definitely is a time and place for it.
 

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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Vibrato is only really bad when you can't play without doing it - like your embouchure is so pathetic that it's actually trembling.
 

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If you notice vibrato for more that a split second at any point (except when you are listening to it/analyzing it for study), then it's probably bad vibrato.
 

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Not good/bad or cool/uncool - it has to fit the style, and tastes vary tremendously over time and "schools" of playing. Classical is different than jazz, Marcel Mule is different than Claude Delangle, Hodges is different than Parker, early Coltrane is different than late Coltrane. It can be hard to keep an open mind when listening to examples at the extremes such as Mule's wide and rapid vibrato. Someone told me that what gave classic big band sax sections their characteristic sweet sound was everyone MATCHING the lead alto's vibrato. And there was Miles Davis's teacher's advice to play with a straight tone because he'd get old and start to shake soon enough.
 

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I respectfully suggest you need to listen more to the great saxophone players. Each of these had his own vibrato, which was a key element in his style.

Bechet
Hodges
Hawkins
Young
Webster
Parker
Lou Donaldson
Cannonball
Trane
Rollins
Lee Konitz
Getz

and so on.

From a very wide brash vibrato (Bechet) to a very subtle one (Konitz) it's a major part of one's personality.

I suppose if you really want to play with no vibrato at all, that could be an artistic choice. But I'd recommend a lot more listening, and trying out different ways of playing vibrato, before making a choice that's pretty far out of the mainstream.

I can't imagine, are there people who say the players I've listed above are somehow "old fashioned" or "not cool"?

I can only quote Rahsaan Roland Kirk:

Now someone might have told you
Lester Young is out of style
[OUT OF STYLE???????]
But now I'm here to tell you
Tell you Prez is happenin' now...
 

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Discussion Starter #12
That list that Turf3 put together is the kind of revelation I had listening again to who was using vibrato. The question soon became, Who wasn't?

There are definitely things to learn to help the technique. E.g., if you're playing flat already, vibrato will highlight that. But in the end, vibrato seems as natural as taking a breath and it seems like all the greats are using it in their own way. So again, I'm surprised that I picked up the idea it wasn't cool.
 

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I’m not sure why or when but I started adding vibrato on long notes way back. Probably made it sound more in tune and straight tones seem so hard. Unfortunately I really stopped noticing and it’s starting to get a bit dated sounding. So now I really concentrate on straight tones at the end of phrases. Still sounds very bland to my ears but seems to be ‘hip’ at the moment.
 

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I've found vibrato to be one of the most elusive playing topics to find solid information on. For saxophone, interestingly, there are seemingly completely different styles that appear to have somewhat similar vibrato. Fast vibrato seems to be the thing in classical, but also older jazz and even smooth jazz. I took two vocal classes through Berklee, and was hoping for more solid information on vibrato for vocalists. There was some info regarding when to initiate it in different styles, but otherwise it was very nebulous. For flute, vibrato is produced so differently than saxophone, and on saxophone it makes me wonder if vibrato that's produced more like flute is ever acceptable. So much you read says it's a very individual thing, but it's actually a really big part of playing "correctly" in different styles. Maybe some academic person could write a book that analyzes vibrato technique across the spectrum.
 

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Good example of a lot of vibrato and it being appropriate: Zoot Sims - Someday Sweetheart.
 

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I've found vibrato to be one of the most elusive playing topics to find solid information on. For saxophone, interstingly, there are seemingly completely different styles that appear to have somewhat similar vibrato. ..... So much you read says it's a very individual thing, but it's actually a really big part of playing "correctly" in different styles. Maybe some academic person could write a book that analyzes vibrato technique across the spectrum.
I think that's because saxophone is relatively new in comparison with other classical genres/instruments. I also think it gets to the other argument of "Historical Accuracy" or "Modern Musical Interpretation." Do you play old time-y swing band with matching vibrato as they did for historical accuracy, or interpret it through a modern lens of modern vibrato (which, in my opinion, is less pronounced and more individual (less rigidly defined))?

Mule was wide and consistent despite the tempo. Rascher would change with tempo. Modern Paris school has a gentle, variable vibrato to no vibrato at all. Jazzers? Anything goes as long as you can pull it off. Musically, I wouldn't say there's a hard-fast rule. Historical Accuracy-Wise, there are definitely general playing practices e.g. if playing Basie, please use vibrato.
 

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I wasn't "taught" vibrato, but I sure was "told" about it :) Playing 30's and 40's big band arrangements, 16th note vibrato, matched throughout the section was the thing. Starting in the 50's it became much looser. There is a style of "no-vibrato" that is often associated with strong post-bop players. If you want to play with others, you have to do it all...
 
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