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Seeker Of A Clever Title.
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Why does vibrato sound good to our ears? After all, its just a slight waver in the tone, right? Why is it necessary (for instruments that can produce it) to make beautiful music?
Anyone have any ideas/theories?
thanks
 

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Forum Contributor 2010, Distinguished SOTW Member
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zxcvbnm said:
Why does vibrato sound good to our ears? After all, its just a slight waver in the tone, right? Why is it necessary (for instruments that can produce it) to make beautiful music?
Anyone have any ideas/theories?
thanks
I wouldn't say that it IS necessary. There is beautiful sax playing that features little or no vibrato (Coltrane comes to mind, and Parker -- both of course could play vibrato wonderfully, but often eschewed it).

Nevertheless, the question "why do we do often find vibrato beautiful" is an interesting one, to which I have no better answer than the ones offered here. I only add the observation that there is more than one kind of "beauty." (Problematic term, "beauty." In profoudly interesting ways.)

Sic 'em Cujo.
 

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zxcvbnm said:
Why does vibrato sound good to our ears? After all, its just a slight waver in the tone, right? Why is it necessary (for instruments that can produce it) to make beautiful music?
Anyone have any ideas/theories?
thanks
I think, more to the point. Why does no vibrato sound ..... inappropriate?
 

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I like vibrato. It makes pieces with lots of sustained notes have more character and prevents them from becoming long and tedious. The emotion it adds is a great bonus. Perhaps no vibrato seems inappropriate because it could be conceived as simple, like a young student playing long notes in a piece that just drags on and on. But then there are instances when no vibrato works wonderfully, so who really knows...
 

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Like said above, it gives the sax a more human and earthy sound. And the intonation piece is a big one. Vibrato can effectively cover many a sour note. By making the played pitch move up and down past the "correct" pitch, the listener's brain will often automatically hears the correct pitch within the vibrato.

Another less positive use of vibrato is hamming it up while playing in a group. If you put just a little vibrato on the end of your sustained notes, you will stand out over the other players within the same cord. To me, that's bad and sounds terrible if you're playing with other horns on a straight-sounding piece of music. But it's ok and sounds pretty good if you are playing with guitar, piano and maybe even one another wind instrument like a flute or trumpet where the sax is supposed to sound unique.
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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Jolle said:
it's all about emotion. a human voice overpowered by emotion trembles, and our brain is made to pick that up.
This must be right, I think. Our "base line" in terms of listening is the human voice (??). When we hear a singer we associate vibrato with emotional intensity. By analogy, we enjoy the effect on instuments that can produce it. Nevertheless, it is interesting that many listeners feel it is possible for vibrato to be overdone, at which point it starts to suggest fake emotion or "hamming it up". I find it interesting too that the listener's response to vibrato is affected by fashions in music - I doubt even a very great artist could get away with playing with as broad a saxophone vibrato as Sidney Bechet in today's musical climate. By "get away" I mean that the player would be steered away from this kind of sound early in his career.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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zxcvbnm said:
wouldn't it just make the average pitch a little lower?
It's better when the vibrato average pitch is the correct pitch. If you play a more relaxed embouchure without vibrato (ie push the mouthpiececon a little more than lip down), the vibrato will be better in tune.
 

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I've played with some vocalists that sing ONLY with continuous cabaret vibrato - not appealing, not sensuous, not good.

Tasteful use of vibrato can be a beautiful thing.

Nannie goats and their vibrato should stay on the farm.
 

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Dr G said:
I've played with some vocalists that sing ONLY with continuous cabaret vibrato - not appealing, not sensuous, not good.

Tasteful use of vibrato can be a beautiful thing.

Nannie goats and their vibrato should stay on the farm.
Exactly. I heard an alto player the other day who had a vibrato not known since 1928. Definitely goatlike.
 

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SassenachSax said:
I think, more to the point. Why does no vibrato sound ..... inappropriate?
In my opinion, no vibrato doesn't sound inappropriate, per se. (Wow, that's a weird sentence: a triple negative!) For me, a better question would be: WHEN does no vibrato sound inappropriate, and WHY. Likewise, when does vibrato sound inappropriate?
 

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Listen to a bit of Joe Henderson and tell me how you like his vibrato. Seriously, I think vibrato is overrated -- especially in bebop.
 

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If you guys are talking about the vibrato that is done with altered speed for effect here and there, I was told once that it's an American invention. Previously, people used to use the "goat like" continuous vibrato for just about every kind of music. The non-continuous effect-style vibrato is just that, an effect, like false fingerings or slap tonguing or something, and likewise, not using it is an effect. For flavor. And the way it's done is often different from player to player, so it's very individual. All that adds depth to whatever you're doing, but particularly in an improvisational context.
 

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Pete Thomas said:
It's better when the vibrato average pitch is the correct pitch. If you play a more relaxed embouchure without vibrato (ie push the mouthpiececon a little more than lip down), the vibrato will be better in tune.
Vibrato is used mainly by string players and singers. String players vibrate from the pitch down. I do the same with mine.

hgiles said:
Listen to a bit of Joe Henderson and tell me how you like his vibrato.
Listen to a bit of John Handy and tell me how you like his vibrato.;)
 

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ranma503 said:
If you guys are talking about the vibrato that is done with altered speed for effect here and there, I was told once that it's an American invention. Previously, people used to use the "goat like" continuous vibrato for just about every kind of music.
Let me doubt that very seriously. If you talk about hyperromantism and barok in classical music, then "nannie goat" comes to mind. But there is more to music than that. I dare even say that it is highly improbable that in more than let's say 3000 years of musical history, nobody ever came up with a moderate vibrato here and there.
 
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