How Does This Sound?
Let’s take your tone- you know, the one you’ve been working on for so long- trying to get it just right- paying attention to every little detail- yeah, that’s the one. Now, I want you to take that wonderful tone and shake it really hard- violently even. Next, remember all that direction I gave you about keeping your jaw still as you play? Throw that out the window and move your jaw all the time! Now, apply these 2 ideas to your tone and you will have the most beautiful sound you’ve ever produced!
What am I talking about? Vibrato. The 2 suggestions I just presented produce the refined sound of the vibrato. My presentation, of course, was not serious at all. And you’re right, the method for producing vibrato is more organized.
What Does The Vibrato Do?
In all seriousness though, the vibrato warms up the tone in classical music. In pop music, the vibrato plays an important role in style. Whatever style you want to play, vibrato will help you produce a mature saxophone tone.
Let’s get on with those 4 steps!
Note- Before a student begins working on vibrato they should already have established their saxophone tone. Failure to do so could result in bad habits causing the tone to become worse.
The 4 Steps To A Perfect Vibrato
- The Secret is in the Jaw (How to create the vibrato)
- The Step by Step Process (Training the jaw)
- Steal…I mean, Listen (Listen to good examples and copy)
- Use it All the Time
The Secret is in the Jaw (Step 1)
To add beauty to your tone through vibrato, would you think that the method would match in gracefulness? Well, here it doesn’t. The method is simple- we move the jaw. Here are a few pointers:
- Move the jaw up and down- not forward and backward (look in the mirror to make sure you are doing this correctly)
- Apply more pressure to the reed, and then back off- repeat
- Move your jaw smoothly and try to create an even vibrato
The Step by Step Process (Step 2)
The steps below should use an exaggerated vibrato. If we gain control over the jaw muscles in an exaggerated approach, then we are more likely to gain control over all aspects of the vibrato. This can get a little ugly, but give it a chance and you’ll love the end result.
- Set the metronome to ♩=60
- Play at a loud volume (mf+) and greatly exaggerate the vibrato
- Play (move your jaw to) 8th notes
- Play triplets
- Play 16th notes
- Once you can produce a good vibrato at ♩=60, then move your metronome up to ♩=63. No rush on this, just do this every day and it will become easier. Our end goal will be ♩=76.
Steal…I Mean, Listen (Step 3)
This is one of the most important steps. Take a good example from a musician who executes the vibrato effectively. Listen to this person often and really hear what they are doing with the vibrato.
Next, copy them. Yep, there’s no plagiarism here. You’re free to listen and copy whomever you like. If you don’t have a goal in mind, you’ll end up with a wandering vibrato. Here are the steps again:
- Choose someone (or multiple people) you like
- Listen to them
- Copy their vibrato
Use It or Lose It (Step 4)
Since vibrato deals with muscle development, we need to use vibrato often, especially when we are beginning. Apply vibrato to longer notes in all your music.
Give It A Try
Now that you have all the information, give it a try. Don’t worry, I don’t know anyone who sounded good when they first started vibrato (especially when practicing the exaggerated vibrato). Just warn family, friends, and neighbors beforehand, and tell them it only gets better from here. If it drives you nuts, set a goal for 30 seconds of vibrato a day. The point- be consistent and you will get there.
One More Item
After you’ve gone through the process, get some feedback on how you’re doing. Go ahead and send in a recording to me and I’ll be happy to provide some feedback.
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