Vibrato

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Thread: Vibrato

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    Default Vibrato

    Hi,

    I'm a professional clarinet player, but picked up the sax fairly recently. My question is the about the use of vibrato. Are there any classical saxophonists who use very little vibrato? Many of the recordings I hear seem to just blanket everything with it and it simply doesn't sound good to my clarinet ears.

    Also, how do most people do vibrato on saxophone? Is it embouchure, diaphragm, jaw?

    Thanks.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member 1saxman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vibrato

    Done correctly it's embouchure, like vibrato when whistling. You're right, it has to be used properly. As a pro clarinetist, I'm amazed that you would venture into the 'dark side' where vibrato lurks around every half-note. I mean, the legit clarinet is never to use vibrato, right? You would be ostracized if you slipped up and started using it in the symphony.
    Listen to really good sax 'greats' from the golden age of jazz for examples of proper vibrato usage, like Stan Getz. Legit sax players get to use all the vibrato they want, so you could listen to some of them. Rascher, Rousseau, Mule, etc. But even in rock & roll, vibrato was used sparingly by the great players. It's impossible to give you a formula as to when and how much to use - you just have to listen to the greats and absorb it.
    However, I work vibrato practice into my long tones practice, kind of the same strategy; varying amplitude and frequency as I modulate volume on the long tone. We also use a very deep and fast 'jaw' version to affect a 'lip trill' which is used in rock, blues, soul, etc. Typically you use it only on a few notes like Bb3 or A2 while fingering the 'false fingering' for that note, which allows the lip trill to jump rather than just oscillate, by physically bringing more of the length of the horn into play. Listen to Earl Bostic on alto who used deep vibrato in specific places both for lip trills and semi-lip trills. He also 'growled' all the time. I have always listened to his old records and most of the great sax players after him picked up many of his 'tricks'. Coltrane and others thought he was the greatest commercial jazz sax player of all time, certainly the greatest master of the alto sax.
    You never know, you might get so caught up in the sax that you forget all about that old stick.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    Quote Originally Posted by 1saxman View Post
    Done correctly it's embouchure, like vibrato when whistling
    Funny you say that. I learned sax from an old timer French classical clarinet and sax player 25 years ago (he's in his 80's now). He taugh me to absolutely not move the embouchure for vibrato. He says the pure vibrato comes from the diaphragm. I like it better this way as well. No change to pitch, only a modulation of volume.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    That's tremelo (amplitude v.s. frequency), similar but different. Can be energetic when both are done at the same time. Two different rates can be performed at once giving a weird chorus effect.
    Quote Originally Posted by Guto View Post
    Funny you say that. I learned sax from an old timer French classical clarinet and sax player 25 years ago (he's in his 80's now). He taugh me to absolutely not move the embouchure for vibrato. He says the pure vibrato comes from the diaphragm. I like it better this way as well. No change to pitch, only a modulation of volume.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    I suppose my problem is that players tend to use vibrato without thinking of the purpose of it. I hear a lot of good classical saxophonists who seem to use it in substitute of a convincing phrase. I've also encountered people who think that faster is better which sounds ridiculous in my mind. On clarinet, most people think of vibrato in a Harold Wright kind of way, more a shade than then main focus.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    I was just looking at that topic yesterday while trying to recall specifics about the technique Brandford Marsalis espoused.

    You might get some ideas from Harvey Pittel (Part 10) Vibrato - Presents the Saxophone Teachings of the Master, Joe Allard - YouTube

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWS7cyV7J2o

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    I once played with a tenor player who put vibrato on everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. When he was warming up he put vibrato on his notes while he tuned.
    Yamaha YTS-62iii tenor/Paraschos Selmer Neck/Vandoren T20/Vandoren MO/L�g�re Signature Series 3.5
    Cannonball BBSS Brute alto/Selmer Concept MOJO/Vandoren MO/L�g�re Signature Series 3.5
    Buffet Prodige clarinet/Vandoren Masters CL6/Vandoren MO/L�g�re Signature Series 3

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    Quote Originally Posted by eclarinet View Post
    I suppose my problem is that players tend to use vibrato without thinking of the purpose of it. I hear a lot of good classical saxophonists who seem to use it in substitute of a convincing phrase. I've also encountered people who think that faster is better which sounds ridiculous in my mind. On clarinet, most people think of vibrato in a Harold Wright kind of way, more a shade than then main focus.
    Exactly my view. I think the Classical Sax vibrato was or is taught as a necessary part of the Classical Sax sound, and is practiced using a metronome to achieve the correct amount of vibrato on each note. As a Clarinetists who has studied in the German tradition I approach vibrato on the Sax from a musical perspective. More like a vocalist would.
    A pic of how to achieve the perfect embouchure.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    CaseyReed, thanks for the video link! Very enlightening.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    Larry Teal offers good commentary on vibrato use in The Art Of Saxophone Playing, the TL;DR of that chapter is that it's jaw vibrato, but use taste to add it. It's usually a constant in speed for classical stuff. Also I'm not quite sure of the difference between jaw and embouchure, because jaw motion increases the volume inside the oral cavity and therefore changes the embouchure. Is the difference if you do the Joe Allard type embouchure without teeth support vs the more traditional single lip over teeth embouchure? Don't mean to hijack the thread.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    I always thought of embouchure vibrato as starting from the chin and influencing the pressure on the lip while jaw vibrato is exactly that. It doesn't change the embouchure at all. Embouchure is like you are bunching your chin, jaw is like you are chewing.

    Does anyone know of a reason why vibrato seems to be taught to be necessary on saxophone? I'm not saying you shouldn't use it at all but from what I understand, it's a part of fundamental technique.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    Ok, in that case jaw vibrato seems to be the convention because you have the greatest control over speed and intensity.

    I think that vibrato is taught on sax because it just became a convention and a way of adding expression. It seems like it's taught because it sounds professional and creates a typical sax sound. On clarinet it's not common (at least not in the classical world) because it's not conventional.
    Last edited by martinmclaren; 06-15-2016 at 04:10 AM. Reason: Skipped a few words

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    Thanks for the clarification. I think I just have a problem with mindless vibrato. Even flute players tend to have a better sense of when not to vibrate. In my experience, saxophone players use it so much that it starts sounding like goats (no offense).

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    Yup I went through my 30s swing band style goat vibrato. It seems like a coming of age for many saxophonists. It should always be done with taste (although I guess all musical ideas should be performed with taste...)

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    If you think about what Adolphe Sax intended when designing his instrument it aligns with the use of vibrato.
    He wanted to create a wind instrument that would be as expressive as a violin or voice.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    Yeah, for vibrato I listened to cellists vibrato since that seemed like the pinnacle to me and tried to mimic that so the violin comparison makes sense. And singers and violinists both use vibrato in virtually all circumstances, but also spend time developing that as an emotional device.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    Certainly vibrato can be used as an expressive tool, but I find the width of the vibrato to be more of a distraction than an enhancement. Again, probably just my clarinet ears although I have no problem with string vibrato.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    To wide or fast distracts from the music.
    Bad opera = wide, bad pop = fast.
    Some ethnic sax/ clarinet players use very fast but it works in context.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    I rarely use immediate vibrato....I prefer delayed vibrato. And the speed depends on song tempo.

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    Default Re: Vibrato

    Seeing how this was originally a classical sax question, from my experience it tends to be near immediate (although not on every eighth note) and at a constant speed, performed at a speed and width that should be dictated by the piece being performed.

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