Introduction to Vibrato Techniques

What’s vibrato, and how should we play them? Adding vibrato to chords and lead guitar makes your playing sound super pro! Learn here.


Vibrato is a technique that no matter how many times I do it I feel like somethings off. This video has been super helpful though! Standard vibrato is what I’ve used for 99% of my attempts with this technique.

9:21: Justin: “It’s not this (shows example of my attempt at doing vibrato). That’s like really bad technique.”

I had a go at this today. I tried Justin’s recommended technique of moving the strings up and down by pivoting from the wrist. I found my fingers tended to bang into the string above and below the one I was applying vibrato to, which created unwanted noise.

To date I’ve been using the classical guitar side-to-side method with a single finger on the string. It gives much more subtle vibrato, but without the unwanted string noises. I can also move my finger faster that way. I can’t get the movement fast enough with the wrist-pivot technique.

Has anyone else found this?

I also put the wammy bar on my strat and had a play with that. Man, is that thing sensitive!

Any thoughts on using the heel of your hand on the bridge without the hammy bar installed?

Yes, you definitely have to learn string muting as you learn vibrato.

This is a matter of practice probably. Vibrato is something that takes quite a long time to master. One of those things that you can practice 5 or 10 minutes here and there and after a year it sounds pretty good. That’s my experience anyway (except I haven’t quite reached the “sounding good” stage yet :wink:)

BTW, don’t settle for the classical vibrato, it has pretty limited usage as Justin explains in the video.

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I did see someone do that in a YouTube video. I haven’t tried it, bit I would think it takes a fair bit of force to overcome the string tension without the wammy bar installed.

I have a Fender Strat and it takes very little effort, however, you can only stretch the strings, not shorten like you can with the bar.

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Thanks Bill. I’ll give it a try, but my first impression is I prefer the sound the tremelo makes when lowering the pitch rather than raising it.

I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos on the wammy bar, and almost all of them were demonstrating how to make sounds I would never be interested in making, like ‘dive bombs’ and ‘dirt bikes’. Heavy metal stuff, which is interesting because I think the wammy bar has been around longer than heavy metal has. Does anyone know any blues players who use the wammy bar? I’d like to incorporate it into my playing, because it’s a LOT easier on the fingers than string bending. :slightly_smiling_face:

Well, not specifically a Blues player, but Jeff Beck is (was) a master at using the “whammy bar” in a subtle fashion.

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I’ve finished grade 3 already and I initially skipped over this video thinking I knew how to do proper vibrato.
I’ve since noticed that everyone seems to do it using some weird rotation of their wrist, so I tried doing it that way, but I simply cannot do it. I’m not sure if I’m just misunderstanding how everyone else is doing it, or if my arm is simply incapable of doing this motion, but whenever I place my wrist like Justin does in this video and try to rotate my wrist it gets stuck, the rotation goes maybe half a degree before it stops and with that little rotation the vibrato goes up maybe a 5th of a semitone, all in all it just doesn’t add much.

Ergo I’ve come to seek help, I need some input on if what I’m doing is fine, or if I need to learn this way, and if I do learn this way if I could perhaps get some pointers, because I’m not even sure what I could possibly be doing wrong.

The way I’ve done vibrato up until this point has been somewhat similar to the Clapton method, but it’s not exactly the same.
Clapton supposedly removed his thumb entirely and kind of just shook his entire arm, I keep my thumb on and use it as a pivot to instead move my finger downwards, I avoid doing an upwards push, the pull is helped by gravity and instead of then trying to move my fingers back up, I let the string pull them back up since it wants to return to it’s original position.
During this I use my arm muscles slightly to reduce the burden on my fingers, and the thumb helps make sure the string ends up where it should be rather then rebounding slightly up.

As far as I can hear (I don’t have perfect pitch so perhaps I’m entirely wrong, but my ability to hear tones is supposedly above average) the pitch seems to be fairly consistent as well, I’d ask some people, but I don’t know a single musician, so I’m kind of stuck on this, and it’s been bothering me really hard, because as stated before, at this point I’m starting to doubt if I can do the “standard vibrato” method that everyone else seems to do.

It sounds as if you have found a vibrato style that you like, and you feel fairly comfortable with. I see no reason to learn the “rotating” method unless you prefer the sound you can get with that technique.

If it’s good enough for Clapton, it can’t be wrong LOL!

That being said, you will need likely need to overcome your “rotating” problem, especially upwards, when you start learning string bending.



I can’t seem to bend the A note to a B. Or at least I’m afraid I’ll snap my strings. I’m already pretty much bending my 2nd string as much as Justin is on his guitar.

Are you referring to the vibrato lesson? I don’t recall any string bending in that lesson. It’s been a while since I watched it though.

Hmm… something weird is happening when I pratice vibrato for a few minutes. My fingers become black quite fast.

The action is low, it’s a brand new PRS Se Mccarty 594. It seems unlikely that the string corrades that fast, specially at the bottom of the neck where I don’t play often. Also, it does not do that with bending.

Has it ever happened to somebody ? Am I pressing too hard on the fretboard, causing some paint on the fretboard to come off when doing my 5 minutes vibrato pratice ? :open_mouth: I feel worried haha

Adrian Belew is worth mentioning when it comes to vibrato. He’s a master of all kinds, including those of his own inventions. I’m sure I’ve seen him bending the neck though I can’t think of a song where he does that.

where exactly on your hand is the pivot on where your hand makes contact with the guitar neck to perform vibrato? i hear people say the “web” between your thumb and your pointer finger, the big round boney part of your 1st finger, or the base of your first finger right above that boney part. Which do i use as the pivot?

If you are pushing the string UP, the pivot is on the part of your thumb where it contacts the top of the neck.

If you are pulling the string DOWN, the pivot is near the knuckle of your index finger, where it contacts the bottom of the neck.

Deciding if you want to PUSH or PULL is a personal choice. The high E is commonly pushed UP, since you run out fretboard if you pull DOWN. The low E is commonly pulled DOWN, since you run out of fretboard if you push UP. All the others are up to you.

This assumes you are not practicing “Eric Clapton” style, where you wiggle your finger left to right.

do you have to keep your wrist straight?

I think reasonably straight. Try it bent both ways a bit and you’ll see where your limitations are. I could not do a bend with wrist bent too far, it would not feel good at all.

My wrist is very slightly bent back doing an upward bend at the 5th fret, pretty much straight doing upward at the 12th fret, and pretty straight doing any downward bend.