How to improve your guitar vibrato

Guitar Vibrato

Advice #1: Listen to the vibrato of the greats

My advice to help you improve your vibrato starts by using your aural capacities.

We always improve when we listen to great musicians perform.

I would recommend choosing a number of artists that you love listening to and focus on the type of vibrato sound that they create.

If you do not know which guitarist to listen to, please read the rest of the article and listen to the guitarists that I have mentioned in the article.

The best solution would be to turn off the lights, put on some headphones and listen deeply to the UNIQUE vibrato guitar sound of each artist.

You will be extremely surprised at just how different each and every vibrato sounds.

Vibrato is one of those techniques which you can use to help you create your own MUSICAL TRADEMARK.

Creating your own trademark sound on the guitar is absolutely key if you want to develop a great guitar sound.

By listening to the vibrato of the greats it will give you an idea of how your vibrato sound or could potentially sound.

Sadly, the art of listening is often neglect art.

Most musicians do not know how to listen.

It is when you listen with intent that you will truly start to make great progress.

You will pick up the nuances and little things that the greats do that you can then apply to your own playing.

The best musicians are thieves.

They beg, steal or borrow from other musicians.

Every single guitarist that you enjoy were influenced by guitarists who came before them.

That is exactly what you need to do too!

You need to beg, steal or borrow and get ideas from your favourite guitarists and improve your vibrato sound through listening a lot.

As guitarists, we have the immense privilege of being able to imitate the human voice.

Remember that the human voice is the chief melodic instrument throughout the ages.

All other instruments simply imitate the human voice.

The renowned master composer and pianist Chopin studied singers… particularly singers from Italy who specialised in the Bel Canto style…

The Italians understood just how to beautify sound vocally. (Yes, opera comes largely from Italy…)

Chopin understood that VOCALS are the key to great composition and performance.

He used this knowledge to compose some of the most beautiful music on earth!

He knew the limitations of the piano – the fact that there are no vibrato possible on the piano… He would have been envious of the modern electric guitar player!

It is with the greatest awe that we have this gift.

We have the gift of imitating Italian singers on the guitar!

We can become master singers on our instruments.

It does require a different mindset.

It requires you to go behind the mere realm of mediocre guitar playing to expressing your emotion and “feel” through the vehicle of the guitar and actually sing!

YES SING the most beautiful music ever created!

That is why it is absolutely essential that you develop an outstanding vibrato.

Your unique vibrato will be your expression to the world, the tool that you will use to create beauty.

Very few guitarists understand the TRUE IMPORTANCE of this gift.

The gift of vibrato.

Even when virtuoso guitarists play a flurry of notes at lightning speeds across the neck, the final note they land on with an excellent vibrato is the one that will stick in the listener’s mind.

A free tip: it is usually, but not always a musical tension! – such as a Tension 11th (F#) or Tension 9th (D#) on a C# Minor chord.

That is exactly why you need to focus on developing a truly magnificent vibrato.

Utilise the gift that you’ve got – the gift of vibrato and the ability to bend & manipulate notes to imitate the human voice.

Become the best singer that you can become on your guitar – the power is within you!
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Advice #2: Musical meditation is the KEY to your breakthrough – from Steve Vai!

Steve Vai

Very few guitarists would argue about the fact that Steve Vai is a master on the instrument.

Where did he get his power from?

Simply from musical meditation.

Steve Vai in his series “little black dots”, recommends practising musical meditation.

In terms of how it applies to vibrato here’s what to do:

(This is from the technique Steve Vai recommends in his part two of Martian love secrets

Lock yourself in your own private room for 2 to 3 hours.

Do nothing but play a vibrato on the same note. (EXCLUSIVELY)

Now try to express various emotions using that note.

Try to express anger.

Try to express love.

Try to express excitement.

Try to express surprise.

You do get the idea….

The exercise is designed to make you look at the concept of playing a vibrato 1000 different ways!

It is designed to give you the ULTIMATE AUTHORITY on the instrument when you play your vibrato.

It is truly magnificent exercise and one that I recommend you do regularly – especially if you are an advanced player!

You do not always need to do this, I am sure that Steve Vai no longer spend hours and hours on musical meditation.

He has already done the work…

BUT, it will pay off in multiples… effort and time GENERALLY equal reward! (That’s a law!)

That is the great thing about guitar playing, although you will need some periods of recap – when you’ve done the work you have done the work. (It is an investment that will keep paying you back!)

So do try this musical meditation exercise, and you will be extremely surprised at just how effective this will be for your guitar playing and you’ll be surprised at exactly what you can achieve.

Steve Vai’s advice is all about helping you to become an authoritative guitarist!

Give it a shot – you will be pleasantly surprised at just what you achieve.


ADVICE #3: A video demonstration of how to do a vibrato

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ADVICE #4: The holy grail of vibrato – does it exist? (Find out now…)

Old Castle

Be very wary of any advice recommending only a specific type of vibrato.

Although they are arguably a few “correct” ways, there are many types of vibratos.

Classical guitarists do not use the same vibratos as rock guitarist.

And for very good reason.

Doing a rock guitar type vibrato sideways (generally) sounds horrible in classical guitar repertoire.

Doing a classical guitar vibrato in rock can be an awesome sound especially if you want to imitate a very warm poignant sound.

Sometimes vice versa also works… But not generally.

So, be open to experiment with different type of vibratos.

Do not only stick to one way of doing it but go and experiment with many, many different ways.

So I would say, the holy grail of vibrato does not exist.

The holy grail of guitar picking does not exist – economy picking is not the holy Grail.

Alternate picking is not the holy Grail neither is sweet picking.

Horses for courses.

There is no such thing as the most logical way to play the guitar.

They are different ways of playing the guitar and they are all valid.

Do not get too caught up in one way of playing, but learn from a variety of sources (not a variety of teachers! – best to stick to one mentor per style) and become a unique guitarist with your own unique style that makes you the BEST that you can be.

Do not let anyone put you into a box – you are a unique guitarist with a unique sound!

So be the best that you can be.

Advice #5: Reasons why you should develop your own unique vibrato

Reasons why

Developing your own vibrato will boost your confidence as it will be far more comfortable for you to perform lead guitar in front of an audience when you have a truly GREAT vibrato.

There’s a certain confidence that comes from knowing your vibrato sounds great.

With a great vibrato you can land on a tension or chord tone and make your audience cry or laugh!

The most important reason why is to imitate the human voice as discussed earlier in the article.

The human voice is the chief instrument of all the instruments in the world.

Even though you might love the guitar a lot more than the human voice, at the end of the day we are all expressing a melody and we are singing a song with that melody.

Therefore, it is vital for you to develop your vibrato in order to express your vocal style on the guitar.

You can put far more emotion and feeling into your sound when you develop a beautiful vibrato.

You can transport your audience to another realm – and that is the very reason why music exists.

Music at the end of the day exists to move us from this is earthly dimension into the fourth dimension.

The fourth dimension is the dimension where we move beyond the norms of this earthly realm.

When you listen to a great guitar solo and your truly touched and you lost track of time… That is when you enter that fourth dimension.

Above the concerns of this world, into a world of beauty!

To develop your vibrato – your audience depends on you!

Advice #6: Guitar Vibratos Analysed:

Yngwie Malmsteen’s vibrato

By MickeMaiden - I made this photo while standing in the audience, CC BY-SA 3.0, $3

By MickeMaiden – I made this photo while standing in the audience, CC BY-SA 3.0, $3

Malmsteen generally use sideways vibrato and at times his vibrato is very aggressive to reflect the type of music he performs.

He is also able to make his vibrato’s very sweet.

At times, he aggressively moves his hand sideways and almost bends the strings very very rapidly.

In other words, he utilises a very wide (aggressive) metal type vibrato.

It is a truly beautiful sound.

Malmsteen has managed to create his own unique signatures using this approach.


Steve Vai’s vibrato

Steve Vai

By RodrigoCD – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, $3

Steve Vai uses a variety of vibratos.

He is however famed for using the “circular vibrato”. He basically combines the classical and rock type vibratos together in a circular motion.

He may not be the only one using it, I do not have the facts on this, but he is a true expert on the circular vibrato.

One thing he has mentioned is the fact that one can go really slow and create a tremendously beautiful effect.

He also uses the circular vibrato on chords– and that is pretty amazing!

John Williams’ vibrato

John Williams

The haunting but beautiful sound that a classical guitar produces is simply magnificent.

John Williams utilises the traditional classical vibrato which is to move your hand upwards and downwards on the same. (Towards the bridge and then towards the nut etc… instead of               sideways)

John Williams is such a pure player.

He’s totally unpretentious, an absolute master of classical guitar.

And he rarely makes any mistakes – as it should be.

The classical guitar is probably a lot harder to play well than the electric.

You to play multiple voices at the same time and it is very unforgiving.

It’s a stunning instrument.

Williams’ vibrato is simply perfect for the style that he is playing!

Learn from him!

Eric Clapton’s vibrato

Eric Clapton

CC BY-SA 2.0, $2

Clapton is a very sensitive player.

He has got his own unique style loved by millions.

In terms of his vibrato, he uses a standard rock vibrato – sideways.

He was one of the developers of rock music and we have a lot to owe to his beautiful style of guitar playing!

Brian May’s vibrato

Brain May

By Eddie Mallin –, CC BY-SA 2.0, $3

Besides being an incredible guitarist, Brian May is also a tremendously intelligent and kind human being.

He is also an astrophysicist.

He uses a standard rock vibrato, but has managed to produce his own unique signature style from this vibrato.

His vibratos on guitar bends are absolutely magnificent.

He is definitely one of the most respected and loved guitarists in the world.

He manages to produce a very sensitive vibrato at times when he imitates the human voice on the guitar.

At other times he create a more aggressive vibrato.

He is able to adjust to the occasion!

Simply a superb guitarist!


B.B. King’s vibrato

B.B. King

By Tom Beetz –, CC BY 2.0, $3

B.B. King’s vibrato is that one of my personal favourites!

He totally removes his thumb from the guitar neck and uses his wrist to move the strings very rapidly sideways.

He almost shakes his hand like crazy…

He also states that the faster he shakes his hand, the better it sounds to him!

He has a rapid, flurry type of sound…

He truly sings with his instrument!

Advice from the King: “you want to get better at what you do, you’ve got to practice!”

Shawn Lane’s vibrato

Shawn Lane

By The original uploader was Donnie B. at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Enghel., Public Domain, $3

If there’s one thing I want you to do after reading this article, that would be to listen to Shawn Lane’s playing on “Once upon a Time in the West”.

It is the most stunning guitar work that I’ve ever seen in my life in terms of producing a beautiful sound.

Shawn Lane is probably the world’s greatest virtuoso ever.

He uses his tremolo bar to create his vibratos.

The tremolo bar gives a totally different sound to using the fingers.

You want to learn how to sing with your guitar – try to imitate Shawn Lane specifically on the tune “Once upon a Time in the West”.

Shawn Lane was just the master guitarist for whom I’ve got the greatest respect.

He was a master musician and will always remember him!

THANK YOU Shawn Lane for your wonderful guitar work!

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Advice #7: Listen to singers


I would also highly recommend listening to singers.

Listen to the vibrato of vocalists that you love and try to imitate that sound on the guitar.

At the end of the day the guitar imitates the human voice.

Unlike other instruments such as the piano, we have the privilege of being able to manipulate our notes by bending or rapidly bending notes – meaning a vibrato.

By going back to the source – the human voice we can often find solutions to our vibrato problems.

If you are a beginner and you’ve only started with vibrato, you might find it difficult to produce a beautiful vibrato.

I would recommend reading some of the other articles to learn how to practice properly in order to break through your barrier of not achieving great vibrato.

Often times it is simply an issue of just doing the same thing again and again UNTIL it breaks through. (WITHOUT GIVING UP…)

(Read the previous sentence 10 times – it will CHANGE your life!)

So let’s go back to the source – the human voice where it all started.

In the ancient times before instruments were created, perhaps the only sound would have been the sound of rhythm as well as voice.

So let’s go back to the essence of music and start creating a lovely vibrato.

Remember if you struggle with you vibrato, it’s just a matter of time and you will breakthrough.

To learn how to produce a lovely vibrato, just go back to the human voice, listen to some recordings of great singers and try to imitate what they do!

(Along with getting the mechanics right in your left hand!)

Advice #8: Find your own style

Find your own style

Finally, I highly recommend doing the musical meditation exercises that I’ve mentioned earlier.

At the end of the day it is your responsibility to find your own style.

Finding your own style is the key to your future guitar success will stop

It may take many years to find a style that you love

Trust me – inside of each one of us we have a unique personality and style.

There may be a finite amount of ways to do a bend. (Scientifically speaking)

There may be a finite amount of ways to do a vibrato. (Classical, rock and circular…)

There may be a finite amount of usable chords on the guitar. (Mathematically speaking)

But, there’s an INFINITE amount of ways you can express your musicality and that expression is SPECIAL and UNIQUE.

That is exactly why you need to work on your own unique expression in your own way of playing the instrument.

So go for it – but in the time and effort required to become the guitarist that you’ve always wanted to become.

But above all once you’ve conquered the basic techniques, work on your own unique style work on your own unique vibrato that will show the world what you can do on the guitar.

Remember your vibrato is one of your most special assets when it comes to playing the guitar!

Your vibrato will be the tool that you will use to imitate the human voice which is the chief instrument of all the instruments.

Make sure you practice your vibrato diligently and follow the guidance given under the musical meditation exercises. (From Steve Vai)

When you do that, you will get authority of your vibrato and become the guitarist wanted to come.

Not just go out and do it, practice and practice and success will come your way!

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