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How To Use Vibrato On Guitar

Vibrato is something that can really give your playing it’s own unique style. Just like a singer, a guitarist’s particular style of vibrato can define their sound. We are going to look at three basic styles of vibrato, classical, regular, and blues. Try each one out and see if you can work them in to your playing.

Classical vibrato is the most subtle and light sounding of the three styles of vibrato. The example in the video starts out with the 2nd finger on the 7th fret of the high E string. Play that note and rock your finger back and forth horizontally. This should produce a light sounding vibrato effect. You don’t have to use this kind of vibrato with just single notes. Try using classical vibrato with chords as well. It can give them a really cool effect.

What we will be calling “regular vibrato” will be quite a bit different from classical vibrato. Instead of rocking back and forth horizontally you are going to be bending the string up a bit and letting it back down repeatedly. Most of the motion that creates this vibrato is coming from the wrist. The fingers and elbow help a bit as well. Try changing how far you are bending the string to get a more extreme or subtle vibrato effect.

Blues vibrato is generally a bit wider and over exaggerated than the other two styles. This kind of vibrato requires a bit more strength to pull of. Putting your thumb over the top of the fretboard can provide you with a bit more leverage so that bending the string up higher won’t be as difficult. Some guitar instructors say that having your thumb hanging over the fretboard at any time is bad technique. I think using your thumb for this purpose is acceptable and even proper for this style of vibrato. Just watch any video where Eric Clapton is playing a solo.

Check out some recordings and videos of some of your favorite guitar players. Pay attention to how they use vibrato in their playing. Take what you like about some of these players vibrato technique and start to put your own style with it. Ty Tabor, Eric Johnson, Eric Clapton, and Phil Keaggy all have very cool but very different styles of vibrato that have influenced me over the years.