Most guitarists don’t examine their vibrato technique after first learning to play it. The assumption is that since progress with this technique cannot be measured in a tangible way, it will simply improve on its own over the years of playing guitar. As a result of this thinking, most guitarists play with very poor sounding vibrato without even realizing it. This is extremely common even for those musicians who have played guitar for decades.
There actually is a simple way to track your progress with this aspect of lead guitar phrasing by following the process I will explain for you in this lesson.
To start, study the video below where I will show you how simple it is to assess your level of mastery over vibrato. Watch the video below before reading further:
This video continues on this page about lead guitar vibrato.
After studying the above procedure for testing the current state of your vibrato, you need to adapt it as part of your regular practicing to track your progress with vibrato over time. Here is how you need to do this:
1. Log the metronome tempos at which you are able to play vibrato technique, just like you track your progress with speed building exercises (scale sequences, arpeggios etc.). Of course when you do vibrato in actual music, it doesn’t need to be strictly in time all the time, but you must have the skill to allow yourself to make it so, if needed. THAT is what will make it possible to choose the best and most expressive way of using vibrato in your songs and melodies. Knowing the precise metronome tempo at which you can do controlled vibrato will give you the perfect indication of how this area of your technique is progressing.
2. Listen to your vibrato being played at “half tempo” (you can easily do this on a computer recording program like Pro Tools). This will make it easier for your ear to detect the intonation and consistency of the vibrato pulses against the drums or the metronome. This will help you to judge your progress more easily as your vibrato becomes faster.
3. Avoid practicing your vibrato technique for too long without context. This means don’t spend all of your practice time refining its sound on just a single note without practicing to apply it to actual phrases. Although this seems like common sense, it takes specific practice to learn to do vibrato well and expressively in the context of entire phrases.
4. When you do vibrato within guitar licks and solos, vary the rhythmic values you use to play it (exactly like I demonstrated for you in the video tutorial above). This is important to do because you don’t want to be boxed into only doing vibrato in a single way all the time. I also put this as a separate step from simply “training with a click”, because you will be thinking differently when playing over a musical track about your phrasing and vibrato than you will when practicing to a metronome.
Don’t forget the final result you are after: to make your vibrato sound GREAT. So don’t make the mistake of focusing on the tempo at which you are doing vibrato and losing sight of the other elements that must be refined to totally master vibrato.
Implement the above points into your practicing and you will start to see your vibrato (and your guitar playing) sound much better than ever before.
About the author:
Mike Philippov is a guitar teacher and professional musician in the progressive instrumental rock genre. His lessons and writings about the process of practicing guitar are read by guitar players around the world. Go to http://PracticeGuitarNow.com to find a collection of free guitar learning materials that will help you to become a more advanced musician and guitar player.