5 Guitar Practice Tips That Help You Master Vibrato On Guitar

By Mike Philippov

Your vibrato determines how awesome your guitar licks sound. If your vibrato sounds good and controlled, you sound great no matter how fast you play. If your vibrato sounds weak, inconsistent or out of tune, your guitar playing sounds bad even if you play fast and clean.

Mastering vibrato is about:

1. Balancing width and speed.

Good vibrato should be either wide and fast, slow and narrow or moderate width and moderate speed.

This video shows how good vibrato sounds:

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH2FJsUzpuw[/embedyt]

When vibrato is wide and slow, it sounds like slow bends applied to a note. The note has no rhythmic pulse that good vibrato needs. (More on this below.)

When vibrato is fast and narrow, it sounds like a mosquito buzzing and lacks any control and power.

2. Mastering rhythmic control.

Vibrato needs to create a rhythmic pulse. You do so by applying vibrato in rhythmic note values and keeping it in time with the music. Practice this by doing vibrato to a metronome (or drum beat) in different note values, such as:

  • Eighth notes
  • Eighth note triplets
  • 16th notes

You need to keep your vibrato in time the same way you need to keep your regular guitar playing in time.

This video shows how to practice vibrato in different note values to a metronome:

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1o9VZ250G0[/embedyt]

Keep track of your maximum tempo of doing vibrato, just like you should keep track of your maximum speed with other guitar techniques. 

3. Keeping the vibrato in tune.

The rhythmic pulse of vibrato is achieved by bending the string and releasing it in a specific rhythm. This pulse only sounds good when you:

  • Bend the string the same exact distance each time.
  • Release the bend all the way back down to the original pitch each time.

Your vibrato sounds out of tune if the bend is not released all the way.

Practice vibrato in isolation (on a single note) and train yourself to detect when the vibrato is in tune or not. Practicing in isolation helps to focus on this specific nuance of the technique and master it quickly.

4. Mastering proper physical technique.

Your ears are your primary guitar practice tools that help you refine your vibrato. That said, there are several guitar technique elements you must focus on to make vibrato easier:

  • Wrap the thumb around the neck of the guitar. This helps you to bend the string in tune and keep vibrato under control (especially when applying vibrato on a bent note).
  • Rotate your forearm to bend the string. Do NOT bend the string by extending your fingers. Proper vibrato motion resembles turning a wrench with your fretting hand vs. flexing and extending your fingers.
  • Keep your picking hand on the strings when you do vibrato. Your picking hand must mute the strings you are not playing. This is key to keeping your vibrato clean.

5. Integrate vibrato into context.

After your learn vibrato in isolation, begin practicing it in musical contexts. Create short guitar licks and practice applying vibrato to various notes in each lick. Tip: don’t make the licks long or difficult to play. The focus must be on applying vibrato, not on mastering the licks themselves.

Implement these tips to master guitar vibrato and build your lead guitar phrasing and fluency.

About the author: Mike Philippov is a guitar teacher, songwriter and guitarist in progressive rock styles. He specializes in training guitar players on the right ways to practice guitar.