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Laugh vibrato in action!

When I ended last week’s blog with “I’m not sure how I’m going to use this new information to teach vibrato”, I didn’t expect to have a follow up blog this week to explore that idea more. Today I have an update and some suggestions for how YOU can explore using “laugh” vibrato with your students.

Always experimenting…

I am always experimenting with new teaching ideas and techniques with the mindset that my idea may or may not work. I tell my students directly that we’ll do an experiment together when we use the new idea I’m working out, so they’re accustomed to trying new things AND having those new things sometimes work and sometimes not work. (I think it’s so powerful to model the mindset of a lifelong learner to our students. Don’t be afraid of admitting that you’re not sure if an idea will work!)

Laugh vibrato was no different for me last week as I was reflecting on what I’d learned. I did a vibrato exploration with at least 5 students who had already started working on vibrato with my old diaphragm approach to teaching the concept. Each of those 5 students found that using the laugh vibrato technique allowed them greater control and clarity. I consider this a huge success! None of the students struggled with this technique, so even though it’s a new technique for me to use, I’m going to share it with you so you can try it as well!

The exercise:

  1. Place a hand at the base of your throat, partially over your collar bones.

  2. Do an exaggerated fake laugh. Feel the vibrations of the laugh under your fingers in your throat. Keep laughing until you can feel the “H” part of the laugh clearly both under the fingers and internally in the throat.

  3. Keep the hand on the throat, and crow the reed. While crowing, use the pulsing “h” sensation to add vibrations to the sound. Once the vibrato is fairly clear while crowing, go on to the next step. (I think you could try this on a mouthpiece alone for another instrument, OR you could skip ahead a step).

  4. With the reed in the oboe, play a note that responds easily, adding pulsing “h” to add vibrato to the sound. (I recommend starting with middle of the staff C or B as they have very little resistance)

  5. Work on gaining control of different speeds of vibrato so you can play vibrato both slowly and quite rapidly. Work on using the vibrato throughout the range of the instrument so it can be used in the context of music!

The results:

So far, each student who explored using laugh vibrato as above was able to use vibrato in context in their music at the same lesson in which I introduced the concept, and have successfully used laugh vibrato in their subsequent lesson this week. They had all been working on diaphragm vibrato previously, so they knew what they were aiming for, and how it should sound. The exercise above took vibrato from theoretical and too-uncomfortable-to-use-in-context to a skill they can use in their music.

Do you teach vibrato another way? I’d love to hear about your technique, so reply and let me know how you do it!


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