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SHAUN BAXTER GUITAR LESSON

Lesson Aim: To learn the principles of push vibrato and pull vibrato.

WHAT IS VIBRATO?
Vibrato a swift and regular oscillation in pitch of a note or notes, as a means of adding vocal
expression.

Tone-Wide
Because the context of a distorted rock guitar solo is usually aggressive or high pressured, its
important that, technically, you have the ability to apply tone-wide vibrato to any note with any
finger.
There are, however, two problems with trying to apply tone-wide vibrato, and they are the lefthand finger strength required, and background noise.
Personality
The paradox is that although your vibrato is largely responsible for the character or
personality of your playing, it doesnt necessarily follow that your vibrato is an accurate
reflection of the personality that you want to project when you play.
You may be absolutely pouring emotion into your playing, but your technique may be letting
you down or you might simply be underestimating the amount that you have to move the
string up and down in order to convey that emotion.
Vibrato Envy
Listen to your favourite rock players vibrato.
How fast is it? How wide is it?
Nine times out of ten, youll probably find that yours is too fast and shallow in comparison.
Slowing down or widening your vibrato may feel odd at first and, because it feels so strange,
youll probably feel as though you are not expressing the real you; but, if you record it, youll
probably be surprised how different it sounds (to the way it feels) when it is played back to
you.
Many players practise all other aspects of their guitar playing, but their vibrato remains
unchallenged thinking it to be an indelible part of their personality.

Shaun Baxter 2004 & Perform Music Limited 2014


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SHAUN BAXTER GUITAR LESSON


ROCK VIBRATO TECHNIQUES
The two main types of rock vibrato are push and pull vibrato. Of the two, push vibrato is the
more difficult.
PUSH VIBRATO
Take an E note at the 12th fret of the thin E string, and bend it up and down so to that it
oscillates back and forth between E and F#. Here, you are applying push vibrato, because
you are having to push the string up.

Fret the E note with the 3rd finger.

Place the 2nd finger on the fret directly behind it for support.

Place your thumb on top of the neck (it should above the gap between the 1st and 2nd
fingers).

The base of the 1st finger (inside edge) should rest firmly on the underside of the neck
(squeeze the guitar neck between this point and the thumb to keep it in place). This is the
fulcrum on which the vibrato action pivots.

When you bend the string, your fingers should remain rigid and bunched up against each
other for support. The action involved is a turning motion of the wrist and lower arm, not a
flexing of the fingers (arm muscles are stronger that finger muscles). Your left elbow
should be kept close to your body (not tight just let hang down in a relaxed manner).
Also keep any movement of the guitar neck down to an absolute minimum. You want to
move the strings up and down, not the guitar.

Pluck the string once and start oscillating between the E note and the F# bend. Its
important that you always release the F# bend all the way back to the E each time, as this
exercise should sound like an E note with tone-wide vibrato, note an F# bend.

If, at this point, you are wondering, Whats that donkey braying in the background?: these
are the lower strings sawing back and forth each time you bend.

Eradicating noise
There are two things that you need to do here:
a) Rest firmly with the heel of the picking hand, karate chop-style, on any idle bass strings
(just over the treble/bridge pick-up. If you still get noise, shift you hand further toward the
neck).
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b) The first finger of your fretting hand should also be used to dampen the idle bass string
immediately adjacent to the string that you are bending. To do this, the end of the first
finger should sit directly above the second finger (so that the nail is in contact with the 2nd
finger), and rest lightly on the B string (in this case, at the 11th fret).
This means that the first finger will push up into the idle bass strings ahead of the note
being bent, thus damping them before the bending finger(s) gets there. You should try to
maintain this position throughout the bend.
If you are still getting background noise (that is, you cant keep the B and G strings quiet),
check that you arent bending the E string too close to the tip of your third finger. Fretting the
note being bent with the fingerprint part of the finger will mean that you have a 1/2 cm
overlap of finger which can then push the offending B and G strings out of the way when you
are bending up.
Also, if you bend with the tips of the fingers, your fingers are liable to disappear under the
strings at the height of the bend (does this sound familiar?).
Other Fingers
Right, lets look at applying vibrato on this same note with each of the other fingers.
To use your 2nd finger, you simply move the position forward (with the 1st finger being used to
dampen not to bend).
To use the 4th finger, you must first return to the 3rd finger vibrato position outlined earlier and
then simply replace the 3rd finger with the 4th, while keeping the 1st and 2nd fingers in position.
This action should feel like 3rd finger vibrato (in other words, with a lot of the power coming
from the 2nd finger), but with the 3rd finger held out of the way.
For 1st finger vibrato, you have to rely solely on the picking hand for damping any unwanted
bass strings. Again, remember to keep your pivot (the base of the 1st finger) firmly against the
lower edge of the neck.
Its important that you develop the technique of quickly being able to switch between the
classical-style left hand position that you reluctantly have to adopt when making wide
stretches, and this thumb-over-the-neck blues-style vibrato position when appropriate.
The Exercises
When playing through the exercises, you may feel inclined to use other fingering; however,
they have been constructed in such a way that you have to work on specific fingers
Also, when youre improvising, you can use any width of vibrato that you like, but for the
purposes of this workout, although it may not sound too tasteful, remember to check that your
vibrato is a tone wide throughout.
Caution: Remember, to build up to this be sensible. There are ligaments each side of
the end of the finger that will strengthen over time make sure that you dont over
stretch these by overdoing it at the start.

Shaun Baxter 2004 & Perform Music Limited 2014


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SHAUN BAXTER GUITAR LESSON

EXERCISE 1 (push vibrato on the middle fingers):


The critical aspect to remember, not just here, but with virtually everything that you play in
rock, is the following formula, which represents the golden rules of rock presentation:

slide in + play lick + finish with vibrato + tail-off the vibrato


(up or down)

(by sliding either down or up)

There should be as much emphasis as to what happens in between each phrase as the
phrase itself.
With this first exercise, try repeating the first bar over and over again to a metronome.
Practising a set-piece like this to a metronome will force you into having to practise cramming
all of this detail into an allotted time frame.
All this sliding activity in between each phrase serves many purposes:

It sounds vocal (like breathing)

It helps to present what you play in a way that is both flamboyant and melodramatic:
essential when playing rock.

It helps the general continuity between phrases. Without it your playing will have a lot of
pregnant pauses.

If youre playing at high volume with an amp that is heavily distorted (lots of gain) it will
start to feed back if you stop playing. This approach ensures that you are always pushing
some signal out.

EXERCISE 2 (push vibrato with the 4th finger):


There is a slide on the 4th finger at the end of each bar, which will make the last note sound
frail and, therefore, put the general cleanliness of your playing under more scrutiny.
The challenge here, is to shift, in one quick and continuous movement, from the wide-stretch
adopted by the hand to play the first four notes in each bar to the precise fingering described
earlier (for applying push vibrato with the 4th finger) for the last note.
EXERCISE 3 (push vibrato using the first finger):
Make sure that you keep the inside of the 1st finger in contact with the underside of the neck.
If you imagine that the 1st finger is like one of the hands on a clock, the point where it meets
the underside of the neck acts like the screw on which the clock hand turns. If this point loses
Shaun Baxter 2004 & Perform Music Limited 2014
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contact with the guitar, the tip of your finger will be acting as the screw instead, thus
preventing you from shifting the string when you turn the wrist.
PULL-VIBRATO
This technique involves pulling the string down towards the floor and then releasing it back to
pitch each time. This is the vibrato technique that you should use on the lower four strings (E,
A, D and G). There are no bent notes in this vibrato study; however, you should note that,
when it comes to mixing bending with vibrato, the G string has its own rules: generally, you
should bend it by pushing up; however, if you want to add vibrato to a note on this string that
isnt bent, you should apply pull vibrato: this type of vibrato is more powerful and easier to
keep quiet. Here, the approach is much simpler: the movement can either be from the wrist (a
turning action - again using the base of the first finger as a pivot) or as an arm movement (up
and down with the thumb off the neck). Make sure that you can do both types, and
remember to keep the fingers rigid for both approaches. All the fingers available, behind the
bending finger, are used to pull the string down (including the 1st finger, which doesnt have to
be used as a mute with this form of vibrato). With both push and pull vibrato, any unwanted
treble strings are kept quiet by using the underside of the fingers of the fretting hand. Extra
help can come from the fingers of the right hand, which can rest on these strings just over the
middle pick-up.
EXERCISE 4 (pull vibrato on the 4th finger):
Consistent with the notes on pull vibrato (above), all four fingers should end up compressed
into the space of three frets.
Imagine the back of the fretting hand moving back and forth to the nut.
You should use the resistance created by the inside of your first finger, where it makes
contact with the underside of the neck, to bring down the string with a turn of the wrist.
EXERCISE 5 (pull vibrato on the middle fingers):
As mentioned earlier, with all the various sections, make sure that you are releasing the string
fully back to resting pitch each time (try playing something simple like 3 Blind Mice add
vibrato to the end-note and listen to the pitch. You can also try looking in the mirror its
easier to see if the string is being released back fully or not).
EXERCISE 6 (pull vibrato using 1st finger):
Here, the point of contact, on the string, should be the inside edge of the 1st finger (the
fingernail should be pointing towards the bridge).

Shaun Baxter 2004 & Perform Music Limited 2014


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SHAUN BAXTER GUITAR LESSON

Pick-Up Changes
Some players, like Yngwie Malmsteen, use a lightening fast change from bass (neck) pick-up
to treble (bridge) pick-up, in order to open the mouth of their guitar tone and, therefore, add
more sting to their vibrato. What happens in between each phrase must have as much care
shown to it as the phrase itself, as all of these details contribute greatly to the impact of each
performance.
Realising this, there are players that go to many lengths to make wide vibrato as easy as
possible, such as by using light gauge strings, scalloped fingerboard and tuning the entire
guitar down a semi-tone or more.
Initially, the finger strength required will seem very demanding, and will probably take a few
months to fully develop.
A few short sessions are recommended every day in order to build up those calluses.
To check that you are doing things correctly, you should have calluses on the 4th finger side of
each finger end, not the tip itself (this means that, when bending a string) the fingernails of
your fretting hand should be facing towards the bridge.

Suggested Listening
Listen to any of the following great vibrato stylists, Dave Gilmour, Michael Schenker, George
Lynch, Yngwie Malmsteen, Edward Van Halen etc.
Listen to how they use slides to enter a phrase or to tail-off their vibrato.

Shaun Baxter 2004 & Perform Music Limited 2014


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SHAUN BAXTER GUITAR LESSON

Shaun Baxter 2004 & Perform Music Limited 2014


(This PDF document has a digital signature attached for security purposes)

SHAUN BAXTER GUITAR LESSON

Shaun Baxter 2004 & Perform Music Limited 2014


(This PDF document has a digital signature attached for security purposes)

SHAUN BAXTER GUITAR LESSON

Shaun Baxter 2004 & Perform Music Limited 2014


(This PDF document has a digital signature attached for security purposes)