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Thread: help me out, how to do vibrato on a 4 string

  1. #1

    Default help me out, how to do vibrato on a 4 string

    Having trouble finding a satisfactory vibrato, I can shake the neck, or near the nut I can bend the strings sharp by pressing, maybe that's the same thing two different ways, not sure. Are there any better techniques?

    From what I can tell, whammy bars don't work well on mando, the tuning tolerances are too tight, they go out of tune too easily. Just wondering if I have any other options.
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

  2. #2
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: help me out, how to do vibrato on a 4 string

    There is also the vibrato used on classical guitar and mandolin, where the fretting hand moves parallel to the line of the strings. It's a gentle and controlled vibrato, though.



    Also, balalaika and tar players sometimes rest the edge of the palm of their picking hand behind the bridge and press down to make a vibrato.


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  4. #3

    Default Re: help me out, how to do vibrato on a 4 string

    Ok, grabbing the neck was useful, so is string bending, but I am also looking for a deep slow vibrato like a singer would use for soft lyrical passages.

    I looked at whammy bars, and they are pitch-only, and don't give the beautiful sound I want.

    After more looking around, I find the 'tremolo' effect in a guitar pedal, controllable by tap tempo for speed, and an expression pedal for depth, seems to come closest to what I am looking for.
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

  5. #4

    Default Re: help me out, how to do vibrato on a 4 string

    You can do this with string bending, it just takes practice, and is difficult to do for any more than two strings at a time. For a real operatic, continuous vibrato, you're right, either a tremolo or vibrato effect is going to be easiest. What about a Uni-Vibe, applied with a light touch? It sounds very organic.

  6. #5

    Default Re: help me out, how to do vibrato on a 4 string

    Quote Originally Posted by kurth83 View Post
    Ok, grabbing the neck was useful, so is string bending, but I am also looking for a deep slow vibrato like a singer would use for soft lyrical passages.

    I looked at whammy bars, and they are pitch-only, and don't give the beautiful sound I want.

    After more looking around, I find the 'tremolo' effect in a guitar pedal, controllable by tap tempo for speed, and an expression pedal for depth, seems to come closest to what I am looking for.
    During your search, one thing to keep in mind is that by definition vibrato is achieved by modulating the pitch of a note. The most common manual techniques for achieving this on a steel string instrument are by vertically bending the string(s) up and down, or horizontally rocking the finger back and forth along the string within the fret, which is the more classical approach as mentioned by David. Both take time and commitment to nail down with good tone, speed, and variety, but the basics are easy enough to achieve. Or you can work extra hard on the guitar-god-like circular vibrato style which combines both methods, although the minimal fret board space on a mandolin limits the usefulness

    Since vibrato is pitch-related, you can indeed do vibrato with a 'whammy bar', AKA the incorrectly named tremolo arm, but it's difficult to keep subtle and consistent.

    The name is wrong because tremolo is the rapid changing of the amplitude (volume) of the note, not the pitch. This is nigh impossible to achieve manually. Since you've already found that a tremolo pedal produces a sound near what you're looking for, effects are going to be the way to go.

    Good luck whichever way your journey takes you!

    C. ~/:/~
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  8. #6
    Registered User jefflester's Avatar
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    Default Re: help me out, how to do vibrato on a 4 string


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  10. #7
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: help me out, how to do vibrato on a 4 string

    Start slow. Just bend the string. Bend it a quarter or even an eighth-tone. When you can do that, bend it back. So you get a vertical up and down. There are all types of vibrato - fast, medium, slow and what I'll call varied. when you get a consistent tone on one, move to the next.

    there are mandolins with vibrato bars, but, I think you're right - they don't play with tune well.

    Don't panic, don't stress about it. Also, watch and listen to mandolin players who use it. Sam Bush uses it on the end solo of 'Laps in Seven', I believe. Tiny Moore not so much.

    If you have access to overdrive, that might help a bit.
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