The Basics of Using String Vibrato

Vibrato is probably the most expressive guitar technique that a player can use in the quest to find their own voice in the guitar world. It is a very individualistic technique that each player will approach slightly differently.

Vibrato is a movement of pitch that is applied to a note, which is typically a sustained note. This movement takes you away from, and back to, the starting note multiple times.

Vibrato is unique to each player, many of your favourite guitar players will have their own Vibrato style which is one thing that makes them sound different to other players. You can learn a lot about vibrato by listening to as many of your favourite players as you can and digging deep into their style.

Technique wise, there are a few different ways to approach vibrato. Check out the attached video for some tips on how to apply this technique to your playing.

The best way to think about this technique is a consistent and even rolling of the fretting wrist and arm to achieve the movement.

Vibrato can be split into two main variables:

  • Width
  • Tempo

The width of the vibrato is how far you move from the starting note. A narrow vibrato only moves slightly and a wider vibrato has a more noticeable pitch change. Different levels of vibrato suit different playing styles.

The tempo of the vibrato is how fast you move from the starting note to the desired pitch change. A slow vibrato is a slower bend and a fast vibrato is a faster bend.

You can combine wide and narrow pitch movements with fast and slow speeds to achieve different types of vibrato to suit different musical sounds.

When you see vibrato in guitar tab it will look like this:

Vibrato Guitar Tab

This, unfortunately, does not give you any information about speed or width so you do need to apply some of your own logical thinking to this as you learn things with vibrato.

You can also apply vibrato to a string bend for some expressive sounding bends. When applying it to a string bend, listen very carefully to the pitch of the bends target note. This is the note the bend is taking you to. You’re applying vibrato to this note which exists on a string that is already bent, so you need to go back to this note as your starting note each time.

String Bends with Vibrato Guitar Tab

Now you can try to put some of these principles into your own playing and unlock a new level of expressive tone in your guitar solos!

Now that you've learnt some techniques to spice up your lead guitar playing, we can look at some popular techniques for rhythm work.

Get started with Palm Muting by clicking Next below, or go Back to carry on perfecting your lead techniques with our lesson on String Bending.

This PMT College lesson was brought to you in partnership with, and written by experienced guitar teacher Leigh Fuge. Leigh works as part of a community of guitar teachers based across the UK. Click here to find a teacher near you.