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(also posted in the fiddlerman.com forums)
I'm still too new to playing to try and add vibrato, it seems. All my attempts to date wind up shaking the entire instrument and affecting the bow's contact with the strings (which is already pretty shaky, as it is).
Do you suppose this could be a result of how much of the weight of the instument is currently supported by my left hand? I note that many violin players can remove their left hand entirely and continue to support the instument with their neck/shoulder hold alone. I cannot, and my son has suggested that a shoulder rest could help.
My thought is that I won't be able to vibrate my fingers until they are isolated from the task of keeping my viola from hitting the floor…
My sincere advice would be try to have good basics, like smooth bowing, intonation etc. The following is from 8 notes.com(from a reply to a question):
"This teaches you how to use vibrato with your fingers and wrists which i think sounds much better than the vibrato described above (no offense).
First learn 1st 2nd and 3rd finger vibrato in third position, unless you don`t yet know third position. It`s easiest to start in third position because the violin is a rest for your hand as you rotate your fingers and wrist. start with first finger third position on the A string ( The note D). Play this note solidly and get it in tune, check it to your open D string if you want to. Now VERY slowly roll your first finger back and make the note flat. Then roll it up to a sharp slowly. Continue rocking it slowly back and forth. This will sound bad, but all vibrato is is this technique much faster. Speed up the rolling and roll back and forth slowly about 20 times on that finger. You can use rythmes or just rotate steadily. Once you`ve done this place your second finger down and repeat the rolling slowly back and forth. do this for 1st 2nd and 3rd finger in third position on all strings. When you have perfected it you can use the fourth finger in third position, which is slightly more dificult. U should be getting a sound of verbrato in slow motion. every day speed this up more and more until u hear the desired vibrato sound you`d like. Then you`re ready for first position vibrato. Use the same exercises but progress faster as you`ve begun to train your fingers and wrists. Once you can play a nice clean vibrato on all strings and fingers just work on keeping your vibrato perfectly steady. Play scales and vibrate each note. This process may take a while but it will give u the best sounding vibrato. Start slow and train your muscles, speed it up and move to first position, then perfect it in songs and scale work.
reply to this comment if you have further questions."
There are other suggestions like holding the instrument against the wall etc.
Practice for not more than 10 minutes. With your sincerity you will be able to achieve it in quick time. Violaman can suggest more clearly. Good luck!
You should be able to support the violin (viola) without your left hand, however, you shouldn't do it all the time. The support that you give the instrument should be limited to a relaxed one. My biggest job when taking over a student who has already been playing for a while is often to relieve tension and making their playing more relaxed. Find a compromise between holding it with your left hand and your chin.
Also, it is OK for the instrument to move when you vibrate. As long as it doesn't move so much that it affects the sound negatively. Sometimes the movement of the instrument actually slightly gives your vibrato a bouncing and more even effect. Remember that I said "slightly".
Lastly, with a viola especially, a shoulder rest could be important for comfort. Viola's weigh more than violins, are bigger, and are played slightly differently by most players. There are some violists that have switched from violin late in the game and maintain the very violinistic way of holding the instrument. I've see a bigger variety of holds in the viola sections than I have with violinists.
It is extremely important to find the right shoulder rest and chin rest when comfort and relaxation are involved. There are limitless varieties of equipment available though the problem remains to find one place that has many to test at once.