Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, Part 15. Vibrato Mechanisms. Presenting research by Profs. Jan Eberle, Christopher Weait, Scott Pool, and others. By Terry B. Ewell, Bassoon Digital Professor. BDP #226. With Elaine Ross, piano.

<music: “Mozart Mashup” with Terry Ewell and Elaine Ross.>

1. Welcome. This is the second of four videos dedicated to vibrato in the Mozart Bassoon Concerto. In the prior video, we reviewed historical materials and concluded that during Mozart’s time the application of consistent vibrato was not typical. In this video, I will present an overview of the body components or mechanisms by which vibrato can be produced.

2. First, I want to recommend publications on vibrato by Prof. Jan Eberle of Michigan State University in the USA. She provided two presentations at International Double Reed Society Conferences in 2005 and 2006 and published an important article on the subject. International Double Reed Society (IDRS) members can view her presentation on video at this link:

•    2005 IDRS Conference, The University of Texas at Austin
•   Link

3. Her article is available to IDRS members at this link:

•    Jan Eberle, “Vibrato: No Longer a Mystery!” The Double Reed 29/3 (2006): 128-130.
•    Link

4. In the presentations and article Prof. Eberle notes that there are nine ways to produce vibrato on the modern oboe. All of these methods also apply to the bassoon:
•    Hand, 2. Jaw, 3. Tongue, 4. Diaphragm, 5. Whistle, 6. Sister, 7. Laugh, 8. Cough, 9. Vocal

5. Please notice that flattement or finger vibrato presented in the last video is not listed here.

6. In this video, I will use figures presented in my monograph “Wind Performer’s Guide to Increasing Endurance” to illustrate Prof. Eberle’s types of vibrato. I will retain the same figure numbers as in the publication.
•    Link

7. Hand vibrato indicates shaking the instrument in order to create vibrato. The is a technique employed by many trumpet performers, however, it is not recommended for double reed players.

8. Jaw vibrato requires movement of the mandible. Moving the jaw in rapid chewing motions will alter the tone with vibrato. This vibrato is employed by several bassoonists; however, it produces wide variation in the pitch of notes. I do not recommend this vibrato.

9. Prof. Eberle indicates that tongue vibrato occurs in the region of the tongue near the soft palate. Saying “yo, yo, yo…” rapidly approximates this tongue vibrato. I do not recommend this type of vibrato. The tongue already has enough to do with articulation and tuning by means of vowels.

10. The next type of vibrato is incorrectly labeled by Prof. Eberle. The diaphragm is a muscle that brings air into the lungs and physically it cannot be employed for vibrato. Instead, this vibrato should be labelled “abdominal” or “thoracic.” This vibrato is created with quick pulsings of the abdominal and intercostal muscles, which force air out of the lungs. Many wind players are told that this is the only and correct means by which to produce vibrato. The problem with this type of vibrato is that it is quite slow.

11. Before we move on, let’s examine the five components that are employed for tone production or articulation. We have the lungs and associated muscles, the throat area, the back of the tongue near the soft palate, the front of the tongue, and the jaw. With the exception of the front of the tongue, Eberle indicates that all of these may be employed for vibrato.

12. She and I agree, however, that it is best to use mechanisms for vibrato that are independent of the other demands of performance. The lungs and associated muscles need to be employed for dynamics, the back of the tongue for tuning or double tonguing, and the jaw and embouchure for tuning and dynamics. This leaves us with the throat area as a source for vibrato that is independent of all of the other demands of the instrument.

13. Prof. Eberle recommends using only the last five items her list as an appropriate means of producing vibrato. Note that all of these vibratos are presented in the region of the throat. Eberle’s insight into vibrato is that there are varied ways to use mechanisms in the region of the throat to create vibrato. This point of view has been confirmed by videoflourographics studies.

14. My book chapter “Survey of Cinefluorographic and Videofluororgraphic Research on Double Reed Performers” provides an overview of “Xray motion pictures” taken of performers while playing double reed instruments. One of the most interesting conclusions from the studies was that professional double reed performers do not make use of the same mechanisms to produce vibrato.

•    Terry B. Ewell, “Survey of Cinefluorographic and Videofluororgraphic Research on Double Reed Performers.” In Celebrating Double Reeds: A Festschrift for William Waterhouse and Philip Bate (Baltimore: International Double Reed Society, 2009), pp. 143-157.

15. The muscles and structures in the region of the throat are complex and varied. Vibrato is produced by one or more of the muscles. Sometimes multiple muscles produce the vibrato in tandem.

16. The “Whistle” vibrato is made with muscles under the chin.

17. The “Sister” vibrato is made in the upper throat in the lower tongue region. The sound “sis” is repeated.

18. The “Laugh” vibrato is produced can be simulated with “ha, ha, ha” sounds. It located further down the throat.

19. The “Cough” vibrato is simulated with coughing sounds. It located yet lower in the throat.

20. The “Vocal” vibrato is produced in a manner done by most singers. Prof. Eberle notes that this is the most common vibrato. This vibrato is created by fluctuations in the vocal folds.

21. Many double reed performers are surprised to learn that most performers produce vibrato in the throat region, most often with the vocal folds.

22. However, research by Christopher Weait, Scott Pool, and their colleagues have demonstrated that this is the case. I encourage you to further study their fine research.

•    Christopher Weait and J. Shea, “Vibrato: An Audio-Video-Fluorographic Investigation of a Bassoonist,” Applied Radiology (January/February 1977).
•    Pool, Christopher Scott. “Observations of the Larynx during Vibrato Production among Professional Bassoonists as Indicated in Experiments Utilizing Fiberoptic Laryngoscopy.” D.M.A. diss., The University of Arizona, 2004. ISBN:         0-496-90694-1
•    Scott Pool, Bassoon Vibrato Production (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010)

23. Also, here are additional references that you might find useful.

•    Brown, Andrew F. David. A Comprehensive Performance Project in Oboe Literature with a Cinefluorographic Pilot Study of the Throat While Vibrato Tones Are Played On Flute and Oboe. DMA, The University of Iowa, 1973.
•    Carr, Walter Edward, Jr. “A Videofluorographic Investigation of Tongue and Throat Positions in Playing Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Saxophone.” D. M. A. diss., University of Southern California, 1978.
•    Gossett, Claude W., Jr. “A Spectrographic and Electromyographic Investigation of the Relationship of the Effects of Selected Parameters Upon Concurrent Study of Voice and Oboe.” Ph. D. diss., University of Southern Mississippi, 1977.
•    Kahane, J. C.;  Beckford, N. S.; Chorna,  L. B.; Teachey, J. C.; and McClelland, D. K. “Videofluoroscopic and Laryngoscopic Evaluation of the Upper Airway and Larynx of Professional Bassoon Players.” Journal of Voice 20/2 (2006): 297-307. Also, this can be accessed at Link

24. In summary, the muscles and structures in throat are the best region for the production of vibrato. This is confirmed by Profs. Eberle, Weait, Pool, and others. The way in which the vibrato is produced in the throat, however, may differ from player to player.

25. In the next video, we will discuss how to practice vibrato.

<music: “Mozart Mashup” with Terry Ewell and Elaine Ross.>