Do you know how much your vibrato has improved over the last 6-12 months of playing guitar? Most musicians have no way to answer this question because vibrato is believed to be impossible to track progress with. Because of this, guitar vibrato rarely gets the practice time it deserves, leading to far too many guitarists playing with very inexpressive and simply ‚Äòbad' sounding vibrato.
To start, study the video below where I will show you how simple it is to assess your level of mastery over vibrato. Watch the video below before reading further:
To see the next part of this video, study this page about guitar vibrato technique.
After studying the above procedure for testing the current state of your vibrato, you need to adapt it as part of your regular practicing to track your progress with vibrato over time. Here is how you need to do this:
1. Don't spend all of your practice time (for vibrato) practicing on only 1 pitch. You must also work on this skill in the real-life application scenarios of guitar licks and solos. Although this seems obvious, many people get stuck in practicing a certain technique in isolation without applying it into the real world.
2. Log the metronome tempos at which you are able to play vibrato technique, just like you track your progress with speed building exercises (scale sequences, arpeggios etc.). Of course when you do vibrato in actual music, it doesn't need to be strictly in time all the time, but you must have the skill to allow yourself to make it so, if needed. That is what will make it possible to choose the best and most expressive way of using vibrato in your songs and melodies. Knowing the precise metronome tempo at which you can do controlled vibrato will give you the perfect indication of how this area of your technique is progressing.
3. Spend some time recording your vibrato practice sessions and then listen back to the recordings at "half tempo" (this can be easily achieved in any computer recording program). Doing this will make it easier for your ears to perceive the nuances of how your vibrato sounds in real time. Most guitarists never analyzed their playing in that much detail and doing so leads to many new discoveries on how to make your guitar playing better.
4. When you do vibrato within guitar licks and solos, vary the rhythmic values you use to play it (exactly like I demonstrated for you in the video tutorial above). This is important to do because you don't want to be boxed into only doing vibrato in a single way all the time. I also put this as a separate step from simply "training with a click", because you will be thinking differently when playing over a musical track about your phrasing and vibrato than you will when practicing to a metronome.
Don't forget the final result you are after: to make your vibrato sound great. So don't make the mistake of focusing on the tempo at which you are doing vibrato and losing sight of the other elements that must be refined to totally master vibrato.
Implement the above points into your practicing and you will start to see your vibrato (and your guitar playing) sound much better than ever before.
Mike Philippov is a professional guitar player, recording artist and guitar/music teacher. His guitar practice columns about learning to play guitar are read by guitarists worldwide.
His instructional music web site PracticeGuitarNow.com contains advice for guitar players on overcoming the most common problems faced when learning to play guitar.