Do Clarinets Use Virbrato

Clarinet Vibrato: Everything You Need to Know

Clarinet players often wonder whether they should use vibrato in their playing. Vibrato is a technique that involves oscillating the pitch of a note up and down to add expression and character to the sound.

While vibrato is commonly used in other wind instruments such as the flute, oboe, and saxophone, its use in the clarinet is not as straightforward.

Some clarinet players argue that vibrato is not necessary in clarinet playing and that a pure, straight sound is more appropriate.

However, others believe that vibrato can add depth and emotion to a performance when used tastefully and in the right context.

It is important to note that the use of vibrato is a matter of personal preference and style, and ultimately, it is up to the individual player to decide whether or not to incorporate it into their playing.

What is Vibrato?

Vibrato is a musical technique used to add expression and character to a note. It involves a slight variation in pitch, which creates a wavering or trembling effect. Vibrato is commonly used in various instruments, including the violin, cello, guitar, and even the human voice.

Vibrato is achieved by oscillating the pitch of a note around its center frequency. The oscillation can be produced by a variety of means, including finger pressure, breath control, or a combination of both. The speed and width of the oscillation can be adjusted to create different effects, from a slow and subtle vibrato to a fast and intense one.

Vibrato is a common technique in many musical genres, including classical, jazz, and blues. It is often used to express emotions, add color to a melody, or highlight a particular phrase. However, the use of vibrato can be subjective and depends on the context and personal preference of the performer.

The Clarinet and Vibrato

The clarinet is a popular woodwind instrument known for its unique sound and versatility. It is commonly used in classical music, jazz, and other genres. Vibrato is a technique used to add expression and character to a musical performance. It is a slight variation of pitch that is achieved by oscillating the pitch up and down at a regular interval.

Clarinet Vibrato Techniques

There are several techniques used to produce vibrato on a clarinet. One of the most common techniques is to use jaw vibrato. This involves moving the jaw slightly up and down while playing to create a variation in pitch. Lip vibrato is another technique that involves using the muscles in the lips to create a variation in pitch. Diaphragm vibrato is also used by some players, but it can be difficult to control and may produce a sound that is not desirable.

Another technique used to produce vibrato on the clarinet is the use of alternate fingerings. This involves using different fingerings to change the pitch slightly, creating a vibrato effect. This technique is commonly used in jazz music and can produce a unique and expressive sound.

Theories on Clarinet Vibrato

There are differing opinions on the use of vibrato on the clarinet.

Some believe that the clarinet’s tone should be pure and without embellishment, while others believe that vibrato can add expression and character to a performance.

Those who advocate for the use of vibrato believe that it can add warmth and richness to the sound of the clarinet. Others argue that vibrato can be overused and should be used sparingly.

It is important to note that the use of vibrato on the clarinet is a matter of personal preference and style. Some players may choose to use vibrato extensively, while others may use it only sparingly or not at all. Ultimately, the decision to use vibrato should be based on the musical context and the player’s individual style and preferences.

Clarinet Vibrato in Jazz and Orchestral Music

Jazz Clarinet Vibrato

Jazz clarinet vibrato is often achieved through moving the jaw up and down while playing, similar to the technique used on the saxophone. This technique is commonly used by jazz players who have doubled on both sax and clarinet.

There is also lip and diaphragm vibrato that can be used on the clarinet, but the jaw technique is the most common. In jazz music, vibrato is often used to add expression and character to the sound of the clarinet.

It can be used to create a more emotional and soulful sound, and is often used during solos or to emphasize certain notes. Jazz clarinetists such as Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw were known for their use of vibrato in their playing.

Orchestral Clarinet Vibrato

In orchestral music, clarinet vibrato is used more sparingly than in jazz music.

It is generally used to add color and expression to the sound of the clarinet, and is often used in slower, more lyrical passages.

The technique used for orchestral clarinet vibrato is different from jazz clarinet vibrato. Orchestral players often use a technique called “finger vibrato,” which involves rapidly alternating between two adjacent fingers on the same key.

This technique creates a more subtle vibrato that is better suited for the more refined and delicate sound of orchestral music. Overall, while clarinet vibrato is used differently in jazz and orchestral music, it is an important technique for adding expression and character to the sound of the clarinet.

Whether using the jaw technique in jazz or the finger technique in orchestral music, vibrato is an essential tool for any clarinetist looking to add depth and emotion to their playing.

Clarinet Vibrato and Tone Quality

Un-embellished Tone and Vibrato

Clarinet tone quality is often described as pure, warm, and mellow. The clarinet’s unique sound is achieved through the player’s embouchure, reed, and mouthpiece combination.

Vibrato, on the other hand, is a tool of musical expression that utilizes controlled pitch wavering of the tone.

While vibrato can add depth and emotion to a musical performance, it is not necessary to achieve a good clarinet tone. In fact, some clarinetists argue that vibrato can detract from the clarity and purity of the sound.

Clarinet Vibrato and Intonation

Intonation is a crucial aspect of clarinet playing. Vibrato can affect intonation by altering the pitch of the note.

When used correctly, vibrato can actually improve intonation by adding a subtle variation to the pitch.

However, when used excessively or incorrectly, vibrato can cause intonation issues, making it difficult for the player to stay in tune with other instruments in an ensemble.

Clarinet Vibrato and Air Control

Air control is another important factor in clarinet playing.

Vibrato can be achieved through various techniques, including jaw movement, lip vibrato, and diaphragm vibrato.

Each technique requires a different level of air control. For example, diaphragm vibrato requires a steady stream of air, while jaw vibrato relies more on the movement of the mouth muscles. It is important for clarinetists to develop a strong foundation of air control before attempting to incorporate vibrato into their playing.


While vibrato is not traditionally used in classical clarinet playing, it is not uncommon to hear it in modern performances. Some teachers and clarinetists still criticize the use of vibrato in classical music, while others believe it can add a unique and expressive quality to the music.

It is important for clarinet players to understand the technique of vibrato and when it may be appropriate to use it. Practice and lessons with experienced teachers can help players develop their vibrato technique and learn when to use it effectively.

While vibrato is not commonly used in the works of composers like Brahms and Mozart, it has been more accepted in 20th century music and in symphonic works. Ultimately, whether or not to use vibrato on the clarinet is a personal and stylistic choice for the performer.

Overall, while vibrato is not a traditional aspect of classical clarinet playing, it is a technique that can be used to add expression and character to the music. As with any musical technique, it is important for players to practice and develop their skills under the guidance of experienced teachers to ensure they are using vibrato effectively and appropriately.

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