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The opening guitar part of John Mayer's "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" features a fair amount of vibrato. I'm trying to master this part, but I'm having difficulty with the first chord (C#m).

The way I was taught to vibrato is to apply the motion from the wrist. However, due to the thumb wrap for the C# (9th fret of the low E string), I find it very difficult to move my wrist correctly to achieve a pleasant-sounding vibrato. It seems to be alright for the G# (11th fret of the A string), but I'm getting almost no vibrato on the E (9th fret of the G string).

This video clearly shows how John does it. Can anyone provide tips for how I can play it more like he does? Thanks!

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  • John has big hands and particularly long thumbs. That makes the "wrap the thumb around the neck" very comfortable for him and gives the rest of the hand lots of space for the vibrato. I can't do that at all, so I need to re-finger everything when I play a JM song.
    – Hilmar
    Jan 21 at 2:28
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I knew most of what I know about guitar before John got big, so I've never really dug into him, but everything I've seen tells me I should take a look.

Chord vibrato is tough, and off the top of my head, I can't think of another song that features it. Beyond "search for videos of people trying to teach it" and "search for live versions of John playing it with better views off his hands", my take is that he's using left-right vibrato, which comes more from the elbow.

Vibrato is very personal, and while I can describe certain options, telling you what he's doing and what you should without hearing you is going to try be difficult. Keep at it and good luck.

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  • Thanks for the answer! Can you tell me a little more about doing vibrato from the elbow? Jan 24 at 18:54
  • Wow! I just tried it, and it makes a huge difference. I did notice my elbow doesn't actually move much, but thinking about applying the motion from the elbow rather than the wrist makes it a lot easier. It also sounds a lot smoother. Thanks for the tip! Jan 24 at 19:04
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John looks like he's turning a key with his left hand/arm to apply that vibrato. It's not wrist motion, it's from the elbow.

Using very light gauge strings will help. Probably having ridiculously large hands does too, but I wouldn't know.

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  • Thanks for the answer! Can you tell me a little more about doing vibrato from the elbow? (Edit: I actually took another look at the video, and it doesn't really look like John's elbow moves much at all. I'm not sure he's doing from the elbow, but I'll give it a try!) Jan 24 at 18:55
  • Wow! I just tried it, and it makes a huge difference. I did notice my elbow doesn't actually move much (just like I mentioned for Mayer), but thinking about applying the motion from the elbow rather than the wrist makes it a lot easier. It also sounds a lot smoother. Thanks for the tip! Jan 24 at 19:04
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    glad it is working better for you! Jan 25 at 15:11
  • Thanks! I definitely still have a lot of practicing to do on it, but I'm happy it's already making a difference. Jan 25 at 22:13

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