The way vibrato is used in gypsy jazz violin, like Stephane Grappelli is a bit different from normal classical playing. Typically only used on long notes and developing after the note has sounded, possibly a bit wider too. Is there a way of notating this, and would it be difficult for a player who is not used to it? This is for a string quartet with a bit of gypsy/balkan influence

  • 2
    Why not just add a note at the beginning of the piece explaining what you want (i.e. the explanation from your question). Notating vibrato explicitly is overkill.
    – PiedPiper
    Sep 13, 2021 at 22:26
  • @PiedPiper True in general, but for pedagogical purposes one might need explicit instructions. As in "Do this drill/exercise, but put this special kind of vibrato on these notes". Or "switch back and forth between these different vibrati (vibratos? vibratoes?)". I dunno, but surely there's someone out there who thought of notating this...
    – user45266
    Sep 13, 2021 at 23:33

1 Answer 1


Just to clarify, you're describing an out-of-the ordinary vibrato used as an ornament only on certain notes, not simply an unusually wide variety of the "switch it on, leave it on" vibrato common to modern practice. I've seen Mark O'Connor elaborate on this idea of a extremely wide vibrato ornament, a sort of "vibrato trill," in which he actually shifts his hand rapidly up and down roughly one position, allowing his finger to actually slide up and down the string in an oscillating glissando (unlike normal vibrato, in which the finger stays anchored in place and merely "rocks" back and forth). Considering that Mark O'Connor studied with Stephane Grappelli, he might well have inherited the technique. (This isn't the best example, but you get the idea:

Short answer: No, there isn't a standardized notation for such an ornament. I'd suggest inventing one and explaining in a text note at the outset. Maybe the horizontal wavy line used to extend trills, with something like vib. at the beginning of it? Or w.v. for "wide vibrato?"

  • I'd go further, and suggest that the vibrato is pretty normal — what's different is its absence from the starts of notes! (Vibrato is a bugbear of mine; I prefer much less than is commonly used, both in instruments and voices, and I find its widespread indiscriminate use off-putting, obscuring the pitch, and often more about compensating for poor intonation, or just habit, than for any musical reason.)
    – gidds
    Sep 21, 2021 at 1:05

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