Saxophone Vibrato, uses and techniques

Saxophone Vibrato, uses and techniques

7 de Octubre, 2016

Por Pedro Pablo Cámara

Artículo original de: 

I couldn’t say why I was so fascinated with vibrato, perhaps it was because the great sensibility of my saxophone teacher, Vicente Toldos, who has a really wonderful use of it. It happened when I started to learn music, about 20 years ago in a small village of Toledo, Spain.

From then until today it was part of my music life, sharing an intensive career in Spain and then in Europe; primarily in Basilea (Switzerland), where I studied and I live actually. My career is focused on different areas, where the vibrato is also an important part of them. One of them and the most important for me is the concert activity, as solo and chamber music especially; being part of different groups and orchestras as Lucerne Festival Academy or European Philharmonic of Switzerland. Now is taking much prominence the pedagogy area, I had to learn how I should teach the vibrato easily to my students of Bachelor and Master in CSKG (Madrid) and in the ICMS in Basilea; activity that I share with other frequent master-classes. Definitely I am sure that the correct use of this resource was something very strong in my music career; helping me to get international awards or record some CD’s for label IBS Classical with the main saxophone repertory.

The vibrato is an essential part of the expressivity, is a resource really important for me, especially when I want to search different emotions, it is very useful to tell many diverse things when you play. For me, the most beautiful thing in music is when you can use your instrument to sing, feeling like a real singer. It is one of my goals as a musician, because the instrument is not a determining factor, is just your tool to do Music.

As a musician I play various music styles, from Baroque music and even earlier until our days. For them, I had to develop a very specific technique (very similar to the singers technique, using mainly the position of the tongue and the throat, of course next to a correct use of the air and the lips) and learn very properly how to use it in each style.

There is a hierarchy very specific in the vibrato’s use. On the one hand you have to know properly where you can use it, I mean in one phrase all the notes will not have vibrato. On the other hand, it is necessary to feel how is the development of vibrato in a note or a phrase, velocity and amplitude of the wave can be different between diverse notes in the same phrase, even it can vary during a note, it depends on the meaning we want transmit. By last, depend of when music was written; velocity and amplitude of vibrato will be different for each style and for each character.

I don’t recommend an excessive use of it in music before the XIXth Century, because music from this time is trying to speak as a language, the story of the piece is the important. For me, is much interesting to develop the articulation as vibrato in this time. I use it in music by Bach, C.P.E. Bach or Mozart just as a soft resonance or when I find a “Messa di Voce”; just in the very last time is a good moment to use it very softly. Conversely for music of the nineteenth century and the Expressionism is a vital resource.

It helps us to express, transmit emotions, beautify the sound but we have to remember that it is a resource; sometimes is much better if we don’t use it, especially when you use too much or without sense. The pure sound is also really beautiful. When I use the vibrato is because I want to search something more, new or different with the emotion; but remember, firstly we have to find this emotion without vibrato and then, we can try to check if with the use of this resource the music sense works better.

Note: The Légère Reeds help me a lot to find a very specific and natural vibrato.

Pedro Pablo Cámara Toldos



To order:

Promo Video of CD “Concertino da Camera”, saxophone concerts by Glazunov, Villa-Lobos, Caplet and Ibert


Music College CSKG (Centro Superior de Estudios Musicales Katarina Gurska) Madrid (Spain)

Tamgram Trio

Art Sound Quartet

Opera Lab Berlin

European Philharmonic of Switzerland

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