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It is a myth that vibrato was never used in the Baroque period. It is true, however, that writers from the time describe vibrato being used on certain notes as a decoration, rather than continuously. In this clip, Nick looks at some points in the movement where vibrato can be used to good effect.

In her book, Baroque String Playing for ingenious learners, Judy Tarling provides some helpful pointers on when historically informed players should and shouldn't use vibrato:

Vibrato should not be used at the following points:

  • Up-beats of any sort
  • Short quick notes
  • Continuous passages of quick notes
  • Resolutions of dissonances where the resolution is shorter and weaker (e.g. passing cadences)
  • Any passing notes, or notes on weak beats where the harmony is unexceptional
  • Long notes in accompanying passages, except where the harmony becomes important by way of a dissonance
  • Shorter accompanying figures in quavers
  • The last note in a slur, except as a special effect.

Vibrato should be used at the following points:

  • Any messa di voce (crescendo - diminuendo on a long note), particularly final long notes (in the middle)
  • To emphasise strong harmonic points
  • Long notes, suspensions or tied notes which lead to dissonance (at the end).
  • At the beginning of long notes marked sf or fp
  • On shorter notes with marked separation marked sf or fp.

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