LMC Tuesday: "Sound in Motion" - Phrasing & Vibrato

Exploration Questions

  1. Why do we use dynamics? Why do we use vibrato?

  2. What are “default dynamics”?

  3. What is the difference between articulations and dynamics?

  4. How is vibrato created?

On the second day of LMC 2019 we discussed dynamics, articulations, phrasing and vibrato. We learned how to practice vibrato and some of the ways it can be used to enhance our scales and music.

Music Selections: Oh Danny Boy & Rippling Winds from the Blue Moon Bassoon Book


Dynamics are used to add color, character and style to music. They help us tell the story of the piece we are playing and balance when playing with other musicians.

  • Expand your dynamic range by practicing long tones

  • Default Dynamics “What goes up must come down”

    • If a piece or scale doesn’t have any dynamics written, try adding a crescendo as the music rises and a diminuendo as it falls. This creates shape and motion in the music.

    • Add default dynamics to your scales to help with intonation and make your scales sound more even.

Articulation & Style

Articulations help us create the style and character of a piece

  • Types of Articulations Include:

    • Slur:   unaccented initial tongue, final note held full value

    • Staccato:   unaccented or slightly accented initial tongue, note held half the value of the note to which it is attached.   However, many performers interpret this as simply a short note, regardless of the rhythm.

    • Accent:   accented initial tongue, note held full value for shorter notes, but often separated for longer notes.

    • Tenuto:   unaccented initial tongue, note held full value.   However, some performers make a small separation before the next pitch, and some use a slightly accented attack.

    • Marcato:   heavily accented initial tongue, clear separation before next note.

Introduction to Vibrato

Vibrato on the bassoon is produced by pulsing the air to enhance your sound. Vibrato is used by many singers, string players and some woodwinds and brass musicians to create motion in the sound. 

The style and character of the music will determine the speed (how fast the pulses are) and intensity (how strong the pulses are) of the vibrato. This technique is most effective when used on longer notes and sometimes bassoonists won’t need to use any vibrato at all!

As a general rule, low notes require slower vibrato and high notes require faster vibrato. Since the high notes are much more resistant, I recommend starting in the middle range of the bassoon and mastering vibrato there before moving on to higher notes.

  • Vibrato is created by pulsing the air not using the jaw or lips

  • Practice pulsing quarter notes on and off the bassoon and on different notes

  • Vibrato exercises help us strengthen our pulses and practice keeping the note in tune

  • Begin adding vibrato to your scales to make the notes sound more connected and enhance your tone quality on the first, middle and last notes especially.

Reference Materials

Sound in Motion - Book by David McGill

Vibrato Exercise Video