Guitar Vibrato Lesson – How To Synchronize Vibrato In Tempo

by Tom Hess

The Secret To Adding Fire &
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick

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Think your vibrato is good?

Try this little test:

Put on a backing track in any key at the tempo of 100-120 bpm.

As the track plays, play one note. Then add vibrato in 8th note triplets – synching it with the tempo.

After 10 seconds, switch to 16th-note vibrato on the same note.

Finally - slow down the vibrato to 8th notes for 10 more seconds.

Could you do it?

If yes – congrats! You are a true vibrato master.

If not, don’t worry. Almost nobody passes this test the first time.

That’s because most guitarists have no clue if their vibrato is in sync with the music or how to even measure it.

But those few who have this skill, play guitar at a level others only dream about.

Watch this video & I’ll show you how to become one of those guitar players:

Here are 4 more vibrato secrets that help you sync your vibrato to the tempo of any song (and sound great when you do it):

Guitar Vibrato Secret #1. Balance The Width Of Your Vibrato With Its Speed. Here Is How:

The Secret To Adding Fire &
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick

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The faster your vibrato is, the wider it needs to be to sound good.


Because if your vibrato is fast and narrow, your entire guitar playing sounds nervous.

On the flipside, when your vibrato is fast and narrow…

…it doesn't sound like vibrato anymore. It sounds like slow bends (not what you want).

This video shows you how to sync up the width and speed of your vibrato:

Bonus tip: listen to singers and copy nuances of their singing into your vibrato. If there is one thing singers do extremely well – it’s balance the speed & width of their vibrato.

My favorite singers for this are: Fabio Lione and King Diamond.

How To Play Amazing Guitar Solos

Common vibrato questions: 

Question: “Tom Hess, what should I do if I try to control my vibrato, but it’s not coming out the way I want?”

Answer: First, listen to the sound of great vibrato you do like. Make a list of guitar players whose vibrato you admire.

Then do your best to describe exactly the difference between your vibrato and theirs.
Is it too fast? Too slow? Too wide? Too narrow? Not in tune? Is there string noise?

What precisely as missing? The more specific you can be when describing your problem, the easier it is to come up with a solution. 

Second: record your vibrato into your computer and listen back to it at half speed. 

This is the most brutally honest test for you vibrato. 

Because you get to hear any flaws in your playing in their most naked from.

(And you get to hear them away from your guitar. When your mind can best focus on the sounds coming out of your amp.)

Question: “Tom Hess, should I bend strings up or down when doing vibrato?”

Answer: It depends. Here is how to decide:

When you do vibrato on the highest (in pitch) 2 strings (B and high E), push the strings up.

(Towards the ceiling.)

The G string can move in either direction. (Up or down).

However, do NOT move the string up AND down. Simply bend the string and release it (by relaxing your hand).

Bend the wound strings (D A and low E) down towards the floor.

Question: Tom Hess, what finger(s) should I use when doing vibrato?

Answer: Short answer is: All of them. 

The long answer is this:

It’s best to use more than one finger to do vibrato. 

Meaning: as the middle finger does vibrato, use the index finger to help out. (Squeeze it into the fret right next to the middle finger.)

When you do vibrato with the ring finger, the middle and index fingers can both help out.

And yes, you can do vibrato with the pinkie finger as well.

Ironically, the index finger is the weakest finger to do vibrato with. 


Because it can’t get any help from the other fingers.

But you can definitely do vibrato with the middle finger as well.

Watch this video for more simple vibrato tips: 

Question: Tom Hess, what if my finger bumps into the lower (in pitch) string when I do vibrato? What should I do?

Answer: You have 2 options: 

1. Use an adjacent finger to rest on the lower string muting it. For example: when doing vibrato on the 3rd string with the middle finger, mute the 4th string with the index finger.

Muting = lightly touch the string. 

2. Use your guitar pick to pull the lower strings out of the way to create more room for the string you do vibrato on.

You can do one or the other (or both). 

Guitar Vibrato Secret #2. Do Delayed Vibrato. Here Is How:

Most guitarists start applying vibrato the instant they play a note. And this sounds ok… except for one thing:

If you are new to practicing vibrato – it becomes harder to sync it with the tempo.

The solution is to delay your vibrato, like this:

Play the note and let it ring with no vibrato for 1 or 2 beats. Then apply vibrato.

Watch this video to see what I mean:

Delayed vibrato makes your vibrato more dramatic.

And it makes your job of syncing the vibrato to the music a whole lot easier.

This is one of the ways I help my Breakthrough Guitar Lesson students squeeze more life & emotion out of notes and play better guitar solos. 

Online Breakthrough Guitar Lessons With Tom Hess

And here are the results they are getting after studying with me:


Guitar Vibrato Secret #3: Track Your Vibrato “Top Speed”

You can use a metronome to track your vibrato top speed, much the same way you’d track your guitar playing top speed.

Start at 60 bpm and practice until you can comfortably do vibrato in 8th notes, 8th note triplets and 16th notes.

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When your vibrato sounds good at 60 bpm, increase the tempo.

And continue to refine your vibrato at higher speeds.

When you can do controlled vibrato at 80-100 bpm – you will easily put most guitarists to shame.

When you reach 120 bpm, your vibrato will be among the very best in the world.

Just remember: 

As you do vibrato at higher speeds, make it wider to stay in control. This gets harder to do – the faster you play. And it’s going to make or break the sound of your vibrato. 

Above all, remember to keep your vibrato in tune! 

This means: release the string all the way back down to the starting note of the vibrato. If you don’t – the vibrato note will sound out of tune. 

Question: “Tom Hess, what should I do if I'm doing vibrato on a bent note?”

Answer: Almost all rules of regular vibrato still apply. You still want vibrato to be in tune, in control and in time.

Only instead of releasing each pulse of the vibrato to the starting note…

You release it to the target note of the bend.

For example: 

You want to bend an A note up to B and then do vibrato from the (bent) B note. 

After you bend up to B, you do vibrato. And you treat the “B note” exactly as you would any other note. 

You bend up from it (to C or C#, depending on the key) and then release the string back to the B note. 

You may also do vibrato by going above and below the B note. 

The A note (the starting note of the bend) doesn't matter at all anymore for the purposes of the bend.

Watch this video to see what I mean:

As you refine your vibrato, the next step is to learn other phrasing ornaments that add fire & emotion to any guitar lick you play. I show you what they are and how to add them into your playing in my free eGuide: How To Add Fire & Emotion To Any Guitar Lick. Download it today and start playing guitar licks & solos you’ll feel proud to call your own.

Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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