Lead Guitar Vibrato Lesson – How To Synchronize Vibrato In Tempo

by Tom Hess

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Think your lead guitar 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 guitar 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 lead guitar vibrato master.

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

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That’s because most guitarists have no clue if their guitar 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 ways to improve your guitar vibrato.

Treat each as its own lead guitar vibrato lesson that helps you sync your vibrato to the tempo of any song (and sound great when you do it):

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

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


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

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

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

This lead guitar vibrato lesson shows a video demonstration of how to sync up width and speed:

Bonus tip to add onto this guitar vibrato lesson: listen to singers and copy nuances of their singing into your lead guitar vibrato. Singers balance the speed & width of their vibrato very well.

My favorite singers for this are: Fabio Lione and King Diamond - they have taught me a guitar vibrato lesson no guitar player ever could!

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Common questions I get while giving a lead guitar vibrato lesson: 

Re: Lead Guitar Vibrato Lesson - “Tom Hess, what should I do if I try to control my guitar vibrato, but it’s not coming out the way I want?”

Answer: First, listen to the sound of great lead guitar 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 guitar 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 lead guitar vibrato lesson to give yourself in order to assess your skills.

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.)

Re: Lead Guitar Vibrato Lesson - “Tom Hess, should I bend strings up or down when doing lead guitar vibrato?”

Answer: It depends. Here is how to decide:

When you do guitar 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.

Re: Lead Guitar Vibrato Lesson - Tom Hess, what finger(s) should I use when doing lead guitar vibrato?

Answer: Short answer is: All of them. 

The long answer is this:

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

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

When you do guitar 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 guitar vibrato with the middle finger as well.

Watch this video for another simple lead guitar vibrato lesson: 

Re: Lead Guitar Vibrato Lesson - "Tom Hess, what if my finger bumps into the lower (in pitch) string when I do guitar 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). 

Lead Guitar Vibrato Lesson #2. Do Delayed Guitar Vibrato.

Most guitarists never learn a simple guitar vibrato lesson that pros know about...

...They 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 guitar vibrato lesson video demonstration to see what I mean:

Delayed vibrato makes the ideas in this lead guitar vibrato lesson even 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. 

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Lead Guitar Vibrato Lesson #3: Track Your Vibrato “Top Speed”

Ever heard of a guitar vibrato lesson on speed? Check this out:

You can use a metronome to track your vibrato top speed, much the same way you’d track your lead 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 lead guitar players 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 playing in tune as you apply the ideas in this guitar vibrato lesson! 

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. 

Re: Lead Guitar Vibrato Lesson - “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:

What's next after you've  refined your skills using the tips from this lead guitar vibrato lesson?

Learn other phrasing ornaments that add fire & emotion to any lead 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 lead 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.

Transform your lead guitar vibrato and overall musicianship with breakthrough guitar lessons online.

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