13 Essential Tips For Mastering Vibrato On Acoustic Guitar

Vibratos are cool. Once you learn how to do a vibrato properly, you’ll become addicted to it. Lot of guitarists are struggling to perform a vibrato properly.

Especially when it comes to acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitar strings are thicker than electric ones. That requires more strength to produce a good, ringing vibrato.

Here, in this article, you’ll see how to master vibrato on acoustic guitar – quickly and effectively. Read the tips – if you comply to those tips, you’ll be able to perform vibrato on your acoustic guitar like a pro.

Let’s go!

Before You Start

Before you attempt to do a vibrato, pay attention to these things. It takes only a minute, but it makes the difference (if you’re a guitar beginner).

1. Clean Guitar Strings and Frets

First, check your guitar strings and frets. Are they dirty? Make sure they everything is clean and fresh. That’s really crucial when it comes to playing anything on your guitar, especially a vibrato.

Dirty and greasy frets can really make it difficult to do a vibrato. That’s because the built up dirt makes it harder to move a string across a fretboard. When you have dirty frets, a friction becomes stronger. When a friction becomes stronger, you need to apply more pressure and strength to vibrate on a string.

After making sure that frets are clean, you also need to check your strings. Are strings rusty, or dirty? If so, clean them. Clean them with a simple cloth, or a cleaning liquid.

2. Pay Attention To String Gauge

If you are a guitar beginner, your fingers are weak. Vibrato requires certain finger strength. One thing that makes a difference between a beginner and a more experienced guitar player is finger strength.

Assuming you’re a guitar beginner, make sure you use a lighter strings on your acoustic guitar. Lighter strings demand less pressure and strength to move and bend across a fretboard.

Thicker strings require more strength. That’s why it is best for you to start doing vibrato on a lighter strings. Soon, your fingers will develop more strength and stamina. Then, the question of string gauge will become irrelevant.

If you want to learn more about string gauges, and how does gauge affect playing and sound, read the article from this site.

3. Stretch Your Fingers

Stretch your fingers before. Stretching will make your fingers warmer. That will make your fingers ‘lighter’, in some sense. How to stretch fingers? Look at the photo below.

Stretch your finger that way and hold it like that for around 20 seconds. That will do.

4. Cut Your Nails

Make sure you cut the nails of your playing hand. Otherwise, you can scratch a surface while doing vibrato, and that is not a pleasant feeling.

Doing Vibrato

OK, so you did all the things you should do before doing vibrato. Now, obviously, you have to pick the note. Then proceed…

5. Shake Your Hand At Steady Pace

A secret to great vibrato is a famous hand shake. But not just an ordinary hand shake. You have to press your finger on the string, against the fretboard.

After you pick the string, try to shake your hand, while at the same time you hold your finger pressed. You’ll notice the sound begins to vibrate.

You can shake your hand in two ways. You can shake it in left-right direction, or you can shake it up and down. Both ways produce good, vibrating sound. Guitarists usually take left-right direction of shake, but shaking up and down is also good.

It may take some time for you to become familiar with your hand shake. Don’t worry, just practice it regularly and soon you’ll notice a significant improvement in your vibrato performance.

Vibrato on Open Strings

You can make open strings vibrate also. Open strings, that means when you play the string openly, without fretting with your finger.

How to do that? It’s simple. Just pick some open string, or strings, and then gently shake your guitar, as whole.

When you pick the string, the sound is coming from the soundhole of your acoustic guitar. When you add to that a guitar shaking, the sound inside the soundhole is then bouncing from one inner surface of guitar to other. The sound that comes out is thus a vibrating sound.

Try it yourself.

7. Slide Into Vibrato

Great way to exercise vibrato on acoustic guitar is to sort of “slide into it”. How? It’s simple, just slide from one fret to another and then vibrate on a string.

Sliding into vibrato is helpful because a slide gives you a momentum with which you can gather strength and control needed for vibrato.

In particular, because acoustic guitar strings are thicker and tighter than electric guitar strings, you need more strength to do vibrato. Doing a vibrato from slide is thus easier to perform. Momentum gives you an energy you may not have already in your fingers if you’re a beginner.

Vibrating on a string after you slide comes naturally. The very moment you stop sliding across a string, energy from a momentum has to go somewhere. It is dissipating through your hand shaking. Actually, it is harder not to do a vibrato after a slide than to do it.

That’s what makes this method highly effective. Try it yourself.

8. Try Higher Strings First

Do a vibrato on a higher strings first. Those are high E, B and G. Why? Two reasons. First, higher strings are lighter strings. As you may recall, lighter strings demand less pressure and strength to move a string across a fretboard. Lower strings are thicker, so they demand more strength to move.

Second, higher strings are easier to reach. You can grab and control, for example, B string in much easier manner than an A string. Lower strings are further away from your fingers’ reach. For a guitar beginner, that can be uncomfortable, since doing a vibrato on further strings requires more control. In order to have a control, strength is needed.

If you’re a beginner, just stick to doing a vibrato on higher strings. Until you become good at it. Then you can exercise vibrato on lower strings.

Also, exercise vibrato between 8th and 12th fret. That’s a part of a fretboard where strings have least tension.

9. Take A Rest

This is often overlooked advice. Taking a rest when a rest is needed is crucial. Especially if you’re learning something new on a guitar. And especially if you’re a guitar beginner, since your fingers are not developed in terms of strength.

Vibrato requires directed and constant strength. It can become very tiring for your fingers. If you exercise a vibrato on your acoustic guitar, make sure you don’t overdo it. At the very moment you start to feel heaviness in your fingers, stop.

Stop and come back at it tomorrow. I know it may be frustrating to wait at first, but in this case, taking a rest is the best thing you can do.

When you start again tomorrow, you’ll see a significant difference. That’s because during your rest time, you give your muscles time to recuperate. Also, you give a way to muscle memory.

10. Finger Gym Exercise

To make a string vibrate, it has to have a sustain. Sustain of note that’s being played is precondition of vibrato. You can’t do vibrato on a string that doesn’t ring out for a few seconds.

When you pluck on a string, you need to hold it because a string needs to ring out. Naturally, when you hit a string stronger, a sustain gets longer, thus making a vibrato easier to perform.

In order to make a good, sustainable sound that rings out, your fingers have to be strong. Best exercise that will make your fingers stronger is called ‘finger gym’ exercise.

Take a look. Do this exercise for a 5 minutes a day. Don’t overdo it, as it will make your finger muscles sore.

11. Use Different Fingers

Vibrato is done with different fingers. You’re gonna mostly use your index, middle and ring finger. Vibrato with a pinky is rarely done, but you can vibrate with pinky if situation demands it.

12. Listen And Watch Others Doing It

This is also the advice that’s often overlooked. Watching and listening songs that have vibrato, and then trying it yourself, is very helpful. For example, take some guitar solo abd watch and listen to have it’s played. Most guitar solos have a plenty of vibrato.

In this case, take a look at some solo played on an acoustic guitar. Here’s a good example.


Now, for a first time, just watch it. By watching, you’ll start noticing some subtle hand movements that make vibrato. And by listening, you’ll hear what it sounds like.

13. Play Around

Lastly, you should think about playing around with vibrato. What does that mean? It means you just take your guitar and play it without anything on your mind. It’s when you play guitar without purpose, without any goal you try to achieve.

Relaxed and aimless playing is also the part of the learning process. That way, you’ll develop your authentic touch in the context of vibrato. You don’t have to play exercises all of the time. Just sit down, take your guitar and start to play. Start doing vibrato when you feel like doing it.

That will improve your overall guitar playing expression.


I hope this article gave you a valuable information on this topic. Vibrato is a technique every decent guitar player has to master. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. If that’s the case, I’m more than happy about it.

Don’t forget to check out other interesting, guitar related, articles on this site.

Cheers, and rock on!

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