Acoustical comparison of different types of vibrato

Japanese shakuhachi players know the expression, “Kubi furi, san nen” or "it takes three years to learn how to shake the head." There is a wide variety of vibrato used in shakuhachi playing. Vibrato changes the perception of pitch, loudness and timbre. Japanese music is characterised by an ambiguity of pitch. In all examples, the vibrato is introduced in the second part of the note.

The first sample is breath vibrato, achieved without any shaking of the head. The wavy line shows that there is a slight variation of pitch. There is hardly any variation in loudness shown by the darkness of the lines.

sonogram of breath vibrato

Sonogram and sound file of breath vibrato.

The next example is circular vibrato or mayashi yuri. This is achieved by circular movements of the head. There is a larger variation in both pitch and loudness than the previous example.

sonogram of mayashi yuri

Sonogram and sound file of mayashi yuri.

Horizontal vibrato or yoko yuri is achieved by shaking the head from side to side. The sonogram illustrates only slight variations in pitch and loudness.

sonogram of yoko yuri

Sonogram and sound file of yoko yuri.

The next example is of pulsating vibrato or komibuki. This is achieved by a strong and rhythmic pulse in the breath with no head shaking. The sonogram shows the main variation in the upper harmonic where there is a change in pitch and loudness on the pulse.

sonogram of komibuki

Sonogram and sound file of komibuki.

The next example shows take yoge yuri which involves a strong shaking of the bamboo. The sonogram shows fluctuations in pitch and loudness in the fundamental and harmonics.

sonogram of take toge yuri

Sonogram and sound file of take yoge yuri.

The final sample is of tsuki yuri, a type of vibrato achieved by lightly wobbling the bamboo. There are less prominent fluctuations of pitch and loudness than the previous example.

sonogram of tsuki yuri

Sonogram and sound file of tsuki yuri.

Learn more about shakuhachi acoustics by following the links below.