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Guitar tips: learn the vibrato of BB King, David Gilmour, Angus Young, Brian May, Steve Vai and Zakk Wylde

BB King
(Image credit: Jo Hale/Redferns)

Guitar lessons (opens in new tab): Nearly every guitarist uses this expressive technique, but have you ever really analysed your vibrato (opens in new tab) skills? Improve your feel as we look at six of the most iconic vibratos in history.

1. BB King 

Tab

(Image credit: Future)

Blues legend BB King has a very fast, shallow vibrato. To emulate it, try taking your thumb off the neck and shaking your hand rapidly, but don’t bend the string more than a quarter-tone.


2. Angus Young

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(Image credit: Future)

Angus’ playing has a blues foundation, and with it comes the fast flutter associated with that style, but his rock attitude comes through with a more pronounced bend, which should be roughly a semitone.


3. David Gilmour

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(Image credit: Future)

David Gilmour is the granddaddy of taste, and his vibrato is smooth, often ethereal and has a very subtle and slow rise and fall in pitch. Think BB King in super-slow motion.


4. Brian May

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(Image credit: Future)

Dr May makes his guitar sing with a slow pulsing vibrato similar to David Gilmour’s, but a wider semitone curve adds an almost operatic vocal effect, which permeates Queen’s music.


5. Steve Vai

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(Image credit: Future)

Vai’s tone-wide vibrato is almost comparable to a classical violinist. You can emulate his style by drawing a circle with your finger as you bend and release the string.


6. Zakk Wylde 

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(Image credit: Future)

Wylde by name and wild by nature. Zakk’s vibrato is as extreme and ferocious as they come, and he bends the string on average a tone and a half. Grip firmly to lever the string up and down.

Learn More: How to use vibrato (opens in new tab)

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