Until the last half of the twentieth century, vibrato as a form of expression in music was largely taken for granted. All forms of legato and sustained playing on any string instrument in the orchestra is subject to the enriching qualities of vibrato.

A proper vibrato is acheived by the shaking back and forth of the wrist and elbow without picking up the finger that is depressing the string in a proper position. This is done by a performer to increase the warmth and tone color of a given passage; as such, when a composer marks the score senza espress it is generally taken to mean 'without vibrato.' It lessens the chance for a performer to add expression or any interpretation. Igor Stravinsky was proud and fond of using this.

Vibrato is such a widely used practice that actually seeing the word in the score is indicative of a place where the string player should grossly over-exaggerate the vibrato used, either to increase drama and tension or to parody. The generally accepted practice of using vibrato in most or all expressive, sustained, or non-stacatto passages leads to the combined vibrati of an entire string section, and this is what gives the section its tonal color, its character, and its ability to inspire emotion in the modern listener.