Vibrato

by | Mar 31,16 | Singing Lessons, Technique

Love it or hate it, it brings warmth to your voice!

Have you ever heard opera singers give vibrato some welly, or sat in front of someone in a carol service with a wobbly vibrato? Why does it sometimes make a voice warm and delicious, and sometimes make you want to put your fingers in your ears? 

Vibrato is when the frequency of a note fluctuates in pitch and amplitude. The frequency can vary up to a quarter of a semitone either side of the note. It is actually not physically possible to sing with no vibrato at all, as the human voice will always have tiny changes in sound – this is what gives it warmth. You can hear on tracks that have been pitch altered, creating a more produced and synthetic sound. Here, the fluctuations are removed, erasing the natural sounds that our voices make.

It is therefore harder to match pitch to straight sounds and this is why, when teaching, I ask students to pitch-match to my voice before using the piano. Teaching the technique of vibrato in singing is not quite as simple as it might seem. The difference in timbre can make a phrase more interesting – but if vibrato is too slow it sounds ‘wobbly’, and if it is too fast it can sound like a ‘bleat’. In order to effectively and beautifully use vibrato we need to understand and use it to varying amounts. This is done by training the muscles in the larynx to work together correctly.

When using vibrato the muscles are essentially tensing and relaxing; this added element of tiny relaxations allows the singer to sustain their efforts for longer and is most notably used in opera singing/performances.