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I've never seen markings to sing with vibrato in sheet music but I hear it all the time in country music.

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  • Just a clarifying question, are you thinking of a vibrato that is "mostly always on," used continuously on most notes, as in bel canto operatic tradition? Or vibrato used as a sort of ornament, only on certain rare notes? Sep 23, 2021 at 16:50
  • The vibrato used by Gene Autry at the end of almost every phrase. Most country music also does it like this, vibrato on all half and whole notes.
    – user82217
    Sep 23, 2021 at 16:54
  • (Non-serious answer: "because composers rarely want to hear it.") Serious related question (for @AndyBonner) are there standard terms for these two types?
    – Theodore
    Sep 23, 2021 at 16:55

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This is closely related to this question about vibrato in jazz violin. The simple answer is, markings related to vibrato are few because it is usually an integral part of the stylistic conventions of a genre.

Throughout history and across cultures, every genre uses or omits vibrato in stylistically significant ways. In bel canto or in modern classical instrumental technique, it's often a "switch it on, leave it on" component of technique, and tends to be rather wide. Broadway uses it more sparingly. Historical performance of medieval or early renaissance music often assumes that it should be entirely absent (though this is controversial). Late renaissance and baroque practice treated vibrato as a species of ornament to be applied to specific notes, but like all ornamentation practice, this was rarely notated and understood to be a matter of taste and interpretation. Genre styles also influence not just whether and when but how you use vibrato—how wide? how fast? do you start a note without vibrato and then gradually increase width and frequency? What musical elements lead you to make these choices (cadences, louder dynamics, emotive lyrics)?

So in genres where vibrato is expected, we sometimes see the marking "senza vibrato" or "s.v." on specific notes, passages, or maybe an entire piece, but the only way to explicitly indicate the use of vibrato on a certain note would be with a similar text direction like "vibrate." And stylistic conventions, like Gene Autry's, are still conventions and likely to go unnotated (we make note of what is unusual; every practice has so many assumed conventions that it would crowd a score to notate them all).

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  • In fact, vibrato often becomes individualized to a particular performer. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong all used vibrato wildly differently. Sep 23, 2021 at 18:29
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    It starts with individuals, leading to a genre movement, then becomes stylistic, eventually becoming parody of itself. 'Modern' opera singers hide bad pitching with it, as do club singers doing bad Frank Sinatra covers [though they also employ the overkill mic distancing technique… oh, & the "see how far out of time I can sing the first bit, then catch up for the money note"… erm technique;))
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 23, 2021 at 23:16

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