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I was reading this quesiton: What is the importance of vocal vibrato?

I realised while I know what vibrato is, I have no idea how one does it. What does a singer physically do to utilise this technique so that they can strengthen their voice and/or sing loudly more safely?

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I was taught by some splendid teachers that a relaxed voice will produce a moderate, pleasing vibrato, or spin. It is actually more work to produce a flat (not pitch wise) tone, though some music styles call for it, and it is often desirable for certain choral work.

The natural spin is to be distinguished from a manufactured vibrato that requires a real effort to produce. This is more or less a deliberate, if speedy, trill from the melody note to a half step or so above or below it. Unless the singer is diligent, this can devolve into the dreaded wobble that characterized the comic efforts of a singer known as Mrs. Miller back in the days of my youth.

I look forward to the answers of voice teachers who are likely to have pointers on how to produce a pleasing spin, and how to avoid the pitfalls of straining after the vibrato effect.

  • That vibrato which changes pitch sounds horrendous. In theory and in real life! Often, it's impossible to hear what the correct pitch should be, there's so much wobble. – Tim Jan 8 at 16:36
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You need weekly lessons with a good, qualified teacher to develop vibrato and learn to control it. There is no substitute for lessons in person with a teacher.

Conversely, a very few people have a lot of vibrato in their voice, naturally and with no training. That was me as a young man. I had to get a voice teacher to teach me to reduce and control my naturally excessive vibrato.

But most voice teachers in the Western tradition are accustomed to taking in students who use very little vibrato naturally, and teaching them to develop and control a stylistically-appropriate and musical vibrato.

I have always heard it said that many pop and rock and jazz musicians feel that taking "classical" voice lessons from a teacher will ruin a person's ability to sing pop or rock or jazz. To a degree, I think that's actually true. But "a little controlled vibrato goes a long way", and I believe the main benefit of learning to sing with vibrato is that it makes it easier to sing for long periods of time with much less strain and fatigue. It gives you a technique that helps you develop vocal stamina. And there are many other techniques that go into better singing besides the vibrato technique. A teacher can help you with that.

  • Nice answer, +1 - though I have to say for me personally it was all a bit 'monkey see [or hear], monkey do'. No-one ever taught me to do it, I just heard what others did & copied it, eventually learning how to do everything from zero to operatic, depending on what is required. I find a nice exercise is to grab a big money note & slide in & out of vib for as long as you need. Prime 'pop' tracks to try that with would be 'Wicked Game', Chris Isaak or 'Lovely Day', Bill Withers. Both those will help with breathing too ;) – Tetsujin Feb 3 '15 at 18:54
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Once your technique is correct it will happen naturally. The amazing thing about vibrato is that is happens naturally without force. It's a symptom of singing with a good and open space (hi palette and low larynx) along with just the right amount of breath control.

I had to work on my technique before it happened naturally. Now it's automatic.

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