I am currently working on microtonality (I'm talking about JND pitch differences), and I want to know if solfege would be a possible way of learning this. The only requirement is vibrato smaller that the JND (which means it is totally inaudible). So my question is - how to minimize vibrato? Is it possible to sing with no vibrato (or vibrato smaller that JND)? If yes, what does it require (added force, tension)?

A few extra notes: I am an intermediate singer, and the smallest step in the scale I'm working on (205edo) is 5.85 cents (~JND) - which means the vibrato needs to be smaller than that.

  • I hadn't come across the edo acronym before. edo = equal divisions of the octave Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 13:07
  • I'm a moderately advanced singer, and I think it would be extremely difficult to moderate ones pitch anywhere nearly as accurately as +/- 3 cents. Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 13:16
  • 1
    One doesn't have to sing with vibrato. Most good singers can govern it, from none to plenty (too much?), so singing 'straight' maybe needs working on. It requires control. Or have I missed the point?
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 13:25
  • Straight Tone still has vibrato, it's just very small, around 10 cents if I'm not mistaken, at least when we're talking about the average choir. My question refers to whether one can improve straight tone to the point that the vibrato isn't audible.
    – VibVox
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 14:14
  • I suspect that with an average choir, the vib that is heard is due to beats. An individual should be able to sing straight, and the perceived vib could easily be a fluctuation in tone rather than pitch. A tuner would verify or rubbish this.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


European solfege is more geared to western musical styles and I'm thinking might be more of a hindrance than a help. Microtonality doesn't require straight tone, as it's required of good choral singers when singing a cappella and without accompaniment if pure untempered tuning is desired. That being said, straightening out the vibrato as much as possible will help. Increasing airflow and focusing on making the sound from air as opposed to making from your throat will help in this. Increased pressure is often the cause of vibrato, and increasing your vocal pressure may not have your desired effect. It might be interesting to note that many examples of microtuning come from non-western musical styles. Many of these diverse styles of singing are devoid of the wide vibrato found in "the western classically trained voice". Pitch is a funny thing when it comes to the human ear. We're not so good at determining pitch when the tone is pure and clean (like a sine wave) - so singing microtones in the style of a young choirboy might not demonstrate pitch difference to the listener as much as a singer with a slightly nasal straight tone. There's just more acoustic information in the more colourful tone than in the pure tone. Adding some nasality to your sound may assist you in hearing your own tiny pitch changes.

A trained choir can accomplish a sound that is audibly devoid of vibrato, so yes, it's possible.

All THAT being said, vibrato is fluctuation of F0, the fundamental. The centre point of the fluctuation is the perceived fundamental. So as long as the vibrato is minimal and even, microtones are definitely perceivable, even with vibrato. It really depends on the style of music you're using the microtones for....

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