Vibrato is a variation in pitch that should happen when a singer sustains or holds out a note. It makes the sound richer, fuller, and more professional sounding. A good vibrato will make the vocal quality more beautiful, while an incorrectly produced vibrato can destroy the beauty of a voice. A beautiful vibrato will occur at a rate of about 5-7 cycles per second, while rates that are faster or slower than this are not considered to be attractive in western music culture.
A vibrato that is too slow is called a “wobble”. It sounds like a car engine trying and failing to start on a cold winter morning. It is usually caused by singing with too much weight and pressure, along with an imbalance in appropriate vocal cord adduction; often over-compression of the vocal cords. You hear the wobble, or slow vibrato often in voices that are ageing and wearing out; however this can be prevented by the right kind of vocal training throughout the life of the singer.
A vibrato that is too fast sounds like a bleating sheep, and is known as a “tremolo”. It can be caused by tension in the vocal mechanism and an imbalance in appropriate vocal cord adduction; usually too little adduction. The singers Dolly Parton and Stevie Nicks are examples of this incorrect type of vibrato.
Singers who sing with a straight tone, or no vibrato, have often been in choirs where they were instructed to keep the pitch straight. This is unhealthy and results in tension in singing. For these singers, learning to sing with vibrato is a great way to release the tension in the vocal cords.
Some teachers avoid teaching vibrato; however this is a skill that can be learned, and correct vibrato should be taught. An even, spinning vibrato not only creates a more beautiful sound in the voice, but is the evidence of a well balanced and correctly produced voice.
I wish you all the best as you reach for your dreams! Tricia Grey, MM
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