How To Develop Your Singing Vibrato (Technique, Tips, Types)

When singing vibrato, there is a simultaneous oscillation of two separate pitches. This kind of pitch change comes from a change in air pressure and the tension in your vocal cords. It’s kind of like shaking your voice and there are many ways to do it.

As time goes on, the word “vibrato” has been used in many different ways. When writing vocal texts, “vibrato” and “tremolo” were often the same thing in the Classical era. Later music researchers found out that they do not state the same thing.

Vibrato refers to the oscillation in frequency, while tremolo refers to the oscillation that happens quickly in amplitude with very small pitch changes.

In a singer’s vibrato, there are usually pulses in both the amplitude and the timbre. A good vibrato is a constant pulsation of pitch that gives the tone a flexible, tender, and rich sound. This is why most singers use vibrato instead of straight tones.

Different Types of Vibrato When Singing

You may have heard several vibrato types. But there are two essential types of vibrato called natural and controlled.

Natural vibrato is a warm and resonant vibration that comes from the involuntary movement of the vocal cords. It is most common among classical singers. Natural vibrato happens much easier even though you don’t have it naturally.

When you don’t have it naturally, it’s because you have never had to look for your natural vibrato shape in your airway from your throat until your tongue. The singer doesn’t need to apply any extra effort or change the vocal mechanism to sing with vibrato.

When singing natural vibrato, the vocal cords are stretched, resulting in this vibrato. You need to find out the right placement, posture, breath flow, and support. Breath energy interacts with vocal cord closure to produce it in a singer’s voice.

Controlled vibrato is known as voluntary vibrato. It’s controlling the vocal mechanism to generate and regulate oscillations in the sound. Compared to the natural vibrato, the singer puts an effort to sing vibrato.

Knowing and using different techniques always enriches your interpretation. It’s worth having a look at those different controlled vibrato types.

There is a discussion on what vibrato is and what vibrato is not. For some singers, only the natural vibrato is the real vibrato. The types you’ll see below are only imitations of vibrato and they are false. I’m leaving the decision to you:

Jaw Vibrato

This is known as the “gospel jaw technique” by several vocalists. Vibrato may be imitated by quickly twitching one’s mouth and tongue. This technique is called “jaw vibrato.”

Vibrato is a technique employed by brass players and singers alike to alter the pitch. The movement creates quick changes in pitch and vowel production. It gives the listener the impression that the singer is using vibrato to generate his or her performance.

This kind of controlled vibrato is also known as a false vibrato. When singing with an unnatural vibrato, your vocal mechanism may become tense. This is why some singers find it disadvantageous. But, a pleasant timbre can be maintained with practice and you don’t have to use it for any occasion.

Diaphragmatic Vibrato

Diaphragmatic Vibrato is pulsing the diaphragm in synchrony with the sound of an instrument. This can also be used in singing. Many singers strive to achieve this diaphragmatic pulsation through the use of vibrato. This approach is likely to reduce airflow during the performance.

A technique you can try is panting or fast pressing on your belly with your hands and then vocalizing one note. The movement of the abdomen, which causes a false vibration, will control the amount of air that enters the lungs.

Vocal Trill Vibrato

Trills, as you may know, are not the same as actual vibrato, but they give the illusion of it. I want to clarify something. The point here is not making an exact trill and then calling it vibrato. What you’ll do here is to use your trill technique to create a vibrato effect.

So you won’t be going around two semitones or even in a wider range. As a semitone is the maximum range of natural vibrato, you’ll need to do the same oscillation in a limited range.

Handshake Vibrato

It is similar to the technique of vocal trill vibrato. But, you use your hands to create the oscillation on your larynx like creating a vibrato on a string instrument. This technique can be used until you create a natural vibrato, even though it is not the best type of vibrato.

Trillo Caprino

Trillo caprino refers to shaking the sound like the sound of a goat as the definition is “little goat trill”. I find this type of sound effect interesting, and I find it very aesthetic. You should give it a try to see how it goes with your voice.

Vocal Wobble

For some singers, a wobble is not vibrato. There is a misunderstanding, much like the vibrato and tremolo situation. For others, it is a type of singing vibrato with slow and wide oscillations.

The point is that wobble is not a natural vibrato but it is a way to vibrate the sound in the end. So this may be why it is considered a type of vibrato for some musicians.

Tips to Improve Vibrato

Here are some tips to help you develop your singing vibrato:

1. Find your Relaxed Pitch

The first step is to see which range is the most convenient for you to practice in. Having a lot of tension in the vocal cords makes it more difficult to relax and oscillate. When it comes to vibrato, most singers find it simplest to experiment with it on a more relaxed pitch.

2. Check Your Posture

Several factors contribute to the quality of vibratos. This includes positioning of the vocal cords, the closure of the vocal cords, and the quality of the vibrato itself.

Whether you’re standing still, dancing, or sitting, the most important thing is to maintain your posture intact. Keep your sternum and your entire torso up. This implies that you’ll have to maintain a straight line between your belly button and chest.

Lifting your sternum from the middle of your chest is all you need to know. To keep the front and back area beneath your lungs raised like a cast, everything else needs to be relaxed.

Taking a deep breath will be difficult if you can’t stretch your ribs and keep that part of your chest open. Your support and control will be weakened which will generate a cascade of other difficulties.

It all comes down to your position, your airflow, and your resonance. You’ll have a tougher time expressing yourself with a vibrato if you’re stressed and uptight. This is why it helps to double-check each of those stages.

3. Breath Naturally

You must provide support, but you must also take a big breath and allow yourself to expand. Sometimes there appears to be a contradiction. Due to your posture, it is possible to take a natural deep breath while still supporting the underlying basic core. You won’t have an arched back or a hunched back in this position. Straightening up your posture is all you need to do.

Your shoulders, neck, and jaw all need to be relaxed, but you should avoid craning your neck forward. Because you are holding yourself, you engage the fundamental support.

You’ll need to take a natural breath as you sing. But, when you sing, everything is exaggerated a little. No one wants to suck in the air, so don’t push it. Opening up the air channels to allow air to go all the way to the back may not occur to you right away.

A lot of singers imagine that air has weight when they practice. When they open their mouths, the tongue and soft palate stay out of the way and the pharyngeal space stays wide and open.

You next take a big breath, allowing your lungs to expand and your belly to expand as well. When you place your hands on the front and back of your diaphragm, you’ll be able to feel and see the expansion.

When you sing, having good posture and expanding your lungs are critical. You may use a variety of breathing techniques, but the most important thing is that every breath should be open. It’s impossible to breathe as much and as rapidly as you could if your airway is constricted.

4. Remember the Dimension

If you remember, vibrato is an oscillation of the tone that causes the tone to vibrate up and down. You’ll need to keep in mind that the dimension of the vibration you’ll be creating has to be small. In this case, one of the most critical considerations is how compact it has to be.

5. Practice Resonance

Vibration and resonance are essential to singing. Reduce your reliance on trilling in favor of more effective resonance. Resonance makes it easier to sing vibrato because you don’t have to strain your vocal cords.

When you extend your diaphragm, the air pressure causes the vocal folds to vibrate as it comes out of your throat. That makes a resonant sound in the throat.

You can find many vocal resonance exercises below.

6. Practice with a Song

Choosing a song that gives you time for trying some vibrato is the next stage in the process. Pick a song that has long lines and even extended pitches so that you can exaggerate. At this point, making it obvious at the beginning is recommended.

Begin with vowels and work your way up in sound. If you don’t want to go softer, you can make it a little less noticeable. Proper posture, breathing, resonance, and a nice opening of the vowel’s breath mechanism, are all necessary for a good start. Next, you try vibrato on extended tones in your song.

These are the most essential tips to improve vibrato. You can also find effective exercises here:

Is vibrato natural or learned?

Vibrato is natural and we need to learn to control it. It may be confusing but I will explain it to you. We all have had a natural vibrato since birth. People speak with a vibrato when they don’t think about it. The vibration that newborns use when they cry is very effective since we all are born with it.

But, singing vibrato is not something we use in everyday life. This is why we need to learn it even though we already have it naturally. Relaxation, rather than effort, is the key to achieving any kind of singing vibrato. You may also do this in a controlled way as it may take time to find the natural vibrato for some.

Is it good to sing with vibrato?

Singing with vibrato gives you many advantages. First of all, vibrato is a stylistic tool that adds power, delicacy, life, warmth, and clarity. Also, your vocal cords will be able to relax during the whole performance.

You’ll find it much simpler to stay in the middle of the pitch because of the slight oscillation. Long-term singing is a lot easier because of this. Vibrato loosens up every piece of music. Additionally, intonation improves tremendously.

Besides these advantages, vibrato on each note may make your singing sound cheesy. Some singers who use too much vibrato are encouraged to get rid of that habit and to find a balance in using this tool.

Is singing with vibrato difficult?

Singing with vibrato is not difficult once you find your natural vibrato. There are plenty of accessible exercises. But, you better know that the beginning process is difficult. This is why there are so many tips, exercises, techniques, and even false vibratos that people prefer to use.

I can assure you that each practice will get you closer to your natural vibrato. It won’t take years but it will take weeks or months.

In any case, you’ll find your singing voice more interesting with vibrato when practicing. When you start to form your vibrato, you realize the advantages it gives, everything changes at that point. Because vibrato makes singing richer and easier.

Should your jaw move during vibrato?

Unless you are making a jaw vibrato, your jaw shouldn’t move during vibrato. Moving your jaw to create a vibrato will affect your vocal resonance, air consistency, intonation, and your vowels. This is not something that singers want.

Moving your jaw will also make vibratos sound exaggerated. The shaking move must be small if you want to have a vibrato that sounds natural. Moving the jaw will make everything too obvious as the openness of the mouth changes.

Some singers intentionally use the jaw vibrato and this is not the case that I’m talking about.

How can I sing with less vibrato?

You can sing with less vibrato at the beginning. It’s always beneficial to over exaggerate things when you start and lessen other techniques that you were used to using.

Later sing the extended notes of the same song one time with vibrato and one time as a straight tone. Mix the straight tones and vibratos. The controlled vibrato exercise of Freya Casey that I shared above may help.

If you like some singers using less vibrato than you do, you can also listen to them and imitate them for a while. Imitation is also a good learning technique in music.

Finally, you’ll see that you’ll be able to sing with less vibrato, it’ll come naturally. Practicing and repeating is the key to everything.

Does everyone have vibrato?

Everyone is born having vibrato. It is not an extraordinary talent even though not everyone can find it quickly. Although, through practice, I am sure you will find it too.

Summary

Vibrato is a natural oscillation around a pitch created by the movement of the larynx while producing voice. It should not be exaggerated, it should be slight and smooth.

There are singers who use too much vibrato to make their singing sound interesting. But, if you have nice little control over your vibrato, this will improve your song.

To sing with little vibrato, you have to find your natural vibrato and be able to distinguish it from other techniques. Everyone can sing with vibrato because it is a natural thing, not an extraordinary talent.

Everyone has this ability even if they do not control the technique right away. If you practice and repeat often, you will find your natural vibrato and be able to sing with it.

Arda Tuncer is a music producer, composer, songwriter, arranger, and performer. She releases music as part of the music duo, Kronik Leila. She has worked and collaborated with some prestigious orchestras around Europe, while also holding University positions as music theory professor and music research assistant. Arda studied music theory and clarinet at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and completed her degree at the Conservatory of Strasbourg in France.

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