How to Sing With a Beautiful Vibrato

Updated on April 13, 2020
vocalcoach profile image

Audrey Hunt, a renowned vocal coach, shares valuable information for singing like a professional. Learn how to improve your present voice.

American Idol Contestant

Audrey Hunt's vocal student, Kristen McNamara placed in the final top 3 American Idol Television Show.
Audrey Hunt's vocal student, Kristen McNamara placed in the final top 3 American Idol Television Show. | Source

Vibrato: What is it?

Vibrato is the beautification of the tone which every human voice is capable of producing. While some believe they can't, the fact remains that with education, the use of proper vocal technique, and professional feedback, they can. Understanding what vibrato is can help as you work on developing it.

So, what exactly is vibrato?

  • Vibrato has been described as a slight fluctuation in both pitch and volume that occurs in a wavelike pattern in healthy voices.
  • It's also described as the variation of a sustained pitch.
  • Van Christy, the author of Expressive Singing, tells us "Vibrato is an even tonal oscillation around pitch center and is a normal and necessary phenomenon of free and beautiful vocal production."
  • It is an even, steady tonal oscillation of the pitch center—a slight variation in pitch—and is a natural function of a well-produced vocal tone.

  • When a singer holds a note for a long time you hear a "wiggle" in their voice that adds richness and warmth to the tone. That wiggle is called vibrato.
  • Natural vibrato is the result of healthy, coordinated singing, without being manipulated. When optimal support, airflow, tone (resonance) and relaxation are in balance, the vibrato will take care of itself. Singing with proper technique requires patience and discipline, but this will bring you the results you want

If these descriptions are confusing, allow me to simplify the meaning. Vibrato is vibrating or pulsating of the sound. It's a slight variation of pitch, a wavelike up and down sound referred to as oscillation. A true, natural vibrato should not feel like much. You may sense a gentle pulsating feeling near the soft palate, or you may hear a slight waver in the pitch.

A good vibrato is a pulsation of pitch which gives a pleasing flexibility, tenderness, and richness to the tone.

You can't imitate; all our faces are constructed differently... and the vocal cords; otherwise, we'd all sound alike. I don't think anybody should ever teach by imitating.

— Beverly Sills

Do I Really Need to Use Vibrato When I Sing?

If you want to sound like a world-class singer or simply develop a better sounding karaoke voice, there's one technique you absolutely need: vibrato! Maybe you already sing with vibrato without realizing it. If so, you're among the lucky, and if don't, it's okay because I'm going to show you how.

Vibrato. The big “V”. That special vibration in a singer’s voice that separates the amateur from the seasoned. What is it, why do you need it, and how do you make it happen? I’d be a wealthy woman today if I had a five-spot for every time I was asked these three questions during my lifetime of teaching voice. I happen to love these three questions and I'm ready to give you some answers, so sit back, relax and get ready to learn about this mysterious but beautiful technique.

Skilled Vocalists Sing With Vibrato

Helping actor/singer George Rose develop vibrato in preparation for the lead role in the musical  "The Music Man."
Helping actor/singer George Rose develop vibrato in preparation for the lead role in the musical "The Music Man." | Source

Can Anyone Learn to Sing With Vibrato?

Some are born with it and some are not. Some have it and others need to work on it, but everyone can develop these wave-like sounds. But I want you to know, before I continue, that vibrato is a natural result of a relaxed and technically correct voice. This means that when you apply proper vocal technique to your singing, vibrato occurs naturally.

Using vibrato when you sing is going to add a rich, beautiful sound to your present singing. It is so desirable that many instrumentalists such as horn players, strings, brass, and others, copy the vocal vibrato to obtain the same effect and beautification. Vibrato adds depth and beauty to the singing voice as well as other instruments.

Most anyone can learn to sing with vibrato. The best way to unleash your natural vibrato is to make sure you're using correct technique and to accomplish this you need some quality instruction and feedback. Yes, you can learn about technique by watching a video or reading a book, but you'll still be missing an important component....feedback!

Why You Need Vibrato When You Sing

Wow - what a great voice! You've said it, I say it, and so have others. We may not realize exactly why we like a certain vocal sound; it could be that we like the tone, the style, or even maybe we just like the song itself. Most of the time we like a voice that uses a nice, rich, controlled vibrato. And, of course, we also enjoy a voice that is empowered with consistent vocal technique.

One important reason we use vibrato is when we sing, the muscles used to vocalize must have motion, or they become tense. Tension in these muscles produce tension in the tone.

A sound without vibrato is called a "straight tone", which is also necessary for expressive singing as well as certain styles such as folk singing. A straight tone has no "give" and "take" fluctuation of the vocal cords.

Vibrato adds depth and beauty to the singing voice as well as other instruments.Vibrato manifests itself when the voice is functioning in a consistent manner relative to breath pressure/flow. Diaphragmatic breathing, along with distribution of air is used for this purpose as well as good overall singing and control over the voice.

I can't say it enough - when a singer achieves good vocal habits, the vibrato is simply revealed.

Vibrato Frequency

A good vibrato comes at a rate of approximately 6 to 8 beats per second.
A good vibrato comes at a rate of approximately 6 to 8 beats per second. | Source

How to Learn and Develop Your Vibrato

Keep in mind that when you focus on building solid vocal techniques you'll automatically have the ability to use vibrato whenever you like. This is the first order of business. The fundamental area to perfect would be your breath control....breathing diaphragmatically.

Your power source is the breath that supports your sound. This is the driving force, and anything that affects your breath (or your lungs) can completely eliminate your ability to produce sound. The bottom line is this: If you fail to sing with proper support you cannot control the vibrato rate.

If you're looking for some help on breathing the right way for singing, check out the link I just provided for you.

The following tips are necessary to develop vibrato:

  • Get rid of tension. Too much tension in your tone, neck area, the lips, tongue, and jaw can interfere with producing vibrato. Make it a habit to release tension in these areas. A natural vibrato absolutely demands complete relaxation.
  • Listen to at least 4 or 5 different singers, focusing on their vibrato. Try to imitate their vibrato while recording your voice. You only need to record a few phrases and not the whole song. Repeat this exercise many times for several weeks or as long as it takes to hear your own vibrato.
  • Some singers learn vibrato by activating either the jaw or abdominal muscles. While this can bring results I still prefer a more natural vibrato that comes with a well-developed voice.
  • Feel the buzz. You should feel a buzzing in your throat, neck or vocal cords during vibrato.
  • Avoid forcing the tone. A natural vibrato appears when the singer's throat is relaxed enough for the larynx to have gentle movement. Natural vibrato will have a consistent beat in the sound and will feel free and effortless in the throat.
  • Some vocalists use their abdomen to produce a false vibrato known as diaphragmatic vibrato. This is achieved by pulsating the.diaphragm while sustaining the tone.
  • The vocal trill is another way to awaken the vibrato function.

Don't be discouraged If vibrato doesn't appear in your voice right away, or within the time frame that you have deemed to be acceptable. Just know that as you build a solid foundation of vocal technique your vibrato will begin to bloom.

Vibrato Problems

Some types of vibrato are rated as too fast or too slow. If your vibrato is too slow it becomes known as "the wobble" which can be the result of poor muscle tone, or fatigue. Using too much vibrato will also cause a wobble that comes in slow waves.

Here's what I want you to know: The most common distortions that draw attention to a singer's vibrato are a tremolo, or bleat, (vibrato from hell) and a wobble. These distorted vibrato sounds have to do with the perceived speed and pitch variation of the vibrato. Another common problem is an unintended straight tone - a seeming inability to produce vibrato at all.caused by tension in the larynx. Lack of breath support can also cause a wobbly sound.

When a muscle is tensed for too long and not allowed to relax, it will begin to quiver and eventually develop an uncontrolled tremor in the tongue, jaw, larynx, abdominal muscles, and rib and chest muscles. If the quiver is fast, the vibrato will be fast, nervous, and insecure.Forcing the chin down against the larynx will make the vibrato change both rate and extent erratically and irregularly.

Balanced breath support and releasing tension are major factors for alleviating your vibrato problems.

The average acceptable vibrato displays an extent of one quarter tone above and below the desired pitch.

Breath Support Is The Powerhouse for Singing

Student, Singer/Actor "Wren" demonstrates how to keep the chest quiet while inflating from the abdomen for proper breath support.
Student, Singer/Actor "Wren" demonstrates how to keep the chest quiet while inflating from the abdomen for proper breath support. | Source

Connecting Your Voice To Sound

Your vocal cords are amazing with a unique way of vibrating. Vibrations amplify your initial sound. A breath of air travels through your body and as the air reaches your vocal cords causes these bands to vibrate producing sound. One of the main reasons people dislike their singing is due to tension in the body. Vibrations are murdered by tension Your first order of business then, is to release tension in the neck, shoulder, jaw, lips, tongue and even the knees. (Unlock the knees.) Make it a practice to go through the "Rag Doll" exercise before singing.

The easiest way to connect your voice to sound is by humming:

  1. Keeping your lips relaxed make a slow, steady and continuous sound like that of a bee. Feel for the buzzing sensation through the lips.
  2. Now open your lips still sustaining the sound. Maintain an easy, relaxed position and carry this throughout your sound.
  3. This is your natural vocal sound filled with vibration and breath.
  4. You have connected with the central point of sound.
  5. Finish with voicing the sound of "huh" sustaining the "uh" with plenty of air. The more air you inhale, using the belly breath, the longer you'll be able to hold the sound.
  6. Repeat the process on several pitches, going down, then up again to the easy mid-register pitch you started on.

Vibrations thrive on attention. Become a connoisseur of vibrations:

  • Taste them.
  • Spread them around your face.
  • Luxuriate in them.
  • Indulge them.

Note: Vibrations cannot exist freely unless the breath is free.

Friend, Justin Stony Demonstrates Vibrato

Summary

Leaving all the technical talk behind, vibrato is simply a result of the sound of your voice being released naturally and with ease from your vocal cords. People tend not to sing with vibrato because they’re too tense and tight, or they have an overload and can’t control it. Skilled singers use vibrato to emphasize expression.

We, humans, have a uniquely shaped pharynx and tongue that was divinely designed for speaking and singing. This means that anyone can sing, including you. Every tool needed to produce a beautiful singing voice is alive and well within your body. I know this. I've spent a lifetime transforming singing voices from what some folks believe to be impossible to outstanding. It's all there, right inside you. All you have to do is to discover these tools and learn how to use them. If I want to build a house I must have certain tools available. But simply having these tools, is not enough. I must know which tool to use and how to use it.

Developing your vibrato is pretty much the same thing. The better understanding you have for each singing tool, the better your results will be as you work toward constructing a better voice. I remind my students "Technique will set you free." Commit to learning all you can about techniques such as:

  • Breath Control
  • Proper Diction
  • Tone Beautification
  • The Resonating System
  • Tonal Attack and Release
  • Caring for your voice
  • How to practice
  • Forming vowels
  • Ear Training
  • Consonants
  • Proper Warm-Ups
  • Body Posture

Just remember that with time and practice, you can develop a stronger, clearer vibrato! Start today, begin now to free and celebrate the voice within.

"Singing brings out in me what I can't normally bring out in everyday life. It's an incredible feeling to be able to bare your soul to people you've never met in a way that can make them understand so clearly what you mean. That's what I love most about singing ... it becomes my truest form of communication."

Josh Groban

Do You Use Vibrato When You Sing?

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© 2020 Audrey Hunt

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    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Dear Genna

      How are you, my dear friend? We're living in trying times, aren't we? I hope you and yours are staying healthy and well protected during this pandemic. It's a terrible thing!

      I love your comments and I'm very happy you've returned to singing. It's a great stree reliever for this on-going isolation. I'm always excited when I get a visit from you. You continue to lift me up.

      Hugs.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Audrey, I am always so impressed with your knowledge and mastery of the instrument of voice. You've given me the courage to try to sing a little again. It's been years. Thank you. :-) Hope you are staying safe and well.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Devika

      Nothing gives me as much joy as learning that one of my articles help someone...especially with their singing voice. Thank you for sharing these thoughts with me.

      Stay safe and be well.

    • profile image

      Devika Primic 

      2 months ago

      Hi Audrey this is a fun read about learning to sing with a Vibrato. You shared to me an informative and well written hub. Take care.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Dora

      Thank you for your kind words. I feel like I've really accomplished something when I get a compliment like yours. Singing really is a combination of various factors all activated by the body.

      Take good care of yourself and be safe.

      Hi Sha

      Thanks for helping me. I'll work on this tomorrow. You're the best!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      DreamerMeg

      How right you are! Diaphragmatic breathing is absolutely crucial for seniors as well as everyone else when it comes to our health. Thanks a lot

      Hi Eric

      Vibrato can be a bit complicated unless it comes naturally when we sing. I'm glad you were able to learn about vibrato as it adds a nice richness to the tone.

      Stay safe, my friend.

      .

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 months ago from Central Florida

      Audrey, try using the video mode of your cell phone. It's in "Photo". There should be an icon for you to touch to convert photo to video.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Donna

      To tell if you sing with vibrato, record your voice and as you listen back to the recording pay attention to the times that you hold onto a note - especially at the end of a phrase. If you hear a wave-like sound you have vibrato. I hope this helps and I hope you're feeling well enough to sing again.

      Thank you.

      Sha

      "Over the Rainbow" is one of my favorite songs too. I always include this in my shows. Now, about a video of myself singing. The reason I lack videos or recordings of me singing is (and don't laugh), is because I simply don't know how to do this. I've tried many times but without success. I'm presently trying to put a recording of a song from an album recorded when living in Hawaii.on youtube but its only my voice with no background.

      I would love to find someone to help me with this.

      I've been frustrated for years because I don't know what I'm doing. I've always thought I had at least a mediocre amount of intelligence but when it comes to using the computer I certainly don't I'll keep trying and I appreciate your interest in hearing me sing.

      Thank you, dear friend. You're the best!

      Audrey

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 months ago from The Caribbean

      I'm always inspired by your articles on voice and singing. You teach things that I didn't know were possible. Thank you for sharing these marvelous techniques.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Ruby

      Thank you for letting me know that my singing instruction CD is helping you with your singing. I admire you for the way you continue to work on your singing voice. It will pay off in time. Everyone can learn to sing better and the rewards are amazing. Keep up the great work, Ruby, and thank you.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      This was really neat to learn about. I did not know any of this. Thank you. I think public speakers get wobbly sometimes, I think that is what I notice and immediately say to myself they are way to nervous.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      2 months ago from Northern Ireland

      Great hub, so interesting. I take it learning breath control and singing techniques would be good for older people anyway?

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Linda

      Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your constant support. Please stay healthy and be safe!

      Pamela

      It's people like you that inspire me to write about the singing voice. I sense your desire to work on your singing and this makes me want to rise to the challenge. I love it and thank you!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Bill

      Wow! Thank you, so much. I truly couldn't write this book without you. I'm forever gratefull.

      Thank you,

      Love,

      Audrey

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 months ago from Central Florida

      Audrey, one of my favorite TV shows is The Voice. I often turn my face away from the television and close my eyes so I can experience the singer as the judges do, sight unseen. I'll turn around when impressed to see what they look like and to watch their faces. One thing I look for is strained veins in the neck. Those who don't strain, in my opinion, have either a natural talent or they've have some voice coaching.

      I Googled Kristen McNamara. I like her voice. She sang Tracy Chapman's "Gimme One Reason To Stay Here" and the judges didn't have very nice things to say. I thought her rendition was unique.They said it was an easy choice. The vibrato was beautiful.

      One of my favorite songs to sing acapella (and by myself) is "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". That song lends itself to vibrato. Although I had to learn how to breathe from my diaphragm when I was in broadcasting school (who knew there's more than one way to breathe?!), I've checked myself when I sing (I practiced as I was reading this) and it seems my vibrato comes more from the throat than the diaphragm, but no popping veins in my neck.

      I also Googled you, Audrey. I saw some videos where you touch on a few aspects of singing, but nothing where you actually sing a full song.

      Please treat us with your voice. Will you consider adding a video of yourself singing to this post? I'm sure I'm not the only one who longs to hear your magic.

    • Donna-Rayne profile image

      Donna Rayne 

      2 months ago from Greenwood, In

      Audrey, this lesson was intense and you taught us very well. I used to sing but not sure if I hit a vibrato. Since I've been ill I really don't sing much and I miss it. But, I listen to my praise and worship music and I give it my all!

      Thank you for your article, it is awesome!

      Blessings,

      Donna Rayne

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      2 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I must say that my singing has improved since I started listening to your CD and it takes practice. I have allergies that affects my voice, but I love to sing. Thanks for all the lessons and encouragements through the years.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      2 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I love you simple explanations for vibrato, Audrey. You always explain things so clearly.

      You are the first person who actually convinced me that my singing is not horrible. I use vibrato sometimes and I hope to learn to sing better as I have been using the proper breathing technique you explained in a previous article. I appreciate the information you provide in every article you write.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Audrey you are such a delightful teacher. Thank you for lovingly sharing your talent and knowledge with us.

      God bless you and keep you safe

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Words from the Master!

      Hey, everyone reading this, The Master has a book coming out soon, and that book will make you a better singer!!!!!

      just sayin'

      love,

      bill

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi Flourish

      Thanks for your very nice comments. I love teaching...it's been my passion for 40 years! I do like to make each lesson fun and do my best to see that students get fast results to keep them interested. I'm offering free lessons using video like skype during this pandemic.

      Be safe, my friend.

      Umesh

      Thanks for being here. I appreciate your comments very much.

      Liz

      I agree with you and I also notice more singing being offered online. Singing is a great way to reduce stress.,,vibrato or not. :)

      Stay safe, Liz and thank you.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      Interestingly I think singing has come into more prominence during lockdown. In the UK, many churches are streaming services online, some having to rely on very few singers or even a soloist. I shall be listening out for vibrato in future. I hope you stay well.

    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      2 months ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      Very well taught. Thanks.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      2 months ago from USA

      I liked your simple explanations about vibrations being murdered by tension. You seem like you’d be a really fun and effective teacher, Audrey!

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