Skip to main content

How to Sing With a Beautiful Vibrato

Audrey Hunt, author of "Anyone Can Sing," teaches us the magic of singing with vibrato.

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.

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 that vibrato is a natural result of a calm and technically correct voice.

This tutorial will introduce vibrato and how to discover and produce it in singing.

Vibrato: What Is It?

Vibrato is the beautification of the tone that every human voice is capable of producing.

While some believe they can't produce vibrato, with proper vocal skills, it will happen. Understanding what vibrato is will help.

  • Vibrato is described as a slight fluctuation in pitch and volume 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, says, "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 balanced, the vibrato will take care of itself. Singing with proper technique requires patience and discipline, bringing you the desired results.

Vibrato is the vibrating or pulsating of the sound. It's a slight pitch variation, 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 that gives sufficient flexibility, tenderness, and richness to the tone.

Vocal cords (bands, folds) producing vibrato, a remarkable sign of good vocal quality

Vocal cords (bands, folds) producing vibrato, a remarkable sign of good vocal quality

Connecting Your Voice to Sound

Vibrations amplify your initial sound. Your vocal cords have a unique way of vibrating. A breath of air travels through your body, and the air reaches your vocal cords, causing vibrations, and sound is born.

But sometimes, these vibrations are murdered by tension. Your first order of business is to relax the neck, shoulder, jaw, lips, and tongue. Make it a practice to go through the "Rag Doll" exercise before singing.

An easy way to connect your voice to sound is by humming:

  1. Keeping your lips relaxed make a buzzing sound like a bee. Feel for the vibrating sensations in the lips.
  2. Sustaining the vibrations hum on a comfortable, relaxed note.
  3. You've just discovered your natural voice filled with vibration.
  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.

Become a connoisseur of vibrations:

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

Vibrations cannot exist freely unless the breath is free.

Vibrato and Breath Support

When you focus on building solid vocal techniques, you'll automatically be able to use vibrato whenever you like. And this is the first order of business.

The power source for singing is the breath that supports your sound. The breath is the driving force, and anything that affects your breath (or your lungs) can ultimately interfere with 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, check out breathing the right way for singing.

The following tips help to develop vibrato:

  • Get rid of tension. Too much pressure on your tone, neck area, lips, tongue, and jaw can interfere with producing vibration. Make it a habit to release tension in these areas. A natural beat demands complete relaxation.
  • Listen to at least 4 or 5 different singers, focusing on their vibrato. Try to imitate their vibrato.
  • Some singers learn vibrato by activating either the jaw or abdominal muscles. While this can bring results, I prefer a more natural vibration 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 move gently. Natural vibration will have a consistent beat in the sound and feel free and effortless in the throat.

Vibrato may not appear in your voice immediately. As you build a solid foundation of vocal technique, your vibrato will begin to bloom.

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."

Why Sing with Vibrato?

If you want to sound like a world-class singer or develop a better-sounding karaoke voice, there's one technique you need: vibrato!

Vibrato. The big "V" is that particular vibration in a singer's voice that separates the amateur from the seasoned. Using vibrato when you sing will 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 and other instruments.

Vibrato frequency—good vibrato comes at a rate of approximately 6 to 8 beats per second.

Vibrato frequency—good vibrato comes at a rate of approximately 6 to 8 beats per second.

Vibrato Problems

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

The most common distortions that draw attention to a singer's vibrato are:

  • Tremolo, or bleat (vibration from hell), and a wobble. These distorted vibrato sounds have to do with the vibrato's perceived speed and pitch variation.
  • Another common problem is an unintended straight tone—a seeming inability to produce vibration caused by larynx tension.
  • 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. The vibrato will be fast, nervous, and insecure if the quiver is fast. Forcing the chin down against the larynx will make the vibration change both rate and extent erratically and irregularly.

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

Summary

Skilled singers use vibration to emphasize expression.

I've spent a lifetime transforming singing voices from what some folks believe 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. To build a house, you must have specific tools available. But simply having these tools is not enough. You must know which tool to use and how to use it.

You can develop a more robust, clearer vibrato with time and practice! Vibrato will transform your singing voice.

"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

Resources

Audrey Demonstrates Vibrato

Questions & Answers

Question: I always wondered about this. How long does it take roughly for a novice to really 'learn'?

Answer: Depending on "what you bring to the table" with your natural voice - your ability. Other factors are:

How much you're willing to practice. We never stop learning as the voice changes over time. It also depends on the vocal coach and how qualified he/she is. Most professionals always keep a vocal coach nearby.

© 2020 Audrey Hunt

Comments

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on July 31, 2020:

Peggy

Wow! A natural vibrato is an indication that you should be singing regularly because vibrato is a result of a fantastic vocal technique. I was born with a natural vibrato and you were too.

Thank you for such encouraging words, Peggy. My life has been a mission to help others discover their singing voice and the joy that singing brings.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 31, 2020:

I have always loved singing and find that I have a natural vibrato. I had not given it much thought until reading this article. Just think of the people you reach through these articles of yours! You have undoubtedly spurred on more joy of singing and self-expression.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 25, 2020:

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 from Massachusetts, USA on April 24, 2020:

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.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 13, 2020:

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.

Devika Primic on April 13, 2020:

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.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 12, 2020:

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!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 12, 2020:

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.

.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 12, 2020:

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.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 11, 2020:

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

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 11, 2020:

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.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 11, 2020:

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.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 11, 2020:

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 from Northern Ireland on April 11, 2020:

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

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 10, 2020:

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!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 10, 2020:

Bill

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

Thank you,

Love,

Audrey

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 10, 2020:

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 from Sparks, NV on April 10, 2020:

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

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 10, 2020:

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.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 10, 2020:

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.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on April 10, 2020:

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

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 10, 2020:

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

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 10, 2020:

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.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 10, 2020:

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.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on April 10, 2020:

Very well taught. Thanks.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 09, 2020:

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