Vibrato brings a sense of warmth to a note, whether it is being sung or played on an instrument, like a guitar for example. Singing with natural vibrato makes your voice sound amplified and enhances the tone.
It is often considered unique to the classical music genre, but many musical folks may disagree. Not all singers practice vibrato though and some even sing their longer notes with a straight tone, only adding vibrato in at the very end of the note.
Just like you don’t necessarily want to sing an entire song using a straight tone, you also do not want to overdo it using vibrato during the entire song. Find a happy medium according to what suits both you and the specific song.
A few examples of vibrato singing include Celine Dion, Freddie Mercury, Elvis Presley, Ariana Grande and Beyoncé.
Natural vibrato is defined as the subtle and very fast wavering between two close pitches. It can also be described as a slight variation or shift in pitch - as opposed to a straight tone.
The wavering should not exceed a semitone either up or down from the note sung, and the general view is that you should have between 5 and 7 pulses or fluctuations per second.
There are several ways in which one can mimic or manipulate the voice into producing a similar vibrato-esque sound, but this is not ideal as it causes strain and also sounds forced to the listener. If you feel you need to force it, this is generally an indicator that you need to perhaps focus on other aspects of your vocal technique in order to bring about natural vibrato.
How Do I Develop a Natural Vibrato
It is important to note that good vibrato will follow naturally – like a cherry on the cake - once you have mastered and achieved accurate and solid singing technique.
This includes factors like breathing correctly, maintaining good posture and opening your throat properly.
Open Your Throat
One of the first things that are needed to achieve vibrato is singing with an open and relaxed throat.
A popular way to experience the feel of an open throat is to do a simple yawn. Do you feel the openness in the back of your throat? This is what you want to feel whilst singing, in both your mouth and throat.
If your throat is not open whilst you sing, the sound will be hampered and you will not be able to access your full range.
In the same way that your throat needs to be relaxed to achieve vibrato, so do you. If you are tensed up, it cannot be done correctly.
Consider doing a “shake down” before you start singing, from your ankles right up to your wrists. Release the tension in this way and even loosen your neck by doing a few circles.
Move your tongue and jaw around too, the more relaxed your parts are the better!
...and your jaw too!
If you think of Whitney Houston singing “I will always love you”, it no doubts makes for a beautiful song, but it is an example of what some refer to as “gospel jaw”. This is when your jaw moves up and down whilst singing vibrato.
Your jaw, in fact, should be doing minimal moving around and be completely relaxed. Once again, you might be able to produce a vibrato-like sound by manipulation from your jaw, but it is not natural.
You need a sufficient amount of air to produce a clear tone and to control your sound and vibrato. Optimal breathing enables you to have more stamina and improved capacity. This, in turn, leads to holding your notes and vibrato for a longer period of time, should you wish to do so of course.
Always remember to breathe from your diaphragm to keep your air flow even and stable. If your breathing is unsteady, you will have a wobbling – and not ideal – vibrato. You will find that your vibrato will be more consistent through even breathing, as opposed to moving slower or faster without you being able to control it.
If your goal is to develop your natural vibrato, remain patient and remember that it will only follow once you are comfortable in and successfully applying the various foundations of singing.
About the Author: Julie Adams
I am a mom, a music lover and teacher from Tampa, FL. After completing a Bachelor of Music in Performance Arts, I traveled for several years before returning home where I started offering private piano and singing lessons as extra income. I met my husband in 2009 and 2 years later moved to Dallas where we settled down and I started focusing on vocal training to aspiring singers and performance artists of all age groups. I still enjoy playing the piano very much, and in my spare time you will catch doing some horse riding, drawing, doing some light reading, or just spending quality time with my family.