A Few Thoughts on Vibrato
Vibrato is a slight oscillation in both pitch and intensity that occurs spontaneously in a well-balanced singing voice. Ideally, vibrato is the result of the interaction between the vibrations at the vocal folds and the slight vibrations at the diaphragm.
The result of these two simultaneous vibrations the a vocal vibrato: a natural relaxant in the voice that has been called a “spinning” sensation in both the listener and the singer. What is meant by spinning, is that the vibrato is never too fast or too slow, too wide or too narrow, and it doesn’t call undue attention to itself. A well-balanced vibrato simply spins freely in the voice.
Vibrato type effects in unbalanced voices include: 1. the “wobble,” which is a wide and slow variation in pitch and intensity; 2. the “tremolo” which is a fast machine gun type sound, often described as a bleat; and, 3. the “chug,” which is a deliberate pulsation of tone directly from the diaphragm causing a slow, steady pulsation of sound.
Correcting a problem vibrato is often best accomplished by addressing the underlying vocal imbalances which are the root cause of the issue, rather than concentrating too much on the vibrato itself.
Teachers of singing will sometimes give what they call “vibrato exercises.” A vibrato exercise is really a bit of a misnomer, since a free vibrato is the result of balanced singing and cannot ultimately be created consciously; however, there are certain exercises that can definitely be used to “wake up” the vibrato in singers who, for all intents and purposes, are singing in a fairly balanced manner, yet still have a bit of a straight tone.
In a nutshell, a balanced vibrato is the result of what is often called a “finished voice.” If your vibrato is not yet displaying itself in a balanced manner, it is usually because there are underlying imbalances in your vocal technique that still need to be worked out. A good voice teacher should always be able to help a student achieve a balanced vibrato in a reasonable amount of time, provided the student is doing their part and practicing regularly.