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Question about Controlling Vibrato

Tracy recently asked me about controlling vibrato via my Ask the Vocal Coach form. It’s a great question, and many of you have asked this question over the years. Vibrato is natural, but it stumps many of us. Read on to learn more.

Your Question

I’ve always been a choral/background singer type. Recently I’ve been working to be able to lead more songs in my worship team. While doing this, I’ve noticed (it’s been pointed out) I have a vibrato. Sometimes it’s pretty, but I have trouble controlling it to use as an accent instead of it taking over a song. How would you suggest I train myself to control it?

My Answer

First, the good news: Vibrato is natural in the voice. Now, the bad news: Many singers don’t know how to allow a gentle vibrato that easily blends. Instead, the vibrato gets too wide or too fast, conflicting with other voices.

Start by getting your larynx, ear and brain working together as you sing a single note with NO vibrato. Absolute straight tone. Then, and this is a mental effort, allow just a bit of vibrato to enter. Then back to straight, vibrato, straight, vibrato etc. The goal is to let the vocal mechanism know there are options and that you want “it” to give you what you want.

The next step is really listening to those you are singing with. What we do with groups is get them to stand in a circle so all can see each other. Then, while looking at each other, hum a note until it sounds like one voice. Then open to an AH vowel. Then move on to simple 5-tone scales on easy vowels really listening so that noticeable vibrato is brought under control (straighter).

We have some really good tools to help with all of this. The following CD’s/downloads would be of great help:

Vibrato can be a powerful tool of expression for a singer, but can also ruin expression and derail a group. You need to master vibrato before it master you!

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  1. Very cool post, Chris.

    In my experience, there is nothing that makes a student feel more like a singer than finding their vibrato.

    It has always seemed like magic to me, the way that it oozes out of some people for the first time. Students are often startled by the new feeling.

    I also think that group singing in a circle is the only way to create a "tight" sound. It seems it's the only way you can find consistency with the vowels that everyone is singing.

    Matt Ramsey

  2. Thanks, Matt, I’m a big proponent of having singers “circle up,” and there are two reasons it is so powerful. First, is the obvious ability to hear pitch and blend. Equally, important is the visual-diction benefit: They can see how the others are forming/shaping their words. Assuming several are proclaimed at doing right it can suddenly get everyone on the same page. I’ve seen this fix pitch and blend issues in a matter of minutes. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. Last winter I had to drop out of choir due to cold-induced asthma. Now I would like to sing again, but my voice quality is inconsistent. How do I get it back again? And does aging affect the voice? Thanks.

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