When I am asked by a producer or record label to work with one of their artists, I try to get specific instructions about what they want to improve or change. I especially need to how much vibrato they want to hear.
Vibrato might best be described as those small up and down rapid fluctuations in pitch, or the wavering tone some singers get when they hold out a note at the end of a phrase. Think: "Dolly Parton." Think: "the Bee-Gees." Think: "herd of goats."
Emotions run high when the issue of vibrato is in play. I've heard managers and record label executives give me stern warning to do anything else with their singers, but don't touch the vibrato. We love it. The fans love it. The label loves it. So don't touch it. Just do that thing, you know, that thing you're supposed to be doing. Breathing from the diaphragm or something. Just don't touch the vibrato. Or, by the way, you'll never work in this town again…!
Uh, I get it. Vibrato? Good!
Maybe two weeks later someone will draw me aside and tell me in confidence that if I can't get the vibrato out of their vibrating client, the artist is going to be dropped from the label. Thursday.
Okay, okay. Now I get it! Vibrato? Bad!
And, just to keep it interesting, occasionally I'm asked to create vibrato where none has been heard before.
Uh oh. Vibrato good? Vibrato bad?
Which one is right? To bleat or not to bleat? Ah! That is still the question and it generally boils down to a matter of personal preference. What sounds good to one person may sound not so good to the next.
When nothing specific is demanded I like to give people options. If they sing with a lot of natural vibrato I figure they already know how to do that, so I show them how to get rid of it. The opposite is true of those who have straighter-toned voices. I help them find a way to resonate that brings out a gentler, warmer sound by using vibrato.
To help you make decisions about how much vibrato to summon up you first need to become acquainted with your own natural vibrato. Record yourself singing several types of music and listen back. Pay special attention to the ends of phrases, especially in the ballads. Often a singer will switch to vibrato at the end of every phrase and is not even aware they are doing it.
Analyze the speed and periodic variation in the vibrato of your own voice and determine whether overall you could stand to use more vibrato, less vibrato, or only in certain situations. Future articles will offer solutions for managing your vibrato.
Action Synopsis for Vibrato
1. Acquaint yourself with vibrato. Listen to singers like Dolly Parton.
2. Record yourself and listen back. How much vibrato is in your natural voice?
3. Decide how much vibrato you want to allow in your singing.
4. Unsure about your vibrato? Post a video on YouTube and send me a link.
5. Answer the question, How important is the vibrato to your signature sound?
In future articles I will discuss how to add more vibrato, remove vibrato and how to manipulate the vibrato to bring variety and color to your singing.
Nashville vocal coach Renee Grant-Williams reveals the trade secrets that have already helped hundreds of aspiring singers become celebrities: Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Dixie Chicks, Miley Cyrus, Huey Lewis, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Jason Aldean, Christina Aguilera...
Like me on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @MyVoiceCoach. My blog can be found at MyVoiceCoachBlog.com.
Go to CyberVoiceStudio.com and sign up to receive my free weekly Video Voice Lessons.