What is vibrato, and why do the judges on American Idol keep bringing it up?

Vibrato is the act of a pitch vibrating on a certain note. More accurately, it is the act of breath spinning on your vocal chords to produce a sound. Well, you may ask- why do some people have vibrato and others don’t? Or, “Can I learn how to sing with vibrato? My voice sounds so boring without it!”

Some teachers will say that vibrato is just one of those things- you either have it, or you don’t. However, just like the technique of painting a brush stroke on a canvas, or doing a perfect plie in ballet, mastering the art of vibrato can be accomplished through taking voice lessons with a qualified teacher or listening to recordings of artists whose vibrato you enjoy, and trying to imitate how they sound.

Each person has their own unique vibrato and timbre. Many factors can contribute to how your voice sounds, from the area of the country (or area of the world) you grew up in, to taking certain medications, to what you eat or drink on a given day. For the novice singer you most likely will not know how to modify the sound of your vibrato for many years. It takes patience and perseverance to accomplish a smooth and even vibrato that will sound effortless to the listener.

Vibrato may come naturally to some singers, but for the most part, it is something you will have to work at!

How to accomplish vibrato:

V Visualize your breath spinning over your vocal chords in an even stream
I Inhale through your mouth a deep and silent breath from the bottom of your diaphragm.
B Believe that when you begin to sing the note you will release the sound evenly while sustaining the pitch.
R Release the air on an “oooh” sound, beginning to sing a note.
A Allow the air to spin on your vocal chords until you run out of air.
T Try to hold the note as long as you can comfortably until you feel the need to take another breath.
O Open the roof of your mouth by lifting your soft palate at the back of your mouth inside (not the front of your mouth) and releasing the back of your throat, to take a new breath. Breathe in and start the whole process again.

*Notice how most of these steps revolve around the act of breathing, and not around the actual singing? The idea is that when your breath is natural, steady, and even, your vibrato will be too. Vibrato is not something that should be forced out. If it doesn’t feel easy to you yet- don’t worry, it takes time. At your next voice lesson, talk to your teacher about ways to practice vibrato as a part of your daily vocal exercises!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.