Charlie:Teach me something about vibrato.


Elizabeth:Vibrato is a general term for variations of the pitch that take place in the musical tone.That can be in an instrument or voice or in a sound or a tone.For instruments, the issue is giving the tone a color by varying the pitch slightly.The violinist does it with a movement of the finger on the string.Wind instruments achieve it with breath support.A straight tone sounds mechanistic and cold.Music is intended to express feeling.It needs shape and depth to do that.


Charlie:Is there a psychology to it?


Elizabeth:Maybe we have to ask an anthropologist.Is it the eternal feminine?Curvy warm things are considered more empathetic and emotional than straight precise pointy things.


Charlie:What is taught about vibrato?


Elizabeth:Usually you only bring it up if there is a problem.If the vibrato is too big or out of control then itís something to work on.You look at what is technically wrong with the tone production and breath support to find out why the voice is reacting to the breath that way.Usually there is tension in the throat which doesn't belong there and a bad management of the breath that causes the voice to start shaking like that.Often the vibrato will increase with age or overwork.If a voice is strained it might develop an uncontrollable vibrato.


Charlie:Are there exercises for fixing vibrato?


Elizabeth:Yes.One of them is to back off and sing more lightly, then rethink the breathing.Once the vibrato is out of control it is very hard to get it back under control.The object of lessons is to not let that happen in the first place.Some singers copy singers who have big vibrato because they think it is cool.It is a lot harder to get rid of a vibrato than it is to add one.


Charlie:Is vibrato a little like makeup?If you notice it, there is probably too much?


Elizabeth:Right.Vibrato is so basic to the tone, if thereís a problem, you have to make significant changes to the voice production to correct it.Learn how to start a smooth pianissimo and then work the voice slowly up to the louder or more forceful tones without the vibrato kicking in.Look at rebalancing breath to tone and the amount of muscular energy the singer is using compared to plain energy.


Itís complicated and you have to work with the singer directly to get it across.Some singers will get frustrated and give up because itís a tough lesson.The best cure for bad vibrato is prevention.Don't let that happen.Start them young and don't let them do that stuff.Compare it to when you try to lift something thatís too heavy for you and you begin to tremble.When you try to produce your voice in a way that the muscles are overburdened and they begin to shake from the effort, thatís when the tone is affected.Thatís just a physiological fact in singing, that if the breath is unsteady the tone will be unsteady and lead to this vibrato vice.