When we talk about vibrato, we are speaking in terms of a variation within a pitch. Vibrato is a technique that many singers use in order to bring freedom to the voice, encourage vocal control and support, and color their vocal tone. Because there are so many benefits from vibrato, it is a vocal technique that should be learned and mastered by singers of all levels, from the complete beginner to the polished professional.
You may ask, “How do I develop vibrato for my voice?”
Excellent question! I hope to help explain it in this article! Let’s unpack vibrato.
While vibrato comes naturally for some people, the majority of singers do not have vibrato when they start singing. In fact, vibrato becomes a perplexing mystery because those that do have it make it sound so easy. I personally can attest to feeling this way. I would hear people using vibrato and think, “Meh, that can’t be too tough”, only to realize I could not do it myself no matter how hard I tried. Just like any other vocal technique, I had to consciously practice and put effort into learning how to sing vibrato. Speaking from past experience, here are some tips I can offer to help you develop your vibrato.
1) First we will begin with the easiest method to producing vibrato. While you will not stay with this method, it is very helpful for teaching you how vibrato feels and works. As I said before, vibrato is simply a variation within a pitch. Now for the exercise.
Place your hands on the top of your stomach, right below your sternum (sternum = chest bone). Sing a note (any note) and then press your hands into your stomach. Press your hands into your stomach ten times in a row while holding out this note and pay attention to your voice. Feel your voice wobble? It is the same sensation when you are singing vibrato. I do not encourage you to use this method to develop your vibrato. I only want you to practice this a few times to get the sensation of vibrato. The more you practice, the faster and tighter this wobble will become – aka, vibrato.
2) Once you have discovered what vibrato feels like, you should have the ability to do it on your own. If you have a piano around that you can play, go to it and press any key (and I mean any key). Now press the key to right of it. Press the keys back and forth slowly and switch between the notes as you sing. As you get better at maneuvering between the notes, speed up the tempo. As you continue to speed up the tempo, guess what: you are developing vibrato! This takes practice and patience, and I would encourage you to focus on the process of developing the vibrato rather than the finished result. This will keep you grounded on learning a solid, powerful vibrato.
Alternately, if you do not have a piano, you can use your hand to help you develop vibrato. Simply place your hand straight out in front of you and move your fingers up and down. As you move your fingers up and down, switch between notes. Just like with the piano, gradually speed up the tempo while switching between the notes. It works just as well as the piano method!
Sometimes these exercises sound to ridiculously simple to work, but with practice and patience, these simple exercises create awesome vibrato. Some people will begin to develop their vibrato in a week. Others may take 10 weeks. Still others may take 10 months. Whatever the case, I have never found anyone who has not been able to develop a healthy vibrato using these simple methods. Even if you don’t think it is possible, intentional and deliberate practice can produce fantastic results.
Vibrato is a wonderful tool. It is completely worth the time and effort put into developing it!