How to Sing With Vibrato: Correcting A Wobble

singingLearning how to sing with vibrato as a singer is one of the ways to really make an impact on your audience – but there are a few things to avoid when you’re learning the technique. Take a look at Seal Beach voice teacher Carl B.‘s advice here…

As a singing teacher for many years, I am totally audience oriented, and my notes on audience psychology date back to 1984.  My entire orientation in singing is to drive the audience to their feet for a standing ovation.

In order to do this, it is very important to manage your vibrato to make sure it is pleasing to your audience.  Vibrato is the pleasant fluctuation of the voice while singing. It is also a natural occurring event in many sounds.

As you’re learning how to sing with vibrato, it can be easy for the beginner to develop poor habits. Too fast a vibrato, for example, is called a tremolo.  The French often affect a tremolo deliberately while singing, but most other audiences find it less than enjoyable. Too wide a vibrato is called a wobble, and it can be the most difficult problem in singing to correct.

Research shows that the ideal vibrato for maximum audience enjoyment is 1/8th of one note fluctuation in pitch, and 5 to 7 fluctuations per second.  Of course, we don’t count them, just listen critically to yourself in the presence of a singing teacher you trust.

If you have a wobble, you yourself will not likely recognize it, even in a recording. To cure a wobble, first observe the unusual head movements by the singer while singing.  If the head bobs up and down to the timing of the wobble or the jaw bobs excessively, teachers can guide the student to control those movements.  The wobble should moderate significantly but not entirely.  Since a wobble is going up and down in pitch, instruct the student to take more control of the vocal cords.

The vocal cords are partly controlled by the arytenoids, two structures at the back of the vocal cords.  To reduce a wobble to a more pleasant vibrato, hold the arytenoids more firmly without tightening the throat or jaw muscles, which virtually do not exist in singing.  Throat and jaw muscles must be completely relaxed, both to produce resonance, and also to allow for freedom of movement in changing pitch.

One of the most important and most difficult tasks of the student is to identify which muscles of the vocal instrument must be used, and which muscles absolutely must never be engaged while singing.  So in working to cure a wobble, the student must be careful to avoid tightening the throat or jaw muscles.  To clarify, the throat muscle used in singing is the thin inner lining of the throat and is implemented with a “beginning of a yawn” motion to enhance the echo chamber which adds size, tone and quality to the sound.  If the singer goes beyond just the beginning of a yawn, the throat muscles tighten.

It is unlikely that a student with a severe wobble will cure it forever.  Regular, ongoing coaching and private vocal lessons can certainly help!

Seal Beach teacher Carl B. Carl B. teaches singing and speaking voice lessons to students of all ages in Seal Beach, CA. Carl teaches singing in English, Italian, Spanish, & German, in all styles including pop, jazz, classical, & country & western. He joined the TakeLessons team in August 2012. Learn more about Carl, or visit TakeLessons to search for a vocal teacher near you!


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Photo by George Laoutaris.

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