If you’re a beginner that’s learning singing technique, vibrato can be a bit weird. You probably either use it too much, or don’t use it at all.
And that’s ok, because in this blog post we’ll tell you about how to sing vibrato.
We’ll go over what it is and how it works, plus give you steps on how to find your vibrato and use it effectively.
Then we’ll end with a couple of vocal exercises to practice your vibrato.
If you really want to level up your singing voice, though, check out our take on the best online singing lessons that will help you do that.
Otherwise, here’s what you need to know…
What Is Vibrato?
Vibrato is a technique used to add depth and emotion to a singer’s voice. If you pay attention, what you’ll notice is a slight fluctuation in both pitch and volume of the singer’s voice that creates a rhythmic variation to the sound.
Think of a meter (like a gas gauge in a car dashboard) that is centered on a musical note. If a singer sings that note exactly, the meter stays exactly in the middle.
But when the singer uses vibrato, the meter rapidly and slightly moves back and forth around the center.
Great singers are able to control and manipulate their vibrato to enhance their vocal performance. When done right, vibrato can add richness, warmth, and expressiveness to a singer’s tone.
The Mechanism of Vibrato
Vibrato isn’t a matter or moving your jaw rapidly or singing between two different notes quickly. Those are separate from what we’re talking about.
Vibrato also doesn’t come from pulsating your diaphragm quickly to produce bursts of air, or from rapidly shaking your larynx. Those wouldn’t be very comfortable or sustainable ways of doing things.
If the movement is too fast, it’s more like a tremelo. If it’s too slow it’s like a “wobble.”
All of these techniques may have their place in singing, but they’re not true vibrato.
So How Is Vibrato Produced?
If you’ve read our guides on how to sing better, you’re familiar with how vocal folds/cords work – they control air passing through our vocal tract and help to resonate or vibrate the air and produce sound.
To do that, they work by opening and closing together.
Vibrato occurs naturally in the human voice when the muscles controlling the vocal cords contract and relax very rapidly (approximately 6 cycles back and forth per second), producing a note that quickly drops a quarter-tone and comes back up over and over again.
And if you naturally produce a lot of vibrato, you may notice that it’s easier to sing some notes when you’re adding vibrato. That’s because the way the air oscillates back and forth in pitch allows it to travel more easily.
Finding Your Vibrato
If you’re brand new to vibrato it may actually be useful to try the “diaphragm pulse” that we mentioned earlier. Even thought it’s not a good way to achieve vibrato, it can help complete beginners get a sense of the breath oscillation that’s required.
Be careful with this because you can hurt yourself if you’re too aggressive.
Stand up tall and make a fist with one hand, covered by your other hand. Put your hands about an inch above your belly button. Take a breath in (using your diaphragm) and sing a sustained note you’re comfortable with using an “ee” vowel sound. As you sing, rapidly and gently push your fist in towards your body and out away from your body.
That’s kind of what vibrato sounds like.
Deviant Noise TOP PICK Recommendation:
Want to sing better FAST? Try out a 14-day free trial of 30DaySinger below and improve your voice risk-free!
But remember, this type of vibrato (pulsing your diaphragm) is not a good habit. So don’t get used to singing your vibrato like this.
Just use this technique as a way to familiarize yourself with how it sort of sounds.
How To Sing Vibrato Better
Unfortunately, there’s not only one way to find the perfect vibrato in your voice. It’s actually a very individual journey.
There are exercises that you can do that will help and develop your vibrato (more on that below), but when first starting out you should focus on your overall technique.
Singers that struggle with finding vibrato often have too much tension or are using too much muscle to try and produce the effect.
So take some time before you start doing any exercises to get this stuff down.
Posture & Breath
In every article about singing on this site, we probably mention your posture. That’s how important it is. So make sure you’re standing up straight and tall, with your shoulders back and down.
Imagine there’s a string pulling up on the top of your head.
Another thing we mention everywhere is breathing. And it’s just as important (if not more) than your posture.
You want to be breathing from your diaphragm when singing with vibrato because it’s much easier to control the flow of air through your vocal folds/cords that way.
Remember how we said if you’re not finding yourself doing any vibrato it’s likely because of too much tension?
That’s why it’s important to relax yourself, your voice and your body before attempting to sing vibrato. Make sure you shake out any tension and loosen up your body/muscles with stretching.
Having said that, you don’t want your voice to be too relaxed. If we don’t have good enough oscillation between open and closed in the vocal cords, we won’t be producing a good vibrato.
And that brings us to our next point…
It’s All About Balance
You’ll be able to produce your best vibrato when your voice is balanced. We don’t want it overly breathy or extremely strained when trying to hit high notes, etc.
If it is, your vibrato will either not exist or suck.
There’s a lot that goes into a balanced voice, so make sure you check out our other singing articles to get an idea of how to achieve it.
You want to practice strengthening your voice in various areas so you have the control (and technique) necessary to produce the exact type of sound you want.
Vocal Exercises for Vibrato
Below are a couple of exercises you can do to improve your vibrato singing.
Try adding them on to your daily practice or warm up routine.
This exercise isn’t really called Happy Birthday, but it uses the same interval to train our vibrato – the major second.
Sing the first 4 notes of the Happy Birthday song – “Hap-py Birth-day.” That change from one note to the next – from “-py” to “Birth” – is how a major second interval sounds.
- Stand up straight and relax your body
- Take a deep breath into your diaphragm
- Sing back and forth on those two notes slowly using an “ee” or “oo” vowel sound
- Slowly speed up the rate at which your voice is moving from note to note (it’s ok to take breaths in between if you run out of air).
- Keep increasing the speed until you’re singing between notes pretty fast.
- Now do your best to let go of the idea that you’re trying to sing two separate notes back and forth – just try and let your voice waver back and forth naturally
- Repeat until you can feel yourself “letting go” of the two separate notes and just wavering back and forth instead – you’ll notice when it happen.
You’ll want to try this exercise at both the low and high ends of your vocal range.
It can be tough at first, especially if you’re having trouble “finding” that waver you’re looking for. Just don’t give up. Keep trying until you’re able to fully let go with your voice oscillating back and forth quickly.
The Go Ladder
This next exercise is one where we’ll sing a 5-tone scale and hold the final note.
When you sing this exercise, you’ll often naturally have a “shake” in your voice as you hold the final note.
Try and sustain that “shake” or improve it’s balance and vocal tone.
You can use any 5-tone scale – its just singing the first 5 notes of any major or minor scale. So if you’re using the C Major scale, you’d sing the notes C, D, E, F, G and then hold the G note.
Use a piano or piano app to help you sing those specific notes.
- Stand up straight and take a deep diaphragm breath in
- Sing an ascending scale until the 5th note using the word “go” and hold the final note – go, go, go, go , gooooooo
- Hold the final go for as long as you can and notice your note start to “shake” a bit back and forth naturally
- Try and sustain that shake and add power to it as if you’re trying to let the note waver back and forth slightly
- When you run out of breath, stop and repeat from the beginning.
If you find yourself singing between two notes on that final “go,” remember that you should try and “let go” of the idea of singing two separate pitches, and just let your voice waver/oscillate quickly.
Learn how to sing better from one of the greatest singers of all times. Check out Christina Aguilera’s MasterClass below!
As you can see, vibrato can be tricky for some to find in their voice.
But with some practice, you’ll be able to master the technique and use it like a pro.
I highly recommend adding both of the vibrato vocal exercises above to your daily practice routine. Once you get the hang of singing vibrato naturally, you can start applying the technique to other exercises and even song work.
If you really want to level up your voice and singing ability, I highly recommend you try out 30DaySinger (14 Day Free Trial) – they’ve got tons of great lessons and exercises to make you a better singer fast.
Thanks for reading this guide on how to do vibrato for singers. I hope it was helpful.