Use of Vibrato

I just wanted to say that yes, Vibrato IS an indication of a trained singer. When the vocal folds are working properly, a vibrato will appear naturally. To sing a “straight tone” or a tone without vibrato is to sing without proper formants, or overtones. This is a tone which is devoid of any beautifying effects, and is a flat, lifeless sound. A good singer CAN sing without vibrato, but why would they want to?

"I was dreaming of tomorrow so I sacrificed today and it sure was a grand waste of time. "
-Billy Joel

The mailbag item being referenced is
Why do singers use vibrato? (03-Dec-1999)

KJIrish, you may also be interested in reading the arguments presented in another discussion in this forum on the same subject.

Edited to fix link. – CKDextHavn
[Note: This message has been edited by CKDextHavn]

The assertion that vibrato sound is somehow less lifeless than non-vibrato sound is one of taste. Compare, by example, the sound of a piano (no vibrato) with that of a violin played with quavering (where the pitch is changed rapidly back and forth over a very short range during longer notes), with a vibrato singer. I doubt many would consider the piano “lifeless” in tone.

I agree, a piano does not have a “lifeless” tone. But a piano also has built in overtones which make the sound beautiful in a different way. It is a different sound. I will conceid that some people may prefer a vibrato-less voice. But generally not.

"I was dreaming of tomorrow so I sacrificed today and it sure was a grand waste of time. "
-Billy Joel


You are absolutely correct to point out that vibrato vs. non-vibrato (as far as what people like to hear) is a matter of taste in singing.

Perhaps I could put a new spin on KJ’s comments.

Vibrato itself does not add anything to singing, except an oscillation of pitch and intensity. However, when the singing voice is used in a way that allows for vibrato (as opposed to forcing the issue and adding vibrato on purpose), the resulting sound is almost always richer in overtones and more complex.

The absence of vibrato does not mean that a voice is uninteresting–that’s completely a matter of opinion. The actual sound, however, when broken into its spectral components is likely to be simpler.

Ignorant since 1972

And as to whether ‘most’ prefer a vibrato or vibrato-absent voice, I find that, among those whose musical knowledge and interest is limited to pop-rock, most of them can’t stand listening to operatic singing precisely because of the (as my kids described it once) “silly sound of the voice”.

Sure…I used to feel that way myself. Now, when I try to sing along with the radio it always sounds like Old Man River, no matter what I do :slight_smile:

The whole thing is a matter of utility. These days, all you need to be a singer is a microphone. So long as the power is on people will hear you.

But for those of us who have to provide our own amplification through resonance and acoustics, “silliness” is required! :wink:

Ignorant since 1972

Stylistic reasons. If it's done by a choir, it might be for a certain effect, or because the sopranos are getting out of hand (a joke. Mostly.) A soloist might be singing early music. Not that I really want to encourage non-vibrato singing, but when done very well, it is extremely effective.