Why do some singers have vibrato in their voices? And what determines the range of the vibrato? I’ve heard some singers whose vibrato encompassed almost a half step. UG-LY!

I have almost no vibrato, but that makes me a really good ensemble singer.

It’s something you learn to control. I doubt you have ‘no vibrato’ but I could be wrong.

I’ve never had to control it because it was minimal. We’ve all heard wobbly sopranos. Within my entire vocal range, that wobble doesn’t exist.

So why don’t I wobble even if I try to? Is there a difference in the voice-production anatomy of a wobbler and a non-wobbler?

Vibrato is taught because that’s what is expected for certain types of performance.

The Peabody Conservatory here in Baltimore seems to be training its female singers to be Opera Prima Donnas whose vibrato is so wide you can drive a VW bus through it. I don’t like the sound of it at all. Even when the girls who were Peabody students were hired to sing in straight tone at my church job, they couldn’t do it.

Style. When I was very young, there were people in teh choir in my parents church with very pronounced vibratos, and when I asked my grandmotehr about it, she told me that it had been very popular to use a lot of vibrato in the choir back in teh 30s when these old fogeys were growing up. I had thought that the way they sand was a function of how old they were, but she and my dad confirmed that they had always sounded like that.

Think back to any Nelson Eddy / Jeanette MacDonald movie and how the singing differed from the singing of the 40, 50s and 60s movies.

Some vocal genres, like R&B, are more accepting of wild vibrato than others. Imagine listening to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” without it. However, it does seem like many popular vocalists tend to go overboard with it (like you, Christina Aguilara). The first hint of someone working the 'brato too hard is when you can see their mouth move. Vibrato should be generated from the cords, not the mouth.

A good steady vibrato is something all singers–and string, woodwind and brass instrumentalists–should try to develop. Long, flat sustained notes are fine when the composer calls for them, but a certain amount of vibrato is expected for most works.

Vibrato is a strange thing. For string players, it can be a challenge to learn it. But once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s really hard to stop! It’s like your ear quickly develops a hatred for flat notes. And string players, like singers, can vibrate wide and erratic too.

It may be fashion, and it may be taught, but some of us are cursed with it naturally. My natural vibrato, while not quite as bad as Jeanette MacDonald, pretty much guarantees that I will not sing karaoke unless I’m hammered, because I can’t sing a straight tone to save my life. I sound great for opera-lite (never trained for opera), classical, choral, choral solo or even most showtunes, but rock and pop? Forget about it.

I always got great marks on my vibrato and heard all the time how hard I must have worked on it, and I was always rather “wuh?” about the whole thing, 'cause that’s just how it comes out, no effort involved. Quite the contrary. I hear those clear high straight tones of Irish sopranos and weep for jealousy. (ex: Track 9 on this album)

All good singers use at least some vibrato: lack of it is why bad singers sound bad.

This doesn’t mean that overdoing it is a good thing, though.

I understand what y’all are saying about why vibrato is encouraged.

I want to know how it is produced. If I worked with a vocal coach, could s/he teach me to produce a vibrato a VW bus could be driven though? And if so, what exactly is it that I would be altering?

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Very helpful! Thanks!