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Vibratto rights and wrongs.

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So, I've read about fast vibratto, and slow vibratto. And i'm wondering what does it FEEL like to produce a healthy vibratto?

There are a number of ways that I can produce a vibratto. Which are right and wrong:

Easing off a big note, vibratto comes in on its own - is this good or bad? I don't have any vibratto in belt. Why?

Singing gently, on sustained notes, I am starting to get quite a large vibratto, that is very even and feels very loose. I can feel it in the throught, like a fast sob. It is completely comfortable and I think it sounds quite good. I like it but I'm not sure if it is good.

When I really want vibratto there, I can usually make it happen with my breathing / diaphragm. Is this bad? It sounds ok. And it gets the vibratto on the big notes that I normally don't have any vibratto on.

I'm awaiting the arrival of the CVT book.

thanks all knowledgable singing folk. I really have to post some clips up. When I get time to work it all out.

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oh, a weakness of mine...

vibrato comes about when your voice has achieved a balance of a relaxed throat and proper support. if you try to "make it happen" you will be disappointed.

as far as vibrato from the diaphragm, some teachers say there's really no such thing, others teach exercises to develop it. too fast a vibrato is a tremelo, ala tiny tim....you don't really want that...too slow a vibrato is a wobble, which you don't want either.

some singers just seem to have vibrato, others work on it daily. it's easier generally to get it singing lower notes than higher.

hope i've helped.

'

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To me a healthy vibrato is automatic and you can't really feel it. It is involuntary. It is a release of tension. I had one pop voice teacher very early in my development that wanted me to actually change pitch directly with my voice like a shallow trill. This was really bad for me and it sounded just awful. Later, a classical teacher had me do this excersize that worked like a charm: Sing a 5 note scale starting on 1 (tonic) and going up to 5 and hold on the 5. Sing the scale quickly to reach 5 and slightly pulsate each note. This is easy to do as each note is different. As you reach 5, keep that pulsating sensation on the 5th note. Once I did this a few times, vibrato became totally natural and involuntary. I never had to do the excersize again, but it was the key, for me, to develop a natural vibrato.

My wife on the other hand had a totally natural vibrato since she can ever remember. She was in a play in 1st grade and had a mature vibrato. So some people just have it to begin with.

Now the CVT book has an approach that is similar to my first teacher. They even want you to fit so many vibrato undulations into each note rhythmically. I love CVT but I've never found vibrato to be something to directly control. There are some people that shake their head (Micheal Bolton) for vibrato. And others you can see the larynx moving up and down. My vibrato is neither. You can't see my larynx moving. And if I start shaking my head for vibrato someday please shoot me. (just kidding)

As far as no vibrato in belt - I found when I was extending my range, the upper notes had much less to no vibrato. However, as I practice and become more relaxed, vibrato comes easier on higher notes. For example, I'm vocalizing up to a C6 on a daily basis, but going above a Ab5 has very little to no vibrato. I'm just not loose or relaxed enough up there yet. However, about 6 months ago an F5 was difficult for me to generate vibrato on. It just takes time.

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I've heard some people say that vibrato comes naturally when the throat is relaxed and the air support is proper. I find that the more "technically accurate" I sing a note, the easier the vibrato comes. Actually, for me, it's a sign that I'm totally way off base when my vibrato doesn't flow on a certain note.

I find this idea that you either "have it or you don't" to be amusing though. Why can't it be learned? Everything else is learned; I've never seen a baby sing!

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Vibrato is something that you need to learn how to produce. People who have a "natural" vibrato probably learnt it by imitation. However, it is true that you need to have a solid underlying technique beneath it. Once you learn it and practice it, it becomes "natural" to you because of your muscle memory, but it is something that you can totally learn. First, improve your technique. Then work on any effects. CVT teachers laryngeal and hammer vibrato. You'll see it's very easy to learn once you have a hang of proper technique. That said, I can produce it only probably up to C5. Above that, it's not easy for me at all and it's not automatic yet.

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Its been my experience that vibrato appears spontaneously, on its own when vocal function is reasonable, and when there is a lack of rigidity in the throat (particularly the laryngeal suspensors,) and tongue.

There are a number of ways to train that will set up these circumstances, there need not be one single approach. However, vibrato is more likely to show up initially at moderate, easy volume, with resonant vowels, and in the middle voice on moving note patterns.

So, to experience vibrato for the first time, set up the circumstances for its appearance. Go to that range and volume level, take a small breath, and sing some simple note patterns, for example 123454321 on a clear, single vowel, beginning moderately slowly, and without caring too much about pitch accuracy. Don't worry about control. After a few repeats, begin to speed yourself up by thinking the note pattern faster, but doing nothing else different. Repeat at that speed a few more times, and then increase the speed without doing anything to improve or maintain control. Just don't care.

After a few run-throughs of this, you will likely find that note accuracy is getting worse as the speed increases. Its to be expected, but at the moment you are not concerned with that. You want to find that speed at which you simply must let all your sense of vocal control release, and for your voice to follow your musical ear.

When that point is reached, add one thing to the exercise... the sustaining of the last note in the tone pattern. Sing it with the same attitude and sense of noncaring freedom that you do the scale with. Don't try to make it louder, or softer, just make it the same as the other tones in the exercies...

And it will very likely have vibrato.

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Thanks all for the replies.

So, in summary, the fact that vibratto comes most easily to me on medium volume notes in the easiest part of my range is normal.

It is not bad that I can turn vibratto on and off. My vibratto first started when I was singing along with a CD where the artist had a good vibratto, and I was imitating the sound and the vibratto just popped in there. Now I can turn it on and off in the easiest part of my range.

But the question: Is using my abdominal muscels to produce vibratto on a belted note a bad thing to do?

I envy the powerful vibratto in belt and head voice that I hear in professional singers from time to time. To accomplish this do I just need to persist with good technique and allow it to happen?

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Very easy. First train it by doing volume pulses, but make sure you're not tensing anything while you do it. First do it slowly and then try to increase the speed. In time, it will get more natural until you'll find the magic sweet spot where vibrato will happen on it's own when there is balance between the air flow and its resistance in the throat. I learned mine many years ago by imitating Elvis Presley, trying to get as close to his vibrato as possible :)

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I did not know that the book is out of print now. I got mine back in 2004 from the Julliard Online Bookstore if I remember correctly. Would somewhere like Kinko's copy a book into PDF format for you? I'd be willing to do that, especially since there were also several other rare books I wanted to copy from the university library, but with my poor scanner, it would take forever, lol.

BTW, there used to be the entire chapter on the pharyngeal voice online on this Chinese guy's web site. I can't remember the site to save the life of me, though. I also have some of the sound files that his daughter (Alma Caesari) put together which demonstrate some of the technical things Caesari talks about in the book. The full CD of clips can be ordered from her -- I just have a few of them. If you want what I have, let me know. Also, my University had 3 of Caesari's other books and my local library had the final one. If I can find an easy way to make a PDF out of them, I'll get copies of all of them. Also, Vernon Mackie had a book out which was an adjunct to The Voice of the Mind. It's a short read (maybe 80 pages or so). I used to have it, but let me teacher borrow it and was never able to find it, lol.

~~Dante~~

dante, that's okay........i don't want to put you out.

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  • 8 months later...

To me a healthy vibrato is automatic and you can't really feel it. It is involuntary. It is a release of tension. I had one pop voice teacher very early in my development that wanted me to actually change pitch directly with my voice like a shallow trill. This was really bad for me and it sounded just awful. Later, a classical teacher had me do this excersize that worked like a charm: Sing a 5 note scale starting on 1 (tonic) and going up to 5 and hold on the 5. Sing the scale quickly to reach 5 and slightly pulsate each note. This is easy to do as each note is different. As you reach 5, keep that pulsating sensation on the 5th note. Once I did this a few times, vibrato became totally natural and involuntary. I never had to do the excersize again, but it was the key, for me, to develop a natural vibrato.

Shamless bump

Hey Geno, how exactly do you "pulsate each note"? Do you mean getting up to the note and oscillating down/up half a tone until the voice "takes over"? Gaining vibrato throughout my passagio is one of my all-time singing goals, so please be as specific as you want.

Thanks

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Asim - The technique of the pulsating scale is taught by some classical teachers. As you sing the 5 note ascending scale, accent each note slightly, and relax as you do it. The slide between the notes would be slightly less in volume than the note itself, and may drop in pitch slightly before the next note. Each note would be pretty fast - the speed of a vibrato - which is about 5 or 6 undulations per second. You can exagerrate the pulse at first if you want, or slow it down. When you reach the top note, you just keep that pulsation going - the pitch should rise and fall naturally. For me I like to keep it indirect control - think pulsating. You could raise and lower the pitch directly - lots of people teach that too. I can't say that's bad, it's just not good for me. To me it's like thinking too much about it - I just try to keep it automatic and involuntary. My wife has an incredibly natural and automatic vibrato that she's had all her life. She never had to learn how to do it. That is what I've tried to acheive.

As I learned from Steven Fraser you need flexibility between the CT and TA muscle for vibrato to occur naturally. If you are tight through the passagio it probably means that the CT and TA are opposing each other with excess tension. As you work out the tension between these two muscles the vibrato will be easier to acheive. There is that point where CT starts to dominate pitch control - for me that occurs at about A4. For baritones it may occur lower. At that very point is where it can be challenging for vibrato - it was for me, and once and a while my vibrato just gets shallower right there.

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Okay cool. At the risk of sounding retarded, I'm still totally confused... is there a demonstration of it anywhere online?

I actually asked Ken Tamplin about it (whose program I'm practicing) and he said this to me:

"If you are a KTVA program user, you would remember that I said "Vibrato" is the last in the "food chain" or "Release Valves" (the vowel modifications I have you do in the volumes to relieve and release tension). Once the correct vowel modification is achieved (with correct support), it "pings" to that little sweet spot (ampitheater in the back of the throat with good vowel placement) that sounds like the note is easy and soaking in reverb. This is only truly achieved by open throat technique. It's at this point, vibrato is release, so as to "relax" the note and allow "reasonance" to take over. Remember I said it was "reasonance" that grow the voice? Not "powering" through the sound. Once this "reasonant vibrato" starts to oscillate, it gets more robust and fills up the room wihout the tension of what it would take to "power" out a note like that without proper technique. AND it is this sound that GROWS the voice instead of tearing it down like when we "power" through a note."

I do practice his program (currently Vol 2, have all of them however) and get vibrato up to C4. But when I normally sing I have to force it through the raising the pitch somewhat directly. Vibrato is like the holy grail of singing to me. I wish I could get it.

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For me, it's was kind of like if I wanted more vibrato I'd sing more like Frank Sinatra or Elvis, if I wanted more of a straight tone, I sing more like the Beatles, like everyone say 'imitation.' That's about the least technical and helfpul explanation possible, but I had as much progress probably from this kind of thinking as any other kind. There were a few things people described that helped (beginning of a yawn, etc).

I honestly don't believe either method is unhealthy. McCartney is still rocking his voice at nearly 70 years old, Lennon was fine til he was killed. Frank had voice problems that nearly took him out of the game at one point but he got them sorted out, though his voice gradually deteriorated throughout his life. There are loads of examples on both sides of people with vocal injuries and deteriorating voices and I honestly believe that a 'pronounced vibrato' being required is a probably more a myth based on classical tradition than on reality.

McCartney has kept his voice intact better than a lot of classical singers. I believe as long as your throat is relaxed and comfortable and you're not forcing your voice or pressing your vocal cords wrong (squeezing, constricting), you're usually alright. Trying to force vibrato, is probably more unhealthy than singing comfortably in whatever way you naturally would.

Not to mention if everyone had classical pronounced vibrato I'd probably stop listening to singing entirely. I'd be bored. It's actually the 'differences' in voices probably more so than the similarities that has kept me passionate about sung music for so long. It gives a totally different feel to the sound and I believe it can sometimes be an artistic necessity to get certain feelings to not 'shake' the note so much. If everyone sounded the same or used the same technique all of the time, the voice would a pretty boring instrument. That pretty much takes half of what I love about voice away.

I'm guessing you can do either way healthily or unhealthily, but I'd be willing to bet it isn't the magical pill for voice health some people would like to make it out to be.

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This is so.. Aah..!!

I've never had ny vibrato... It has never once come naturally to me. I consider my technique pretty damn good! :3

However, many years ago I started listening to Helloween and I discovered Michael Kiske. His rhythmic and very pronounced vibrato gripped my soul and I've practiced that vibrato alot. I've got it pretty flawless now both when it comes to oscillations, volume and pitch shifts.

So, some of us have to LEARN vibrato and damn.. It can sound AMAZING! :3

Just saying ;d

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Don't get me wrong Snejk, vibrato can be great. I just don't believe it's the 'right' or a 'best' way to sing. Even the 'healthiest way to sing' I'm not convinced of, because plenty of singers with it get injuries and plenty of singers without do fine throughout their lives.

Someone I like quite a bit who sings mostly straight tone:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6fS_7Yp0hY&feature=related

Now, his partner that supposedly would have the healthier voice production between the two here producing a more pronounced vibrato (singing the song you sung, sounds great):

He's been having voice problems between the two lately. I'm not saying it's healthier to sing straight tone, I just don't think there is anything wrong either sound and am not convinced the health concerns are entirely grounded outside tradition and preference.

Again there's nothing wrong with Helloween and for people who want to do a sound like that, it's great to train towards, but on average I'd rather hear Paul Simon. Considering he's sold at least twice as many albums (solo, with his partner he's probably sold 10 times as many), I'm probably not alone, but that doesn't make it 'better.' When someone says something like there is a 'right' way to do vibrato which excludes a large portion of the music people cherish made in the last half century, I have to wonder. How are people defining 'right?' To me anything that sounds right for a song and is comfortable and healthy enough for people to use, is the right way. Maybe I am lacking information on statistics or something, but I'm not convinced one way is better or healthier, just different.

When it comes to art, differences are about the best thing you can have because too much imitation can be tiresome. If Van Gogh kept painting slightly different versions of the Mona Lisa, I don't think it would connect as well as painting Starry Night, technique be damned, as it doesn't really matter which was harder to paint in the long run. To me singing is kind of a similar predicament. You want different voices to give different feelings or experiences. If everyone trained to sound like the Helloween guy, singing in general as an art form would suck.

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Asim - I haven't seen a demonstration of the technique like the one I learned or the one Steven suggests. But there are a lot of youtube demonstrations of the kind where you directly rise and lower your pitch.

KillerKu - I agree - its up to the individual if you want vibrato or not. If you want to sing classical its pretty much a necessity, but pop or rock - no. McCartney has good vocal technique - actually quite amazing through the passagio. And although he doesn't have the pronounced steady Pavaroti type of vibrato, he does have a little bit of vibrato. For me personally, vibrato was something I wanted and developed at an early age. Just like with guitar, I could have just concentrated on blues technique, but I was entrigued by the more technical players so I learned how to shred. Does that make me a better singer or guitar player in the eyes of the general public? Absolutely not. It's just something I wanted to acheive as a personal goal.

Snejk - Right on. The right kind of vibrato does sound amazing.

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Oh, nonono!! I never meant to say that anything was right or wrong... I was simply implying that we're all different and not everyone produces a "natural" vibrato. Some of us, IF we WANT a vibrato, have to be very conscious about it and practice it from scratch.

Now straight tone or vibrato.. I believe you can do both just as healthy or unhealthy :3 I see vibrato as a stylistic choice. I think it rings very pleasantly so I prefer to use it alot :3

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Yeah Guitartrek, Mccartney has a bit of vibrato, but not the kind people are usually talking about. Even Lennon did have little wisps, though he's one of the straightest tone singers I know (and one of my favorites). I actually prefer Lennon to McCartney though I understand McCartney has more 'solid' traditional technique. John was raw, which gets me every time. Both great though.

Actually, even when I'd sing more 'straight' I'd still get some vibrato myself. I think almost no one has 'no vibrato' unless they autotune their voice and for that I wish I had a time machine to prevent that from ever being invented. I'd agree on a very extreme robotic level, if you are literally trying to sound like a robot that might be damaging, though honestly I don't know the exact mechanism.

I'm just speaking up for you future John Lennons out there, you don't have to go Pavarotti or Helloween on us to sing 'right.' Likewise, for the young Luciano out there in the audience, you don't have to go Paul Simon in order to be a popular singer. If you'd all work your thing and make us some great music, I'm sure we'd all be thrilled. Cause we really could use more great music out there.

Me, I often think of the stories I've heard about some of my favorite singers being told flat out they 'could not sing, had no shot at this and would never make it in the business.' I know Neil Young was told that flat out. I think he's sold more than Helloween too, range or vibrato be damned, right?

Not knocking anyone or any style, I think anyone who is passionate about singing should seek the healthiest sound closest to what resonates with them on a song, listening to their inner artist. I just try to make sure some of my underdogs are all getting their shoutouts and not feeling like they are 'wrong.' Nowadays these sick minded record executives would probably try to autotune Neil Young. I hope you singers of all kinds have the balls to tell them to **** off.

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Some of my favorite examples of raw singers who don't seem to display much technique, in fact the audience prefers them to sound unpolished is Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen. But it's not about the prettiest note, or even how much or how little vibrato. What does the song mean and does your voice communicate that? I might admire Dennis DeYoung's clear, operatic tone in a genre not known for that but I could not imagine anyone else beside Springsteen singing "Thunder Road." Not that DeYoung could not sing that song. He could, and it would be in his own way and not tring to sound like Springsteen.

As for autotune, it's not the producer's choice. During the course of this year, I have been reading books on mixing and recording, which is my Achille's Heal, more than anything. I'm still not any good at it but I am slowly improving my understanding. I remember as a child, even before picking up guitar, I had a Panasonic portable tape recorder that used 5 inch reels and two track tape (one track for each direction.) And cheapie little condenser mic. And singing what I could remember of "For Your Love" by the Yardbirds, which was on another tape.

So, what one can do with this new stuff is new to me. I have not spent as much time studying it as my brother has.

Anyway, to get on with it, the mixing people quoted in the book I am reading now ("Mixing Secrets." Trust me, that book has more than you ever wanted to know,) they autotune everything, not because the singer is off but because it makes a stronger digital signal to deal with in a digital mixing format. It's not even a matter of fixing an "off" note, and they do that, too. No, they simply autotune everything. Especially in pop, but rock is doing it, too, to compete in the marketplace. I juxtapose that against GnR's Appetite for Destruction, which sounded like it had been recorded in a garage with a 4-track analog. And that was part of the appeal. A band so strong it shined through low tech.

In fact, if there's an odd note or cymbal hit or a timing issue on the drums, they will dupe that one note to another track and do some stuff to it and sonically, it changes the whole "illusion." And vocals are never taken from a single track. The singer will be required to sing it a few different times and the mixer will comp(osite) the vocals. Always. Comp'ing and autotune are no longer at the discretion of the producer or even the artist. The mixer is simply going to do it, carte blanche.

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Yeah, I've got a little mini recording set up here in my tiny apartment from back when I was healthier. I have a fair amount of recording experience so I have a bit of knowledge about this stuff too, Ronsw. Why do you think I toss you guys so many links to older songs? It's not like I consciously hate new mainstream music because of the time period. It's not any less possible to make a classic these days, I just don't think that's where we're at right now. We aren't allowing people to hear the new Bridge Over Troubled Water and that's a shame.

My goal if I was going to prevail as an artist was to wave a giant middle finger to the current industry practice, and make some really raw music that touched people on the kind of level autotune and computer perfected sound could not. I wanted to wave every little flaw in the face of an increasingly plastic world in defiance. If I get my voice back, I will still try. I was going to move to Seattle and give it a go. Maybe I'll see Rob over there.

Popular music works in cycles, Prog to Punk. Hair Metal to Grunge. I believe the next phase could very well be plastic digital perfection to raw soul baring imperfection, and I don't think it's ever been more needed. Whether I get to be a part of it or not, I'm rooting for anyone that tries and I actually believe the public is ready for some really raw emotion and songwriting talent, that hasn't be digitized or polished to some inhuman sheen. I think it would be startling, fresh, and invigorating for people on many levels to be exposed to something 'new' after all of this digital pruning.

But you guys can do that with your vibrato too. Don't you go thinking you can't. :D

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