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Vibrato and Support

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Manolito Mystiq
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I have a certain speed of vibrato, which is actually quite similar to that heard in progressive metal: 5 cycles per second. I sometimes would like it to be faster, more of a Broadway style vibrato. And in classical music, my current vibrato, though nice, seems to be a bit slow.

When singing as a sopranist especially, it is too slow. Now, I have Brett Manning’s Mastering Vibrato course, as well as Dave Brooks’s. Both use that speed up approach of alternating two neighbor notes, like C and D♭, from slow to fast. I can surpass my 5 cycles per second to 6 Hertz, but just for a second or two.

I thought it could be my support or my larynx that could be too locked up.

We did an Estillian excercise during my Certified Master Teacher course, that of anchoring. All the students had this very natural sounding rather fast but good vibrato applying neck anchoring. Mine was definitely slower, though sounding natural too. Our teacher said that I applied the technique correctly, my attractor state of vibrato is just slower.

I know I can held notes for long (as heard on my Child in Time cover) and can apply my current vibrato pretty stylistically and all, but I still feel there to be too much hold in my voice, as if I’m compensating my lack of proper support by having a hold.

Is there a way to be sure I’m supporting efficiently? Or, correctly, for that matter?

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vibrato is very complicated and I actually would train actively for a certain type of vibrato. Go with what nature has given to you. There are many things that influence vibrato and depending on the mode you use there can be limitations about it, so here are my impressions:

1. Applying a lot of hold makes the vibrato indeed slower from my experience, but reducing the hold may put you into another mode, Curbing vibrato is generally slower compared to the other modes.

2. The higher the note, the faster the vibrato

3. Compression (metal) and narrowing will hinder the vibrato at big amounts. On a very intensive Overdrive or Edge belt it is perfectly possible that there will be no vibrato at all and you wont be able to induce one.

4. The lower your larynx the "bigger" the vibrato (which means stronger change of frequency, not speed), lowering the larynx also often makes the vibrato slower

But as said before, I wouldn't go for "creating" an unnatural vibrato. The natural one usually sounds best at least to my ears.

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Manolito - I've found that vibrato speeds up naturally when you are free in the larynx. That is when your TA and CT are not tugging at each other more than they have to. I've also found, working with the Bristow program, that when you get rid all the unnecessary tension from the constrictors, jaw, tongue, etc., the vibrato is much more free to reach a faster speed. If you are "squeezing" the folds (as Daniel describes it) the vibrato is also affected. The folds can get squeezed by applying too much support. Check out Daniel's video on support.

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Hey Mano, you mentioned that you studied some of David Jones' techniques. I actually went to him with the express purpose of achieving a faster, more natural, vibrato, and am happy to say that his techniques proved to be just what the doctor ordered. I will go over some of my old lessons with him and find some of the specific exercises he gave me for that purpose. I honestly can't remember which exercises apply to which problem I was having at the time.

The central tenants he instilled in me were a healthy support, chords together (no breathiness), and open throat. When these things all come together, vibrato will come freely and actually feel more relaxed than singing a straight tone.

The support he teaches is basically the engagement of the muscles in the abdominals and lower back, which you can feel when you slowly exhale on an "ssss" sound. Feel underneath your lower ribs as you do this and that resistance against the breathe is your support. Of course, you can take any concept too far, and it is a hard balance for me, as at times I will over-support by locking these muscles and engaging them more than is necessary. All I can say is try to find a good balance (and exercise!).

The low larynx was very useful in freeing my voice and allowing my natural vibrato to develop. I would encourage you to vocalize in this position (within a range that is completely comfortable for you) and then once you get the feeling of being completely relaxed in the throat muscles, then you can apply that to rock singing and allow the larynx to rise a bit. The important point here is to not lock the larynx by pushing it down with the root of the tongue (so the forward tongue position also comes into play), but to achieve it by basically inhaling on a mock yawn. "Breathe it open and leave it open!"

A beautiful ringing vibrato will vibrate in the hard palate. I already hear a nice ring in your voice on your "Mano in Time" recording, so it sounds like you've got that placement down. In sum, as long as you're regulating your breathe pressure nice and evenly through support and have relaxed those throat muscles while keeping an open throat, the vibrato should just "appear." Now please tell me how to sing in whistle voice. :D

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The central tenants he instilled in me were a healthy support, chords together (no breathiness), and open throat. When these things all come together, vibrato will come freely and actually feel more relaxed than singing a straight tone

Can I pick you up on this comment?

Really strikes a chord for me as I've often noticed that an un-intended vibrato creeps into my singing when I feel at my most 'free' in terms of muscle tensions. Odd thing is that I've always been shy of vibrato when singing as I have an intense dislike of the sound of vibrato except in those occasions where it sounds 'natural'. I'm well aware of how daft that sounds and I have nothing to say in my defense other than 'I know it when I hear it'. Which is equally daft. Perception and taste - what riddle!

Should I generally encourage mystery vibrato and let it do its dance all on its own?

I'm happy to endure the sound if it encourages good practice, endurance and progression. Guess I'm better placed to subdue it for artistic reasons when my voice is properly controlled and developed.

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For sure, encourage it, SilentMind! You don't have to overuse it in your music, but a subtle flurry of vibrato here and there can be a great effect and generally give your voice a more professional sound. Besides that, it's a sign of good technique and lack of tension. I went to Maestro Jones not hiding the fact that I was interested in singing rock music. He joked how alot of pop/rock artists say they don't want to sound like an opera singer but what they really mean is that they don't want to sound like a bad opera singer - a big wide vibrato (aka vocal wobble) being one of the trademarks. haha. Many edgy sounding modern rock singers utilize vibrato in their music without going full Halford/Dickenson metal opera.

So yeah, let it do its dance, man! :cool:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Manolito - I've found that vibrato speeds up naturally when you are free in the larynx. That is when your TA and CT are not tugging at each other more than they have to. I've also found, working with the Bristow program, that when you get rid all the unnecessary tension from the constrictors, jaw, tongue, etc., the vibrato is much more free to reach a faster speed. If you are "squeezing" the folds (as Daniel describes it) the vibrato is also affected. The folds can get squeezed by applying too much support. Check out Daniel's video on support.

hi geno,

i'm not entirely sure about the folds getting squeezed from applying too much support. if anything support would relieve the folds of squeezing too much......i'm curious why you say that.

your thoughts?

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The thing is some singers are mistaken on what support actually is. Just because someone gets a tight clean tone does not mean they are supporting correctly. To much tension and squeeze from what some think is support creates an ugly wide vibrato. If you want a nice vibrato you need to let it happen almost naturally..which comes from being tension free as Geno said as well.

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Bob - I've been on this new thing for several months now, where I'm mastering the "light mass" "neutral" or whatever you want to call it. It's my new "baseline" where the tone starts from very light singing. I can grow into medium to loud singing very quickly and easily.

My old baseline was a medium to heavy tone to start with. I really didn't do much light singing at all. I wasn't good at it. I thought that I was born with a heavier voice, and so be it.

Then I worked with Gino Vannelli last summer, who has a very powerful voice. But in the studio he could sing extremely lightly, and resonant, with a very fast, relaxed vibrato. I thought - what the hell? How can he do that and I can't?

Then Daniel's Support Video and Bristow's program. Daniel's video and Bristow's program dovetailed perfectly where it hit me right between my eyes: To sing light, you have to dial back the intensity of support. You still support, correctly, but if you create too much air pressure, you won't be able to sing lightly. The amount of support is proportionate to the lightness or heaviness that you are singing.

The outcome, with respect to vibrato is: If I balance my support properly, my vibrato is much more free and can be much faster. Steven Frasier once said that vibrato is dependent on how easily the CT and TA are working together. I think too much air pressure can screw this up. The air pressure has to be balanced at all times - not too much, and not too little. And I think that I erred on the "too much" support before.

I'm thankful to Daniel because he gave me an important piece of the puzzle.

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geno,

thanks very much for sharing..i appreciate what you're saying and agree with most of it. and dan formica, i agree with most of what he says as well.

i can't seem to articulate well enough to make my case but when i go for singing lightly i engage a lot of support, sometimes even more than for louder notes. but my lightly might be someone else's medium....

no one seems to discuss the "diversion" benefits. how support (when applied right) causes a diversion of tension away from up top rather than cause squeezing of the folds.

when the support is consistent and (for lack of a better word) "strong" it's a tension releaser..it instills freedom in the vocal folds, not tension.

people who squeeze their folds too tight are doing so because of a lack of (or incorrect or insufficient) engagement of support, not because there is too much of it.

if when you support you lock up top and grip instead of ending up free and open it is my opinion you aren't doing it correctly....for some reason...you're either inconsistent with it...let it fall off, or never engaged it to begin with.

it's initially very physically demanding for some singers, till they get used to it.

i know you have had classical training and i have not......thanks for reading.

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i know you have had classical training and i have not......thanks for reading.

Bob - the funny thing is that my classical teachers were teaching me operatic type singing, which requires a lot of power. To get into passagio they all seemed promote a ton of support. Good thing was that I never came close to damaging my voice with all that support. But I never really learned how to sing lightly. It was more about power it seemed. So I grew up thinking that I always needed a lot of support no matter what.

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Bob just call my video on support "appoggio" and then you will agree :). Or we could use the Vietnamese word for "to lean on" whatever language sounds fancier:cool:

What about my german-sounding word, goosenfrabe? :lol:

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Bob - the funny thing is that my classical teachers were teaching me operatic type singing, which requires a lot of power. To get into passagio they all seemed promote a ton of support. Good thing was that I never came close to damaging my voice with all that support. But I never really learned how to sing lightly. It was more about power it seemed. So I grew up thinking that I always needed a lot of support no matter what.

geno, i've listened to your singing pre-bristow and you sounded nice and light to me when it was light. maybe it's a perceptual thing...lol!!!!

or maybe i'm gravitating towards a more classical sound.

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Bob I really get the sense that you haven't even experienced how light your voice could get.

Can you sing in a way that you feel comes from a quieter place and blooms? In other words, where you are safe in a softer dynamic and it gets harder the louder you go? That's what true light singing is like. If it gets harder the lighter you go, that's a more appoggio approach and while it has a particular sound one may want, I don't think you really ever let go of enough weight to get to that super light, effortless, croony place. If you can't effortlessly sit at a soft volume with flexibility and little muscular effort, that's a whole bit of vocal versatility gone missing. I think that's what Geno is after. Not necessarily just being able to sing light here and there but being able to hang there with flexibility and comfort and quite literally be a light singer...to be that lyric tenor, not a dramatic trying to sing lyrically...

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light and heavy has a lot to do with the individual or individual preference..

you have to sing what you enjoy singing. right now i'm focused on range and beauty of tone....a consistent ring and intensity to the voice.

i'm working on a lot of early blues and motown stuff lately....

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geno, i've listened to your singing pre-bristow and you sounded nice and light to me when it was light. maybe it's a perceptual thing...lol!!!!

or maybe i'm gravitating towards a more classical sound.

Bob - yes - it doesn't sound all that different - but it was physically strenuous for me to sing the passagio. And when you are moderately heavy you have to modify vowels for sure. In neutral or light singing you don't have to modify that much at all and it can be rather effortless. However I think there is more strength required by the muscles around the folds. I had to really build up to it. And it is easy to over do it.

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Isn't "support" just a balance between airflow and cord closure?

Nick

Well you can have complete cord closure singing light or heavy. Obviously the heavier you sing, the more air pressure is needed, and the tighter the cord closure to resist the air pressure. this is where you can accidentally get some constrictors / extrinsic muscles involved too much and produce unneeded tension. If everything is in balance then no problem. This is where the amount of support needed is proportional to how heavy or light you sing. And if you sing really light you need to dial back the support accordingly. That's my take on it anyway. Just listen to Daniel's video on support where he sings the beginning of Open Arms.

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