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Vibrato - What it is, how to Develop it and Common Issues

November 14, 2019

Updated May 3, 2024

By Camille van Niekerk

Vibrato is a beautiful technique that can make a novice singer sound pro.

Is vibrato needed in order to be a great vocalist?

While it isn't needed to be a great singer, all great singers know how to use vibrato.

Think of it as adding a subtle shake to your voice.

It's that extra oomph that makes your singing sound richer and more alive.

If you're just starting out learning how to sing, don't worry.

Mastering vibrato might seem like a blanacing act.

But with a bit of practice and some know-how, you'll be singing those wavy tones like a pro in no time.

What Is Vibrato?

Vibrato is the subtle oscillation in pitch that naturally occurs when a singer is relaxed and is using healthy singing techniques.

Although vibrato appears naturally, it is something the singer has to “let” happen.

Forcing vibrato doesn't have the same effect that natural vibrato does.

The alternative to singing with vibrato is called “straight tone”, in which a note is sung with no variation in pitch.

Check out the Vibrato Course on 30 Day Singer.

Why does vibrato happen?

Vibrato is actually a protective measure for your voice! It is physically taxing to sing with straight tone all the time.

Vibrato is the result of your laryngeal muscles pulsing in response to air pressure beneath your vocal folds and the muscular tension required to sustain a pitch.

How to sing with vibrato

Because vibrato is a natural element of the voice, and not an additional stylistic effect, the way to develop your vibrato is to improve your vocal technique over all.

There are no shortcuts.

But there are a few components that must be present in your singing.

If you’re lacking in one of these elements, you should address that issue to help with your vibrato development.

These tips are great for anyone taking beginner singing lessons:

• Good breath support

• Adequate cord compression (or vocal fold closure)

• Resonant space in the mouth and throat

• Relaxation

I’ll also add here: a good aural concept of vibrato is very important!

So incorporate listening to (and trying to replicate) the vibrato of great singers: not as a strict template but as a point of reference for your own singing.

How NOT to approach vibrato

You may be tempted to take a shortcut and achieve vibrato by:

• Shaking/quivering your jaw

• Pulsing your abdomen

• Introducing another extraneous movement

The ONLY time this could be justified is if it’s being used to give you an idea of what your vibrato might sound like. But even that’s a stretch.

Artificial “vibrato” with the jaw or abdomen will not give you the free, relaxed sound a natural vibrato will.

Listen to great singers for your vibrato inspiration!

Check out the Vibrato Course on 30 Day Singer.

Issues with vibrato 

Sometimes, singers have a vibrato that’s overly slow or wide. We call this a vocal wobble.

Although there could be several causes, the most common is weak breath support.

If you have a wobbling vibrato, spend some extra time during your singing lessons on these techniques: breathing exercises, lip trills, and cord compression warm-ups. 

Other times, singers have a vibrato that’s overly fast. We call this a tremolo.

Usually the cause is excess tension in the throat or abdomen.

If you have a tremolo, make sure that you’re not locking up or squeezing in your belly when you sing.

Use vocal exercises that relax the jaw and tongue (yawny sirens, sighing, humming, gliding on a YAH or a hooty HOO). 

Vibrato usage in different styles

The amount of vibrato you use, and where you use it, will depend on the style of music you’re singing.

Free/continuous vibrato: Classical arias & art songs, Opera

Liberal vibrato: Musical theater

Frequent vibrato (usually at the ends of phrases): Pop, Rock, Country

Infrequent vibrato: Jazz (depending on the soloist and time period), American Folk

Mostly straight tone: Renaissance & some choral music 

Closing Thoughts

If you aren’t currently able to sing with any vibrato, that’s okay!

The more you dial in your vocal technique, the more likely a natural vibrato will occur.

It’ll just be the icing on the cake!

Check out the Vibrato Course on 30 Day Singer.


What is a vibrato in singing?

A vibrato in singing is like a gentle fluctuation in pitch, adding a shimmering quality to the sound.

Is vibrato natural or learned?

Vibrato can be both. Some singers naturally have it, while others develop it through practice and training.

Is it vibrato or shaky voice?

It's definitely vibrato, not a shaky voice. Vibrato is controlled and intentional, while a shaky voice lacks that precision.

Why is vibrato so hard singing?

Vibrato can be challenging because it requires a delicate balance of control and relaxation in the vocal cords, which takes time and practice to master.

Why do pop singers not use vibrato?

Pop singers often opt for a smoother, straight tone to maintain a contemporary sound that aligns with the style of pop music.

Is it better to sing with or without vibrato?

It depends on personal preference and the style of the song. Some pieces benefit from the warmth of vibrato, while others call for a cleaner, straight tone.

Why do old singers use so much vibrato?

Old-school singers often used vibrato heavily because it was a stylistic choice of their time, adding richness and drama to their performances.

Is singing without vibrato unhealthy?

Singing without vibrato isn't necessarily unhealthy, but relying solely on one style of singing can limit vocal versatility and expression.

Can most people sing vibrato?

With practice and proper vocal training, most people can learn to sing vibrato to some extent, though the degree of proficiency may vary.

What voice type is vibrato?

Vibrato isn't specific to a particular voice type; it can be found in sopranos, altos, tenors, basses, and any other vocal range. It's more about technique than voice classification.

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