(Add some spark to your voice)
Bowie has a fast one. Mary J. Blige has a slow, sultry, one. Maynard
James Keenan doesnít have a trace of one.
with vibrato is a matter of taste. Having a choice is a matter
of control. For most singers, the subtle, rhythmical movement
of vibrato feels more like fate. When you want vibrato, it hides
on you; donít think about it, and it shimmers on the end of
a note. Vibrato brings vitality to a voice. Sound without variation
is boring. Compare a refrigerator to a fly buzzing around. The
steady hum of the compressor quickly becomes background noise
while the bug gets harder to ignore. With the exception of rappers
and singers like Beck who donít sustain notes, those without
vibrato tend to rely on overdrive to create excitement. This
often leads to blow outs. The more vocal colors available on
your pallet, like vibrato, breathy, nasal and gritty, the easier
it will be to paint an interesting portrait of a song without
of vibrato are simple and reflexive, which is what makes it
so elusive. Picture the fret hand of a guitarist sustaining
a note. The finger movement alters the length of the string
creating a slight waver in pitch. Things are just a little more
complex with the voice. Like a stringed instrument, the tension
of the vocal folds is varied rhythmically, creating movement
in pitch. Along with this tension change, though, is a variation
in the thickness of the vocal fold. The combined movements of
pitch, volume and tone are what set vibrato apart from tremolo
(change in volume only) and wobble (change in pitch only).
squashes vibrato. Not just the obvious neck bulging stuff, but
subtle everyday stiffness can neutralize it as well. Like the
freedom required to wiggle your finger when sustaining a note
on guitar, vocal vibrato requires muscle independence. Backing
off the air pressure is the first step to releasing your voice.
Let the ability to produce vibrato be your guide. Lay down flat
on your back and place your hand on your belly button. Breath
so that your hand rises and falls. Now sing a comfortable note
and look for the presence of vibrato. If the pitch is stiff
notice what your abs are doing. Are they contracting to drive
the note? Check the behavior on various pitches. If you push
too much from your stomach, the muscles surrounding the larynx
will brace and vibrato will be lost. Reduce the volume and try
again. The goal is to reduce the air pressure to the point where
flexibility is found. Donít be alarmed if this only happens
at very low volumes. With practice, youíll be able to increase
the volume without loading the neck with pressure. Strike the
proper balance during a song and vibrato will blossom. Thatís
why it tends to come in at the ends of notes; once we feel safely
on pitch, we ease off the pressure a bit.
check for vibrato-eating throat tension is to rotate your head
in a small circle when singing. Pretend you are tracing the
outline of a quarter with your nose. Does the rotation stop
when you begin to sing? Is it stiffer on high notes? Again,
reduce the volume until you find the correct air pressure. Neck
tension is not a requirement of singing loud or high. We often
see singers so locked up in the neck that they literally have
to shake their heads or jaws in order to create vibrato. In
the same way, a guitar player who needs to shake the guitar
to move a note must be applying a death grip on that fretboard.
Thereís nothing wrong with using force to make a strong statement.
Too often, though, the statement it makes is that we are overcompensating
to mask weakness. Be brave and do the dirty work in private.
Use vibrato as your guide and discover the power within.
Baxter is a vocal therapist
who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call:
(800)659-6002. Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com
with the kind permission of Mark