Vibrato Part 2

May 7, 2019

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Yesterday I talked about vibrato, the technique that string players use—rocking the fingers of their left hands back and forth to create small oscillations in pitch that result in a warmer, more resonant sound.

Well, singers use vibrato, too—although use isn’t exactly the right word. Vibrato happens, is more like it. String players vibrate by choice, and intentionally vary the width and speed of their vibratos. But for singers, vibrato is simply a by-product of proper breathing and tone production, and singers usually don’t vary their vibrato on purpose. In the words of Mozart, “The human voice already vibrates of itself, but in such a degree that it is beautiful, that it is the nature of the voice.” Studies of great singers have shown that the average speed of a beautiful vibrato is between six and seven oscillations per second, although in in passages that increase in volume and excitement, the vocal vibrato generally speeds up and widens.

A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.