In this article, we’re not going to tell you about the rise and fall of famous opera singers but rather tell you what you need to do to learn an essential part of singing opera. Vibrato is to singing well as Yorkshire puddings are to Sunday lunch, after all.
To go from a total unknown to a famous singer, you’re going to have to master a number of singing techniques, including vibrato. Without it, you’ll never be able to break into the world of opera or be able to make a dent into the competitive world of televised singing competitions.
However, don’t lose hope! We’re going to have a look at vibrato and vocal techniques as well as some important approaches to working on your vocal coaching.
What is Vibrato?
The first question you need to ask yourself is: How can you sing well? Only after you’ve answered this question can you delve even further into the idea.
It’s not always easy to gain a perfect control of your sternum and hold a consistent note. In addition to learning how to do this, you’ll also need to know how to modulate your voice. This isn’t about warbling like little old ladies who think they’ve got the voice of an opera singer but are actually making their audience’s ears bleed.
To avoid being booed off stage, you’ll need to be in complete control of your windpipe and produce a constant and harmonious modulation of the frequencies being made. If you can’t manage this, you may as well remain silent since this isn't something you can emulate.
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Vocal vibrato is reserved for the very best singers regardless of their tessitura: soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, bass. While vibrato is often thought of as an innate skill, this doesn’t mean that an aspiring singer isn’t able to learn all the different facets of the human voice. A good healthy voice, after all, is capable of learning such skills.
It’s not always about finding your natural vibrato but rather finding a way to create it. It’s all a matter of airflow rate; artificial vibrato is possible although it’s not as beautiful as natural vibrato. It’s the tensing of the thyroarytenoid muscle to change the pitch multiple times a second. This normally involves between 4 and 7 oscillations per second.
If your vibrato is too slow, you’ll sound just like your grandmother (unless she was a famous opera singer, of course!). Younger singers shouldn’t worry. Vibrato doesn’t really exist until you come of age and it develops. In fact, you’ll need to wait until your voice breaks. Private singing lessons will be great for helping you to prepare for becoming an opera singer.
A flexible head voice and the help of a singing school can also do wonders. If despite all your efforts over the years, you’re still struggling to find your vibrato, you may have a problem in terms of your subglottal pressure.
What’s the Point in Vibrating your Vocal Cords?
It’s not just singers who work with vibrato: there are a lot of different instruments that can modulate the pitch in such a way. String, woodwind, and brass instruments are common examples of instruments that are capable of recreating the vibrato effect. No matter which instrument you play, a private tutor will be able to help you learn these kinds of techniques.
However, you should never confuse vibrato with trill. Trill is when the note is changed whereas vibrato makes semi-tonal modifications to the note being produced.
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Vibrato can be found in choral and solo singing as well as in a variety of different styles of music like jazz, gospel, opera, etc. The key to vibrato is maintaining a regular and sustained frequency to your vibrato. While there are a number of important advantages to mastering vibrato, the main one is adding it to your repertoire of skills and making you more desirable as a singer.
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Advice for Achieving Vocal Vibrato
Open your mouth as if you’re yawning
Relax your muscles completely (especially your larynx)
Stand up straight (your vertical posture is very important)
Control your breathing
Sing with your diaphragm
Relax your muscles completely
Try to be subtle. The best vibrato is always subtle.
Gradually improve your vocal technique.
Be proud of your voice.
Keep in mind that a light variation in pitch is the natural way to produce a beautiful note.
How Can You Master Vocal Vibrato?
Where possible, this should start with musical education from a young age. Have you considered prenatal singing? There are also group classes and singing workshops you could consider.
You should always warm up vocally before any kind of singing. This will help you be in full control of your voice since warming up will also ensure that your voice is in its best possible condition. You should then think about relaxation. Relaxing your muscles and glottis. You’ll need to be ready and flighty if you’re going to keep up with your vocal colleagues.
You’ll quickly hear the difference between a tense singer and those who know how to sing the piece without tiring themselves out or getting frustrated: your throat quickly becomes a worse instrument when overexerted.
Singing a song will always rely on human physiology. You’ll have to work really hard since singing a song without due care and attention will quickly result in a terrible performance.
Theatre classes or public speaking classes can help even the shyest singers to get over their fear and sing well in any given performance hall or room. They can also help you articulate better, regulate the tone of your diaphragm, and better perform consonant sounds if you’re singing a capella.
If you really want to unwind, you should consider drum classes! Of you could consider working on your own style while playing the guitar at the same time.
The third rule is to breathe correctly. Abdominal breathing is the heart of choral singing. Skimping on your breathing exercises will only make your problems (and your singing) much worse.
Learning to sing in group workshops isn’t the only effective option for those wanting to train their musical ear and ensure their breathing and abs are working alongside the sounds they’re trying to produce with their mouths.
The best option is to enlist the help of a voice coach who, as a quality educator, will be able to use their knowledge of music theory or speech-language pathology to help you improve. At-home tutorials can act as a metronome for your learning process and the progress you’re making.
A quality singing coach will be able to show you the best breathing exercises to accompany your music training as well as the music lessons you should use to ensure your knowledge of the theory is top notch. Most of the tutors on Superprof offer free tutoring for the first hour of lessons so that you can see whether or not they’re the right singing tutor for you. The same goes for tutors offering tutorials for other musical instruments.
There’s nothing stopping you looking for choir masters who have the same vocal range as you. e.g. soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto, countertenor, tenor, baritone, bass. As we already said, vibrato often requires the natural and innate understanding of how to use your chest. After all, the main skill is knowing how to control the balance.
Finding the right expressive range and making the vibrato second nature could be one of the goals of your private singing tutorials. A few exercises after an intensive course of lessons could help any type of singer achieve this goal. If making your head voice ring out beautifully is one of your goals, you should consider getting in touch with a private music tutor today.
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Examples of Inspirational Singing
Everyone has that one song or piece that inspires them when they sing. “Nessun Dorma”, anyone? These are the kinds of pieces of music that are so powerful nobody can dislike them...
However, not all singers are created equal. You’ll need to have a perfect ear, at least, and a solid foundation is musical theory in order to separate the operatic wheat from the chaff.
Listening to the classical hits is a great way to inspire aspiring singers and help them to project their voice. If you’re working on a voice for opera or taking opera singing lessons, you should consider the vocal techniques used in The Barber of Seville by Rossini, The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, or Der Ring des Nibelungen by Wagner. You’ll also find Handel’s vocal ensembles really useful for learning to sing.
More recently, you should also check out singers like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Susan Boyle. Their vocal performances have moved audiences around the world and made them superstars. You could be the next Luciano Pavarotti or Maria Callas. You just have to take that first step!