There’s a thread of conventional thought out there that says “a healthy voice has a healthy amount of vibrato”.
Let’s first ask the question, “what is vibrato”?
Vibrato is a regular fluctuation in pitch, used by singers to create an artistic expression and to achieve a musical affect.
It’s essential as singers. In fact, it’s so important to good music, that we can add artificial vibrato in the studio using software!
Good vibrato is something that a trained singer can do at will. CVT explains two types of vibrato, explaining both of these vibrato types as things we learn to do with training. It can also take quite a bit of additional training to get “untrained” and hold a straight tone, once we’ve learned to let it shake.
The Estill voice training system provides insight on the physiology behind both of CVT’s descriptions of vibrato: one being caused by an increase with subglottic pressure along with an “aspirate abrupt” movement of the intrinsic muscles of the larynx, and the other being a rehearsed trill that is supported through the figure of “thyroid tilt”.
But the real point is that the majority of vibrato is created and controlled through training. Children generally do not have much vibrato in their tone. But that doesn’t mean that children’s voices are unhealthy. It just means that they aren’t trained.
We’ve all heard that singer whose uncontrolled vibrato is really annoying. If the vibrato is the result of bad musical training, it probably falls into the category of a “bad habit”, rather than an “unhealthy voice”. With the right kind of vocal training, this type of vibrato can become an expression of healthful artistry.
However, if you have a vibrato that just won’t quit, that you can’t control no matter what you do, it could indicate an underlying health issue. A shake that resembles an unintentional tremor can indicate an underlying issue such as age, Parkinson’s disease or other conditions. If you have an uncontrolled shake, you may need to seek medical attention.
How do you know if the presence or lack of vibrato in your voice is healthy? Check with your doctor to ensure that you have no underlying conditions.
When it comes time to figure out your own artistic use of vibrato, work with a professional who can coach you every step of the way.
If you’d like to know more from a vocal training perspective, check out this webinar, where I present four strategies to create vibrato, and four strategies to control it.