Molly Holleran Voice Studio header
Voice Studio News & Fun
February 10, 2020 | Issue #15 | Newsletter Archive
Voice Technique: Vibrato
Vocal vibrato is the regular, consistent pulsating of pitch through variations in the larynx.

We use vibrato in singing in many ways, depending on the style of the song we are singing. There is much argument among experts about historically-accurate use of vibrato. Currently, early music (Baroque era 1600-1750) is thought to have been sung with straight tone (little or no vibrato) with vibrato used as an ornament to color certain notes or text. Vocal music in the Classical era (1730-1820) is thought to have been much the same, and into the Romantic era (1830-1900) it is thought that vibrato in operatic literature was used more or less consistently. So we have the sense that more "classical" styles of vocal music usually indicate the presence of more vibrato, and we expect to hear it in operatic voices. Contemporary styles of vocal music (pop, jazz, musical theatre, folk) use varying degrees of vibrato, depending on the individual voice. You will hear voices that have consistent vibrato, and others that use it to color certain notes. Studies show that in general, people enjoy a vibrato that is approximately 6 to 8 oscillations per second - if it's any slower or faster than that, it could become a too-prominent element of the sound.

Some people produce a natural vibrato without thinking about it. Others who have a more straight tone can learn to add vibrato to their sound. The presence of vibrato in the voice can indicate relaxation in the larynx, which allows the vibrations to occur. So absence of vibrato can often (not always) indicate some degree of tension in the larynx.

Find out more about vibrato at the links below, and talk to me in your lessons if you have any questions!

Folk Song Favorites
Roll On, Columbia
"Roll On, Columbia, Roll On" is an American folk song written in 1941 by American folk singer Woody Guthrie, who popularized the song through his own recording of it. The song glamorized the harnessing of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. The 11 hydroelectric dams built on the American stretch of the Columbia helped farms and industry, but their construction also permanently altered the character of the river.

The song became famous as an anthem about American public works projects arising out of the New Deal in the Great Depression. In 1987, it was adopted as the official folk song of the State of Washington.

Check out the great original Woody Guthrie version

Here's Lead Belly's original "Good Night Irene" - the tune that Roll On Columbia is based on.

If you've got the time and interest, here is a documentary about Woody Guthrie and how he came to write the song.

Click here to download the song and sing or play for yourself!
Name That Tune
Have fun sight-reading these folk tunes! Do you recognize them?
You've Got Rhythm!
Here are some exercises for rhythm practice - good luck!
Composer Spotlight: Stephen Schwartz
Stephen Schwartz (born March 6, 1948) is an American musical theatre lyricist and composer. In a career spanning over four decades, Schwartz has written such hit musicals as Godspell (1971), Pippin (1972), and Wicked (2003). He has contributed lyrics to a number of successful films, including Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), The Prince of Egypt (1998, music and lyrics), and Enchanted (2007). Schwartz has won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics, three Grammy Awards, three Academy Awards, and has been nominated for six Tony Awards. He received the 2015 Isabelle Stevenson Award, a special Tony Award, for his commitment to serving artists and fostering new talent.

Here are some fun performances of classic Stephen Schwartz songs: