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why do older singers use more vibrato?

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  • why do older singers use more vibrato?

    i've asked a couple people from church, but never really got an answer: why do older people sing with more vibrato than middle-aged or young people? it's just a generalization but i've noticed this in any church with a choir or community group with a diverse age range. i'm methodist so my experience is narrow. is this bigger among certain denominations? was it customary to use vibrato heavily in the past?

    conversely, people younger than me sing a very steady pitch (or try to, heh). it's not rare to hear someone imitate autotune artifacts -a glitchy sounding embellishment between the notes. in my church the prevailing sound of the youth is contemporary, like soft rock.

    this is just curiosity, i'm not trying to say any type of singing is bad or undesirable. i'm involved with a couple sides of church music so i was hoping to understand better
    Why do fools fall in lava?

  • #2
    Logan,

    I would think perhaps the favored "style" of vibrato has changed over time. Check some old 78RPM recordings, and you'll find vibrato was much faster for some, and in other cases much deeper.

    The other thing I've noticed, watching some great singers age over time, is that the muscles used to create vibrato tend to lose muscle-tone over time and allow the vibrato to become much slower and/or deeper. In fact, I've had some vocalists who have insisted they no longer sing, who I've managed to convince to sing again. In every case, their major objection to their singing voice was that of their vibrato changing over time and some cracking.

    Hope that helps get the conversation started.

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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    • #3
      Good question. Even 50 or 60 years ago when I was a kid I noticed that certain elderly ladies in church would sing with a huge amount of vibrato. I always assumed it was just an old lady thing, like the cracking voice and other artifacts. But maybe they were imitating something they had heard in their younger days.
      John
      ----------
      *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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      • KC9UDX
        KC9UDX commented
        Editing a comment
        Exactly my experience, minus a few years.

    • #4
      I have had older people in my choirs who do not sing with much vibrato. I think it depends on how they were trained to sing. Professional singers can use more or less vibrato depending on the style of music they are singing, but that is much more challenging for volunteer choirs. My preference for traditional church music is straight tone singing. This is the sound we associate with choirs where boys and/or girls sing the treble line and adults sing the lower parts, often with male counter-tenors. However, adult women can come close to that sound if they sing with straight tone.

      This video demonstrates straight tone singing.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbWRrvg1f88
      Bill

      My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

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      • #5
        I’m not sure if this helps, but as I've gotten older, a vibrato I never had at a younger age just kicks in by itself on sustained notes. Also of note, nothing grates my nerves more than a talented preteen singing a forced “faked?” vibrato. I'll just leave it at that.
        Allen ADC 3500
        Hammond L100

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        • #6
          Wide swinging vibrato ("wobbling") isn't necessarily linked to old age, although I know from my choral practice that elderly singers tend to have this more than younger people. There's a variety of reasons, including weaker muscles (especially the "vocalis" muscle) or problems with the vocal cords that might have been there for a long time but have been masked by (inadequate) technique.

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          • #7
            these are good considerations, i appreciate it. my only other point of reference is professional singers whose recording careers span several decades. elton john or smokey robinson for example. and don't notice much difference besides range (or in tom wait's case, more gravel).

            i will say i prefer the straight tone singing as shown in voet's post. my vocal training has been very limited, just highschool level and allstate choir. once i'm more satisfied with my straight singing technique i might work on vibrato. as to have more control regardless of whether or not it comes naturally with age
            Why do fools fall in lava?

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            • #8
              Logan,

              I believe the difference between professional singers and those who have recording careers is the key to your statement–professional musicians regularly exercise their vocal muscles, therefore, there is little change over time. I believe the OP was about church musicians in a choir, and obviously many of the older musicians are not exercising their vocal muscles (or capable of restoring their vocal muscles) at the same rate as those who are younger or professional.

              One other item your last post reminded me of was when you described a gravelly voice quality developing in older age. This tone quality results from several possible issues including, but not limited to: Smoking, vocal nodes due to improper vocal production, cancer, entubation (Sp.?) during surgery (I just underwent that), or other possible damage to one's vocal cords.

              In my case, I haven't even attempted to sing after surgery (10 days ago) because I need to regain my breath control before being able to properly exercise my vocal cords. I believe my cords were damaged in the fight I had during recovery, when I tried to take the tubes out (I don't remember any of it–recounted to me). I don't think one nurse has forgiven me yet. For that reason, it's best to repair the damage a little at a time in a manageable manner.

              Hope this helps.

              Michael

              P.S. I've never sung with vibrato, but I understand from those that do, it results from relaxation of the vocal cords during singing–not exercise.
              Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
              • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
              • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
              • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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              • #9
                Originally posted by myorgan View Post
                P.S. I've never sung with vibrato, but I understand from those that do, it results from relaxation of the vocal cords during singing–not exercise.
                that's correct. Vibrato in classical singing shouldn't require any effort. And in the long run, it's supposed to be better for your voice. That a pop music singer still sounds the same after all those years might also have to do with the wonderful things a sound engineer can do Voices change over the years, and yes, by regular training, this change might not be noticed or might be slowed down, but it's definitely there. For example, I already lost a bit of my range on top but added some notes in the lower section. However, I still sound the same. Let's see what I can say about this in 20 years time.

                If vibrato becomes too much and uncontrolled, singers sometimes use the phrase tremolo - and this is something that should indeed be avoided but can be seen (or rather heard) in many elderly untrained singers in hobby settings.



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                • #10
                  Well, I have been wondering about this too.

                  And I always wonder, why kids seldomly sing with vibrato? Even if they do, it's very slight, almost not noticeable, never heard any kid in children's choir sing with wobbling vibrato.

                  Think about the boy's choir.

                  How come when those kids get older, they suddenly automatically start vibrato?? As if it's just an "adult" way of singing?



                  I personally feel it's harder for me to sing with vibrato. It's harder to control the pitch when I use more vibrato, harder to control the volume, and also hard to make the vibrato consistent.

                  So my voice is pretty straight, with slightly, almost unnoticeable vibrato, or maybe more in some places, depends on the needs.
                  I was never trained, for me this is a more natural way to sing.

                  Usually choir directors like my voice. But my voice has certain disadvantage too. I don't have much volume.

                  And I think it actually has something to do with vibrato. Because those who sing with vibratos easily cover up my voice when we sing forte together.

                  and I do noticed that when I intentionally sing with more vibrato, my voice gets much louder.

                  But I don't usually do that, because I would rather have a smaller volume and better pitch, then big volume with bad intonation.

                  ​​Some people say that my voice (when singing) sounds very young... Although I am going to be 30 in 3 years, but they said my voice sounds like a chorister from boy's choir... I don't know if it's true or not. If it's true, I would really like to find out what makes my voice sounds like that.

                  Here is a little clip of me singing... Hope you don't mind I put it out... It's definitely Not a outstanding performance, slightly off the pitch here and there, pronunciation and breathing problem, I am not very satisfied with it, but I am trying my best!... https://youtu.be/1tfHKCoCnzM
                  Last edited by Sarah Weizhen; 03-06-2020, 10:02 PM.

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                  • #11
                    Very nice! I only sing in the car or the shower and don’t have any vibrato at 68 8)
                    Tom in Tulsa

                    Fooling with: 1969 E100, 1955 M3, 1963 M100, Leslie 720

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                    • KC9UDX
                      KC9UDX commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I was lucky to be a passenger in a '81 Spirit GT going backward down Capitol Drive at nearly 100MPH due to a situation like that. More lucky not to ever experience that since. Even more lucky to be able to tell about it.

                    • tpappano
                      tpappano commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Oh yeah, I do not like being a passenger in hazardous conditions and avoid it possible, I'm like "hey, let's take my car" 8) Did your voice have a little vibrato that day?

                    • KC9UDX
                      KC9UDX commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Beats me. That was a while ago!
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