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Should children sing with Vibrato?


Many thanks to all who responded to my post about an
11-year-old girl who is concerned about her lack of
vibrato. Below are highlights from each reply.

BTW, some colleagues commented on my being so
about the vocal development of my student. I must
confess that, while I do care about all my students,
this one happens to be my daughter!

Noel Piercy, 1st Pres, Caldwell, NJ

(Compilation of responses follows)
I'm at a vocal pedagogy course right now at Oberlin,
and the dinner-table wisdom on [a certain famous young
singer] is that her forced vibrato will effectively
ruin her career as an adult. There is also a famous
Broadway artist here (Melissa Hart) who demonstrated
and talked about belting, and said that it is
essential to have a solid foundation in classical
singing before attempting to use belt voice because of
the potential for vocal damage ... natural vibrato
will result from freedom rather than tension.


If she has a clear, pure, non-vibrato voice, SHE'S A
TREASURE and should be encouraged to keep what she's
got, and NOT to imitate a thousand less-gifted singers
who have a wobbly voice already at that age. DON'T
push the vibrato thing.
God bless you for beeing so concerned about children's

voices. The vibrato does not exist (physiologically
speaking) in children. If you listen to a child
singing with vibrato, it must have been built
You should tell your student that she must personally
emote and interpret the song. Some of my students
belt but they have done it since they were little
tikes and their very good at it. I don't belt. I was
classically trained; however, I have respect for the
ability of those that belt and it's NATURAL.
Good children's voices often do not have vibrato, and
that is perfectly appropriate and healthy. It does
NOT mean that she will never develop it, but that her
voice probably isn't ready for it.

HOWEVER, she is interested and will probably
experiment and possibly develop bad habits on her own,
so I suggest that you consider helping her
experiment while maintaining healthy habits and
avoiding tension. You can also talk about continuous
vibrato vs. controlled (needed for musical theater
and jazz), wobble vs. color, and all that good stuff.

Having trained a few hundred cathedral choristers over
the past thirty years, and with a wife who is a very
fine, and very strict, voice teacher (_teacher_, not
vocal coach), it's a great feeling to know that every
one of those kids (all adults, now) never suffered the
ravages of vocal fatigue, and are still capable of
singing with absolute control of their voices.

[Some useful examples we have used with kids]:

- stretching a rubber band to its limit, leaving it
there for a few days--then letting the kids see that
it will never fully return to its original short
length, which gives them a pretty good picture of
vocal fatigue.

- the reminder that the medical community isn't able
to do vocal transplants--their voice has to last for
the rest of their lives.

- one can always play old Judy Garland recordings
for them, as an example of a voice worn-out when she
was a kid...

Forcing or "adding" vibrato or any other effect to a
voice is not a good idea. Allowing her voice to
mature naturally as she practices good habits is the
(End of compilation)

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on October 21, 2007 10:00pm
No vibrato should be induced.

If she is curious, teach her to trill first, MAYBE teach her a diaphragm vibrato, but tell her it is only useful in choral situations, or as a by-product of a fortissimo. It makes a child sound like Lolita, put nicely. In reality, much less wholesome than that.