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Is uncontrolled vibrato fixable?

I have several mature women singers in a choir who are perennially the subject of discussion by their neighbors on the risers!  Their over-wide vibrato is distracting to listeners and singers alike.
Any techniques to teach them to "tone it down" will be appreciated.
Replies (4): Threaded | Chronological
on July 12, 2013 3:26am
See the thread called "Addressing Older Choir Members Overall Sound/Vibrato " in the Active Forum Threads section, on the Choralnet homepage
on July 12, 2013 4:45am

In my experience, it may be as much or more a problem of aural skills than vocal technique. It may be necessary to isolate these women in a way that doesn't make them feel isolated to sort some of these issues out. If I were you, I would have the whole section sing a phrase, and then go group by group. Isolate 3 or 4 ladies that you know can perform the phrase well and have the rest emulate them. Hope this helps!

on July 12, 2013 6:02am
Yes, it's fixable, but it's not easy!  It's often a combination of poor breath support and poor breath flow, together with tension in the jaw and tension in the muscles called the "laryngeal elevators."
If you can only address it by working with the whole group, I'd suggest doing your favorite activities that improve posture and breath flow.  You can also say to the group in general (repeatedly, of course!) to keep the tongue and jaw relaxed and free.  But ideally you'd want the people with the wobbly voices to get voice lessons from a local teacher who is a good technician.
Good luck!
Jay Lane
President, McClosky Institute of Voice
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on July 12, 2013 6:35am
There is a similar discussion being had in the choral forum regarding mature singers and wide vibrato rates.  The responses on that topic are spot on.  Wide vibrato (or wobble) is often the result of tongue tension and/or low breath pressure.  Adding breath pressure exercises to your warm up and encouraging your singers to use the same breathing when they sing should resolve most issues.  Here's what I use with my ensemble & my voice students:
1.  Breathe in for four, hiss out for four -- encourage the singers to make sure they have expended all their usable air by the end of the 4 count.  Repeat with inhale for 1, hiss out for 4, 8, 12, etc.   Always make sure they aren't "saving" air and wind up puffing out a huge amount after the last number.  The point is to increase breath pressure so they push all the air out.
2.  Same as above, but instead of hissing, sing a "z" (no vowel, just the buzzy consonant on a pitch).  This helps to engage tone to the concept of releasing all the air within the required beats.  
3.  Same as #1, but now on a sung tone on the vowel "e."
The next step would be to apply the concept to the music, but instead of allowing the singers to try and get through a whole long phrase on one breath, have them sing with the same breathing style as the exercises and put a check where they were no longer able to maintain a quality sound -- have them go back 2-3 words prior to that spot, circle the word and plan on leaving that word out to take a new breath.  The only rule is they can't leave out the same word as the singers next to them -- if their neighbor is breathing on that word, breathe one earlier.  It will feel very odd to many of your singers to leave words out to take a breath, but it will help maintain an even choral sound for the ensemble as a whole.  As an asthmatic, I am often unable to sing through a planned phrase that is exceptionally long - I have been leaving words out for years and my director has never once noticed the loss of my voice in the ensemble (and I have a very big, classically trained voice and sing in a women's barbershop chorus).
Hope this helps,
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