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The Case: Out of Control Vibrato

Probe with Rachel Bennett

The Singer: Sandra, 20 years old, a singer songwriter doing open mic slots

Case Summary: Sandra wanted to get more singing gigs but faced a huge challenge with her vibrato dropping her out of tune. We found an unconventional solution.

Dropping Out of Key
Sandra began her singing studies already in possession of a beautiful timbre – rich and easy and with a slow vibrato…but a little too slow…

Her vibrato arrived at the end of most phrases and was so slow that it dropped her out of key and she would begin the next phrase a semitone below – this would progress through a song delivery until she could be three tones out of key by the last chorus!

I wanted her to be able to keep her vibrato so as to maintain her vocal character but to minimise its use and to work at recognising how to control it.

The Pan Pipe Solution

We began by listening to pipes – Pan pipes …

Their simplicity and their airy sound were attractive to Sandra and we set up some exercises around them – she worked to emulate their sound.

She began by singing short tones (quarter notes) on ‘eh’ – simply singing one note to begin with across a two bar sequence – changing up the note then continuing in this way up five tones.

We developed this to three then five tone sequences on the stave and increased the length of the notes to half then whole tones across a four then an eight bar sequence.

After Sandra had mastered these notes without her vibrato I introduced melodic lines.

The Outcome

Sandra did the work – she began to apply the ‘pipe’ sound to her songs and found that she could control the phrase endings with much more success.

Three years on she is a fabulous singer with her beautiful vibrato intact and her intonation solidly in place!

Take Away

Pitching well is vital for live performance. We live in an age where many young and inexperienced producers are keen to record young singers and ‘tune’ their voices after the recording – technology can be misused! Be sure you’re not one of these!

-Rachel Bennett

Note: the names of singers in Rachel’s blog have been changed and, in many cases, represent composite situations.

Rachel Bennett is a London-based vocal coach and singer songwriter. She is the lead singer / songwriter of RAIE and a Musical Director for theatre, television & recording studios across London. You can learn more about Rachel at: www.raiemusic.com Also – check out Raie on facebook.

You can see Rachel Bennett in action at her upcoming EP Launch on 01 Nov 2011, Avalon Shoreditch, 8pm. Rachel will be joined by celebrated artistes and will be supported by co-producer and Voice Council friend Wes Maebe. She will be performing 2×25 sets, including all songs from the EP ‘Earthbound’ and her upcoming album. More information & tickets available on her website.