Vibrato, the variation of a sustained tone or pitch, is one of the differences between singers and styles of music — how much vibrato they use and whether they use it all the time. Some of the common patterns of vibrato styles are:
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- Classical singers use vibrato on sustained tones except in some contemporary or modern music and early classical music. For this material, they use straight tone and vibrato.
- Musical theater singers use both vibrato and straight tone. Vibrato is commonly used in earlier musical theater and straight tone is often used in contemporary material. Musical theater singers often start the note with straight tone and then allow the vibrato to come in.
- Folk singers tend to use straight tone and some vibrato. The rate or variations in pitch during vibrato are not as drastic in the folk singer compared to the classical singer. If you think of vibrato as an ornament to the sound, then the classical singer uses lots of vibrato to ornament the material and the folk singer uses only some vibrato.
- Rock, pop, country, and R&B singers often use straight tone and some vibrato on sustained tones. Because these styles of music have fewer sustained tones than classical music, the singers have fewer opportunities to use vibrato; therefore, it isn’t considered a characteristic of the style.
That doesn’t mean the artists don’t use it, but they use it more sparingly than a classical singer. The artist singing the style of music may have to adjust the use of vibrato when singing different styles of material because some artists cross over between styles of music.