Vocal Vibrato: How to Dial in Consistent Vibrato With RePitch and Revoice Pro
Vocal vibrato is one of the most difficult techniques for singers to execute.
While tasteful, musical vibrato can bring depth and drama to a performance, many performers are prone to oversinging, especially in the studio. So how can you deal with recorded vocal tracks with problematic vibrato? With flexible pitch correction tools, fixing vibrato passages is not only possible, it’s easy.
In this article I’ll explain the basics of editing vocal vibrato and show the best ways to improve it in finished vocal takes.
What is vocal vibrato?
Vocal vibrato is a singing technique that subtly modulates the pitch of a note up and down around a pitch center. It enhances sustained notes by adding movement and interest that emphasizes a singer’s unique tone. But musical vibrato singing isn’t easy. Consistent, even vibrato is a prized skill, even among accomplished vocalists.
Without training, a singer’s vibrato may vary considerably in speed and depth across a held note. Not only that, they may not be able to easily control their vibrato across their entire singing range. This can result in a distracting effect where some notes have much more vibrato than others. Additionally, oversinging can lead vocalists to embellish notes with too much vibrato in an attempt to enhance the song while recording in the studio.
In these cases, the producer may wish to reduce the overall amount of vibrato throughout a performance to reign it in.
What makes vocal vibrato work in a mix
The key to effective vocal vibrato is a musical approach that supports the song rather than distracts from it. For most productions, that means controlling the intensity, speed and overall amount of vibrato so that the vocal blends evenly in the texture.
The speed of a singer’s vibrato is the frequency of the pitch modulation up and down. The speed doesn’t have a fixed relationship to the song’s tempo, though most singers usually gravitate to a frequency that fits with its rhythmic qualities. What’s more, many singers vary the speed of their vibrato over the course of a sustained note. A long note may pass through several rhythmic associations with the song’s meter over its duration. You can think of vibrato speed like the frequency of an LFO modulation wave.
Vibrato depth is like the amplitude of the modulation wave in the LFO analogy. You can think of this like the intensity of the frequency modulation. If the vibrato depth is too intense, the note will sound out of tune at the extremes of the cycle. Even vibrato depth is one of the toughest elements of vocal vibrato for singers to dial in. Without adequate control, a singer may overshoot or come up short over the duration of a held note.
As the singer’s voice moves up and down in pitch, they’re aiming to hit the same general areas for each repetition of a phrase. And even though the speed may vary throughout the duration of the note, the idea would be to hit the same general range of speed and depth each time the figure is repeated—easier said than done! Great studio vocalists can reproduce vibrato characteristics in take after take, even when the style calls for heavy pitch modulation.
How to dial in vocal vibrato with RePitch
The first rule of transparent vocal pitch correction is do no harm. Unless you’re going for the hard tuning sound, pitch correction really only helps if it's invisible. That’s why RePitch Standard was designed for the most natural pitch correction possible. When it comes to vibrato, you may be tempted to use start with tools.DEMO REPITCH STANDARD
The shaper tool was designed to give you precision control over vocal vibrato. By dropping shape points onto the pitch curve of your vocal you can choose which vibrato cycles to alter and which to leave intact. In other pitch correction workflows, this level of detailed control would require splitting the note into component parts and editing each one with multiple tools. The shaper tool lets you work with the vocal track as a whole to preserve the musicality of the singer’s vocal performance, even when manipulating delicate vibrato. You can even change the timing of the vocal vibrato by carefully adjusting multiple points at once with the shaper tool. This can be especially helpful for controlling inconsistent timing that feels distracting against the song’s rhythmic pulse.
Sometimes the vibrato is reasonably even, but centered on the wrong pitch throughout. In this case, you’re better off adjusting the pitch center of the whole note rather than the individual points of the vibrato. Of course, aligning center point of a signal with modulating pitch may change where the cycle’s peaks and valleys fall.
RePitch’s modulation control helps you reign in the range of a note’s pitch variation. Applied subtly, it can reduce peaks and valleys in a vibrato passage with transparent natural sound. Since modulation control affects the entire note block, you’ll be reducing the depth of each vibrato cycle by an equal amount. This can be great if a singer has even vibrato that’s just a bit too exaggerated for the song or style.
ALSO: check out Revoice Pro 4's advanced handling of vibratos:
DEMO REVOICE PRO
Vibrato is often part of a singer’s signature stamp on their performance. Engineers and producers need tools that can preserve a singer’s natural feel, even when some correction is required. RePitch contains the most sophisticated tools for working with vocal vibrato, and if you’ve made it through this article you’ll have a great start for using them.