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1. a slight, rapid, and regular fluctuation in the pitch of a note produced on a stringed instrument by a shaking movement of the hand stopping the strings
2. an oscillatory effect produced in singing by fluctuation in breath pressure or pitch
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) A method of playing stringed musical instruments (those with necks); an even, regular vibration of the finger of the left hand on the string it is stopping. By periodically changing the pitch of the notes within small ranges, vibrato gives notes a special coloration and singing quality and increases their dynamic quality and emotional expressiveness. The use of vibrato dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries, to the performing art of lutanists and players of the viola da gamba; now it is used primarily with instruments of the violin family. Initially a unique kind of ornamentation in romantic music, vibrato has become an important way of achieving expressiveness.

(2) A method of playing certain wind instruments; a light opening and shutting of the valves and a change in the degree of intensity of the exhaled breath, causing a vibrating sound.

(3) A natural characteristic of a singer’s voice, which to a large degree determines its qualities of timbre, warmth, and expressiveness.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A musical embellishment that depends primarily on periodic variations of frequency which are often accompanied by variations in amplitude and waveform.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
In The Structure of Singing, Miller discusses a pathological vibrato, which afflicts singers who have failed to master the appoggio technique of breath management.
Singers can produce a vibrato by physically moving the larynx with the fingers.
Another mechanical vibrato can be obtained by interrupting the sound by tapping lightly on the lips with a flat hand while singing (like Native Americans in cowboy films).
Wobble is usually a vibrato with a wider extent and a slower than desirable vibrato rate (2-4 Hz), while bleat or flutter is a vibrato that has a narrower extent and a faster than desired rate (up to 8 Hz).
Sundberg identifies two kinds of vibrato production, one associated with the action of the cricothyroid muscle, and the other caused by undulations of subglottic pressure.
Vibrato can be separated into two principal classes of production.
Because of the muscle antagonism involved in sustaining that position, and because of the oscillation of tension in the muscles as they flex and release in sympathy with the pulses of the bioelectric system that controls them, the tension of the vocal folds fluctuates causing a vibrato.
(2) When these muscles are balanced in their opposition, there will be slight movement in sympathy with the oscillations of the bioelectric system powering the body, resulting in a vibrato. Ease of movement, grace, agility, and dynamic control are some of the benefits of achieving this balance, which Miller refers to as "dynamic equilibrium." (3) If one group of muscles becomes rigid and overpowers the opposing muscles, the balance is lost and tension, immobility, and lack of dynamic control prevail; vibrancy is subdued and replaced by a straight tone.
Is it really possible that Garcia was against the use of vibrato? It is not likely.
He and his students made the first measurements of vibrato in many of the professional singers of the day--often using recordings.
Carl Seashore was the first to study vibrato extensively.
In the above description, Pfautsch described vibrato in simplistic terms that enabled the inexperienced singer to understand the phenomenon of vibrato.