Saturday, October 20, 2018


One hallmark of a beautiful, expressive singing voice is vibrato, or the regular, pulsating change of pitch that gives the voice a slightly tremulous, vibrant sound. The amount of pitch variation is known as the extent of vibrato, and the speed of pitch variation as the rate of vibrato. Most instruments, particularly stringed instruments, were designed to mimic the vibrato of the human voice.

With no vibrato, the voice is perceived as a pure tone, which may be musically clean if sung at the correct pitch, yet which lacks expression, as in a computer-synthesized tone. Conversely, with too much extent and too little speed of vibrato, it degenerates into a “wobble,” sounding more like the voice tremor that becomes more apparent with aging, or like the effect of playing a warped record on an old turntable.

Some singers try to produce vibrato artificially by moving their vocal apparatus or diaphragm, but in good singers, vibrato is the natural byproduct of the breath and vibration of the vocal cords. Too little breath pressure, and the voice lacks volume as well as vibrato, and pitch often suffers. Too much breath pressure, or attempting to force the voice, results in too much volume, loss of vibrato, and a harsh or strident quality.

But when the right amount of breath passes through the vibrating vocal cords in perfect contact with one another, without the singer pushing, straining, or manipulating the mouth and neck, our natural voice resonates with the unique timbre created by God Himself, as part of His specific design for each of us since before the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10; Romans 8:29-30).

When we breathe, we inspire, or take in air by allowing our lungs to inflate. It is no accident that the word “inspire,” according to Merriam-Webster, also means “to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration; to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on;” and to spur on, impel, or motivate.

As born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) saved by our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Luke 11:13).

The noun “Spirit” is related to the verb “inspire,” and it is His role to lead (Luke 4:1), guide, quicken (Ephesians 2:1-5), educate (John 14:26), empower (Acts 2:4) and motivate us to greater love for and knowledge of our Savior (1 Corinthians 2:13; 12:3), as well as to better obedience and service in accordance with His perfect plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Holy Spirit is intimately connected with breath, or moving air, for it was He Who moved across the waters in creation (Genesis 1:2), and Who came to the waiting apostles at Pentecost as a mighty rushing wind (Acts 2:2). With the other two Persons of the Trinity, the Spirit “formed man of the dust of the ground, and,breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Jesus compared the work of the Spirit in salvation to that of the wind – we can see His effect on the believer, even though we can’t see Him directly or see where He came from (John 3:8).

Singing is one of the most difficult arts to master, because we can’t see our voice or how our vocal cords and apparatus work together to produce sound, and we therefore can’t learn much from visual feedback, at least not to the extent we can in dance, painting or sculpting.

Whether in singing or in life, we can glorify God only by yielding to His Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). We must allow our being to be filled with His presence as naturally as we allow our lungs to fill with air. If we push or strain, we are exerting our own will against His natural flow, just as oversinging leads to harshness rather than beauty.

The singer must open the throat by elevating the soft palate, allowing the sound to fill the larger space thus created and to resonate in spaces of the head most suited to the pitch of the note, with higher pitches placed higher in the head.  To allow fulfillment of the Spirit’s plan for our life, we must also allow Him space, not cluttering our being with distractions (Hebrews 12:1), and we must allow Him to take our thoughts to a higher plane (Ephesians 1:3,20; 2:6; Philippians 4:8).

For optimal vibrato and sound quality, singers are taught to breathe deeply yet naturally; to avoid distorting the column of vibrating air by adding muscular tension from the torso, neck or head; and to allow the breath to grow through the musical phrase, creating a smooth line rather than a disjointed group of notes.

Similarly, yielding to the Holy Spirit, staying out of His way by not imposing on Him the desires of our will or flesh (Romans 7:14-25), and following His lead through each song of our life will enhance not only our own peace (Philippians 4:7) and joy (Isaiah 61:10), but that of all who hear us.

May we always make melody in our heart to the Lord, uplifting one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). May we sing a new song of praise to Him (Psalm 149:1; Isaiah 42:10), filled with breath and inspiration, allowing His glory to ring forth!

© 2018 Laurie Collett



Aritha said...

Nice! Love to read it. I can't sing very well. It still sounds bad. But my soul sings often.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Aritha! God loves it when we make a joyful noise to Him, and especially when our soul sings!
God bless,

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
Singing has never been my forte, and I would never sing solo to a group of listeners. However, with my voice blended with the rest of the church congregation, often I have felt my spirit lift in praise to God.
It is interesting when you write about breathing in and inspiration, and both of these are associated with the Holy Spirit. Also the Greek for "spirit" is "pneuma" (from which we get the word "pneumatic").
I am a keen cyclist and I have been riding a bicycle for more than fifty years. Since I have always used pneumatic tyres on my bicycle, it is well known fact that a tiny pinhole piercing the inner tube is enough to bring the whole bicycle to a standstill, making it nigh impossible to ride.
This could be a useful as an illustration that without the filling of the Holy Spirit, it would be impossible to walk before God.
Thank you for such an enlightening post. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thanks for the excellent illustration of pneumatic tires, once pierced being useless, and reminding us that we can do nothing without filling of the Spirit.
I enjoy solo singing but I also enjoy blending my voice with those of other believers, whether in the congregation, choir, or ensemble. I believe that gives us a foretaste of what it will be like when all the saints surround His throne and worship by lifting up our voices!
Thank you as always by enhancing this blog and its message with your comment.
God bless,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
there is nothing better than following the lead of the Holy Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit that leads us into all truth. Also it is good for us to encourage one another regarding this.
God bless you for sharing this Laurie.

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie. As you pointed out, Just as obtimal volume an tonal quality comes from allowing the sound free movement, and optimal spiritual effect comes from allowing the Holy Spirit control of our lives. Too often we have been taught to try to make things happen instead of just letting him produce them.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Amen to following the Spirit's lead, and to encouraging one another! May God bless you richly for doing both,

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! We are much better off waiting on the Lord instead of trying to force His hand. His timing, solution and provision are always best.
God bless,

Susan said...

I’ve always wished for a beautiful singing voice, one talent the Lord chose to not bless me with, but I think it would have gone to my head. The Lord keeps me humble, it’s a blessing, but when I was younger I thought I was cursed. God knows precisely what we need, and what would be a hindrance. 😉👍🏼

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Susan,
Your comment reminds me of the main character, Monica, in Touched by An Angel, played by Roma Downey. She was blessed with many spiritual gifts and talents, but singing wasn't one of them despite her great desire to sing. God makes no mistakes in His apportioning gifts and talents. Whatever He gives or withholds from us is always for our good and His glory. I look forward to all saints singing together in one amazing celestial choir surrounding His throne! Thanks as always for your comment, and God bless,

S. Knowles said...

Hi Laurie,
Thanks for encouraging and reminding us to walk in the Holy Spirit and not in the flesh. The word vibrato jumped out to me when I saw this post because I just recently realized (after years of listening to music and even once being a part of a singing group) what vibrato is and it's one of my favourite things about listening to people who can sing. It's so nice how you were able to use vibrato as a way to explain how the Holy Spirit is in our lives. Thanks again for sharing. May God continue to bless and keep you.

Sateigdra (suh-tea-druh) :-)

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Sateigdra,
I'm blessed to hear that you enjoyed the post, and that "vibrato" has special meaning for you! It's so nice to hear from you and for you to share your experience and encouragement.
May God bless you richly,