Vocal Vibrato Problems and Wobble

I can think of three slightly different “wobbles’ that occur in older voices.  Two of them are problems with vibrato.  The vibrato either become too slow or it becomes two wide.  Slow in the sense of fewer variations in pitch in a given time.  Wide in the sense of too much up and down pitch variation.  And it is possible that vibrato might have both problems simultaneously, that is, too slow and too wide.

Since vibrato is basically created by the difference in the signals sent by the two major nerves that empower the vocal folds, vibrato problems can occur when age makes the passage of these nerve impulses erratic or slow. This is basically neurological/nerve problem and I know of no one who has explained why it happens to some singers and not others.

A wobble, or what I call a wobble, is usually the result of breathing problems.  With age many become more sedentary and this weakens the body core that is the home of the breath muscles, diaphragm for inhale and abdominal muscles for exhale. Since breath management for singing is controlled by the antagonistic action of the diaphragm against the abdominal muscles both of these muscled groups must be kept in good shape.  If you exhale a soft, warm, moist breath on your fingertips placed close to your lips, similar to the breath you would use when misting your glasses for cleaning, you will be using your diaphragm to resist the action of abdominal exhaling muscles.  It is such a natural action that everyone can do it and we are not aware of how we are doing it.

Yet that warm, moist breath is the perfect breath for singing. Try it.  Do the warm moist breath on your finger tips without tone and then add the voice to the warm breathe and you will be surprised how easy it is to produce a lovely tone.  And you are doing it by having the diaphragm resist the exhaling action of the abdominal muscles but that is natural

It is very common for singers to be taught some special “support mechanism” to “strengthen” the voice. This usually causes hyper activity of the breathing mechanism; too much resistance of one set of muscles against another set of muscles.  The warm, moist breath approach corrects that mistake.

Singers who use any form of hyper activity of the breathing mechanism will likely develop wobble problems, as they get older.

8 Responses to “Vocal Vibrato Problems and Wobble”

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  1. Dear Lloyd , Thanks for your latest Posts.

    Best wishes,

    Michel G.-Hart

  2. Arlene says:

    Please, please, please point me towards more information on this vocal wobble. I have been searching the internet for months trying to find solutions. I have been singing for about 25 years now, I am 47 and have recently developed a very annoying and uncontrollable wobble in my voice over the past two years. I have seen doctors and neurologists (ruling out any signs of Parkinson’s or other disease) but cannot figure out where this problem is originating from.
    I have suspected that age and weakness in the diaphragm were part of the cause and I am soooo relieved to finally read something that can shed some light for me.
    Please send me any further information you have related to your article on the “Vocal vibrato problems”. Any info would be greatly appreciated!!!
    Best Regards,
    Arlene Roves

    • lloyd says:


      Since you have likely ruled out a disease cause for your wobble I would then encourage you to work with the warm, moist breath exercise I outlined in the original “Thoughts” post (Vocal Vibrato Problems and Wobble). This exercise requires more sense of a balanced breath, that is, a balance between the muscles that exhale and the muscle that resists the exhale (diaphragm). That balance is automatically achieved if the breath is warm, moist and gentle. Place your finger type at your lips as you practice this breath. If you can maintain that gentle warm, moist quality of breath your exhale function is in good shape. Then try doing some gentle onsets with this kind of breath and you should be rid of your wobble. If the wobble returns when you onset a tone but your non-singing warm, moist breath is steady it means that you have habitually been applying excessive resistance between the muscles of exhalation against the muscle that resist exhalation while you sing.

      Keep in mind that what you are after is evenness of breath, not excessive pressure. As you begin singing clear tones that are not particularly loud with the warm, moist breath you will notice that you have little, if any, sense of breath pressure. Once you can do that then try to increase the intensity of the tone and you will find that it requires only the slightest increase in breath flow and almost no increase in breath pressure.

      It may be that the core muscles of your body are not in the best condition and physical exercises can be obtained to address that concern. That would be a help. But, basically the wobble is from older muscles that have for some time worked too hard against each other and now can no longer maintain such antagonistic tension, tension which was never really needed. The warm, moist breath can train you away from that habitual pattern.

      Please let me know what progress you have been able to achieve with this exercise.

      Lloyd W. Hanson

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  4. Thank you so much for this wonderful information. I am about to turn 53 and I am very sedentary now…haven’t sung in many months for several reasons and now need to brush up to start performing again. I have always had a very fast vibrato and now, ugh, it’s slow and has a ‘beat’, which I hate. I can’t sing in public like that. I tried the “warm, moist breath” you described and I swear, I believe it’s more even. I will keep this up daily and see if it helps. I am sure it’s because I’m a mush-middle now and not connected to my breath, which is why I can’t hold a note as long as before also. What a mess. I have to fix this, and you have helped me greatly. Thank you very much! I will report back and let you know after a few weeks if I think I’m back on the right track. I know I have been pushing to be loud, which is stupid, so I will do this softly, with just that breath you described.

  5. Jeanne says:

    I have always had trouble with lack of vibrato. What is wrong or how can I find/develop vibrato?

  6. Deb Stasse says:

    Hello Lloyd, I just found your sight and hope you are can still answer my question. I have been regaining core strength after long illness and now have a voice wobble. Mine is mostly at the end of a long phrase, as in when I am ‘running out of breath’. I have been practicing your warm moist exercise. Anything else you can suggest?
    PS I am 67, mezzo, 2 pitches lower than when I was younger.

  7. J. Blackburn says:

    Thank you, I’ll try this. My particular ‘wobble’ came after a relatively short cessation from singing. A first I thought it was caused by nerves after finding myself in a new group of singers. Sadly not. I have attempted other methods to no avail. Thanks again. JB

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