The Use of Vibrato in Belt and Legit Styles of Singing in Professional Female Musical-Theater Performers

  • Alyssa S. Becker
    Drake University- Des Moines, Department of Music, Iowa, USA
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  • Peter J. Watson
    Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Peter Watson, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, 164 Pillsbury Dr. SE, Shevlin 115, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, United States.
    University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
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Published:October 01, 2022DOI:



      Musical theater (MT) performers are required to sing in several different styles, requiring different registration (quality) and different use of vibrato. Many measures of vibrato in MT performers are made in laboratory settings, studying a limited set of pitches, intensities, and vowels, using amateur and not well-defined professional singers. It is unclear if these observations are observed in well-known professional MT singers, during live instrumentally accompanied legit and belt performances.

      Study Design

      Descriptive from a convenience sample.


      Five well-known MT performers’ recordings of one legit and one belt performance were downloaded for analysis of vocal vibrato. The vocal part was extracted from the recording and each note demarcated with and without vibrato. The pitch track of each note was analyzed for average pitch, duration, the proportion of a note sung with vibrato, if present, and written to file. The pitch track (f0 and time stamps) was written to a separate file for further analysis. This analysis consisted of vibrato rate (Hz), vibrato extent (semitones), and cycle-to-cycle perturbation (jitter-local and shimmer-local).


      The most consistent finding was that the belt performances of the five singers had lesser proportion of notes sung with vibrato than their legit performances. The next consistent finding was that during belt performances, when vibrato was used, it was for a shorter duration within a note. There was a trend for the average rate of vibrato to be slower in the belt performances, but not to a substantial degree. There was no clear difference between legit and belt performances for vibrato extent or cycle-to-cycle perturbation.


      For these five performers, the strategy for the use of vibrato most often employed for differentiating the two singing styles was using less vibrato and when used to engage it for a shorter portion of a sung note. We believe this study offers reasonable ecological validity in how professional MT performers utilize vibrato to distinguish between belt and legit styles of singing. Vibrato rate and extent are subject to a number of factors which may not be in direct control of the singer. However, learning to sing with and without vibrato and the duration to which it is produced within a note may be a useful training strategy for students of MT.

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