Research Article|Articles in Press

Vocal Vibrato Characteristics in Historical and Contemporary Opera, Operetta, and Schlager



      Vibrato is a core aesthetic element in singing. It varies considerably by both genre and era. Though studied extensively in Western classical singing over the years, there is a dearth of studies on vibrato in contemporary commercial music. In addressing this research gap, the objective of this study was to find and investigate common crossover song material from the opera, operetta, and Schlager singing styles from the historical early 20th to the contemporary 21st century epochs.

      Study Design/Methods

      A total of 51 commercial recordings of two songs, “Es muss was Wunderbares sein” by Ralph Benatzky, and “Die ganze Welt ist himmelblau” by Robert Stolz, from "The White Horse Inn" ("Im weißen Rößl") were collected from opera, operetta, and Schlager singers. Each sample was annotated using Praat and analyzed in a custom Matlab- and Python-based algorithmic approach of singing voice separation and sine wave fitting novel to vibrato research.


      With respect to vibrato rate and extent, the three most notable findings were that (1) fo and vibrato were inherently connected; (2) Schlager, as a historical aesthetic category, has unique vibrato characteristics, with higher overall rate and lower overall extent; and (3) fo and vibrato extent varied over time based on the historical or contemporary recording year for each genre.


      Though these results should be interpreted with caution due to the limited sample size, conducting such acoustical analysis is relevant for voice pedagogy. This study sheds light on the complexity of vocal vibrato production physiology and acoustics while providing insight into various aesthetic choices when performing music of different genres and stylistic time periods. In the age of crossover singing training and commercially available recordings, this investigation reveals important distinctions regarding vocal vibrato across genres and eras that bear beneficial implications for singers and teachers of singing.

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