VIDEO. Camille’s chronicle: the secrets of voice and song

CJAMY. Camille Gaubert’s column is broadcast daily in the program “C Jamy”, presented by Jamy Gourmaud from Monday to Friday at 5 pm on France 5.

Our voice holds treasures. Some singers have a perfect command of vibrato, and others the unhooking voice characteristic of yodeling singers. Here’s how it all works!

Vibrato, a rapid modulation of the voice

The sound of the voice is produced by the vibration of our vocal cords under the effect of the passage of air. But the voice has more than one vocal chord to its bow, and more than one way of vibrating. Take for example Edith Piaf, sound standard of the French nation:

This very rapid modulation of the voice is called vibrato. The voice oscillates more or less quickly around a given note. The speed of this modulation is called the vibrato frequency and is measured in hertz. For example, this rather slow vibrato is 5 hertz, so 5 modulations per second. On the other hand, this vibrato is very fast, almost quivering, and reaches 9 hertz.

Luis Mariano has a superb vibrato:

The voice hook: the trick of Luis Mariano and the singers of Yodel

Do you hear that little hook in that good Luis’ voice, when he sings “Mexico” while hitting a high note (at 1 minute in the video above)? It betrays a little sleight of hand of the muscles that control the tension and therefore the vibrations of our vocal cords. To understand, let’s get back to basics. When you speak, your vocal cords are thick, and vibrate along their entire length. This comfortable configuration is called the M1 or chest voice mechanism. But to take a higher pitched voice, you have to switch to M2 mechanism or lead voice. Your vocal cords are tighter, thinner, and vibrate only part of their length.

Luis Mariano’s small drop is therefore quite simply due to the passage between the two mechanisms, in order to reach the high note at the end. Classical singers are trained to camouflage this passage, but Luis prefers to play it! The masters of the dropout are the yodeling singers like Margret Almer in his sympathetically named song “Greetings, dear friends!” (From 27 seconds):

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