This guide has taught you all about singing with good breath support, without tension, and—not to forget—the right pitches. This should be 99% of your journey to a great singing or speaking voice. With this relaxation and proper technique, good timbre will come.

Timbre simply means the tone or general sound of your voice. Many people can sing the same pitch, yet sound completely different. (Just as musical instruments can play the same pitch, yet sound different.)

All the exercises I’ve given before should have taught you control. This means I don’t have much left to teach: simply play with your timbre and see what it sounds like. Settle on a sound you enjoy.

As always, however, I’ve had a long journey with this topic as well and wanted to share some nuggets of wisdom.


Vibrato happens automatically when you are completely relaxed.

When I was young, I imitated many pop and punk singers I liked. This meant I sang with absolutely no vibrato or embellishment. I just sang the pitch, straight-on, no change.

Then I learned those exercises for relaxation. Then I learned vocal exercises.

And without specifically training vibrato or wanting it … it appeared. I suddenly had this nice vibrato with every note.

Because what is vibrato? It’s a state in which your voice is so relaxed that it doesn’t force anything. It doesn’t hold on to a single pitch at all costs. Which allows you to wobble around the pitch, dipping in and out, without ever going off-pitch. Because you still have that control and that training.

This also means you can turn it off. In fact, after years of vocal exercises, I could hardly sing anything without vibrato!

What does this mean?

  • If you’ve started to develop a vibrato (because of these exercises), great! You’re on the right path!
  • If you don’t want that, practice turning it on and off. Sing a note with vibrato first. Then try to sing it without ever changing the pitch.

It can help to imagine the note as a straight line, or to sing “forward” again.


My story is a bit more complicated. The other reason I had vibrato over everything, is simply because my vocal folds weren’t strong enough. I had to train for months—forcing myself to sing notes as a straight unwavering line—before I could control it and do it.

Now I can turn specific vocal styles on or off. Although vibrato remains my favorite and, seemingly, most “natural” voice. I remain a theater kid after all. While others hum the latest pop song, I would sing something from Les Miserables :p


I’ve used some semi-vague words to describe your tone throughout this guide: “dark”, “muddled”, “dull”, “nasal”.

Let me clarify that further here.

Tone is determined by overtones. Every pitch generates extra higher pitches, but they get softer and softer (as you get higher). That way, they shape the sound, but never overpower the base pitch. This is simply a natural property of our physical world.

  • A dark sound is made by placing the sound lower. Lower your larynx more, lower your jaw more, don’t place the sound full forward. This helps add mystery, gravitas or sexiness.
  • A dull or muddled sound usually comes from holding it in. You don’t open your mouth enough. You lock your breathing and your tongue. This is solved by “letting it out”
  • A nasal sound, as expected, comes from singing through the nose.

This is, again, something you can check! You can download apps or plugins that show you frequencies from a recording.

In general, the most healthy and pleasant sound is one that is open and crisp. This means your base frequency ( = the pitch you sang) is loudest, and then it tapers off from there. It produces an overtone every octave, but at less volume. Most importantly? It doesn’t generate an enormous amount of frequencies elsewhere, and it has enough (very) high frequencies left.

  • Without those high frequencies, a sound is “thin” or “dull”, like speaking through a can.
  • Conversely, if you have way too may high frequencies, the voice is “nasal” or “harsh”
  • With too many mid frequencies, a sound is “muddled”
  • With too many low frequencies, a sound is “dark”

Nasal vs Twang

I might give the impression that a nasal sound is bad. It is not. Given the choice between nasal and throaty, pick nasal. It prevents damaging your voice, as all the sound and tension is in your nose.

A nasal sound can be pleasant and emotional to listen to. I think the singer from Mumford & Sons often sounds way better than a more “typical” singer could.

Perhaps even more important, it “cuts through the mix”. A nasal singer can often be clearly understood over all the other instruments, thanks to that high piercing timbre.

For this reason, many vocal coaches actually encourage some nasality in the form of twang. It’s called like that … because it sounds like that.

Say the word “TWANG!” and the sound will be around your mask, a little nasal and a little like a crying baby.

That’s the place and sound you must aim for, if you want maximum advantages and minimum disadvantages.


Interestingly, many people automatically mimic a singer when they cover their songs. I think this is natural and good. This helps you intuitively understand different timbres and different ways of producing the same pitch.

So don’t turn this off. Use it. Listen to songs from many different artists, then try to sing their songs their way. Usually, that is also the best way. Musicians learn, over time, what sounds great for their voice and what doesn’t.

In the end, pick the timbre that is comfortable to you and matches your goals. Making your voice sound a certain way just because a vocal coach tells you to, or a YouTube video, isn’t great.


As I mentioned, I have a natural vibrato. I also naturally have a very high voice, that sounds slightly dark too. This is ideal for musical theatre. Those are my ideal songs. When I sing them, I feel like the best singer in the world.

And then I do a pop song, or folk rock, and I sound stupid. That vibrato, those sustained notes, it just doesn’t work. So I switch to more of that “Mumford & Sons” vocal sound.

Over time, this taught me how to make any pitch in a variety of ways. And I think that’s a useful skill for any musician to have.

Continue with this course
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