Most of the singers that I hear “fake” their vibratos by forcing their diaphragms and jaws to quiver, and it sounds contrived. How can I learn to achieve a true, natural vibrato that won’t do harm to my voice?
The first thing that you need to understand is what a true vibrato is. Essentially, the voice is alternating subtly and very quickly between two pitches that are close together. The variation in pitch does not usually exceed a semitone either way from the note itself. (You can hear string instrumentalists create vibratos, for example, by wobbling their fingers on the finger or fret board of their instruments or by actually moving their fingers up and down the string for a wider vibrato.) The effect is intended to add warmth to a note.
A vibrato should never be faked, and is only done so by singers who wish to add contemporary “flavour” to their singing but lack proper technique. With these singers, you’ll often hear wide, slow vocal “wobbles” that sound more like pitch errors than nice embellishments, and you will sometimes see tension in their jaws as they force them to rapidly move up and down with the notes. When good tone production, breath, placement of sound and resonance are in place, vibrato becomes a natural result. It is something that the body does on its own, not something that we force our bodies to do.
Some singing instructors teach vibrato as a necessity, rather than a natural biproduct of effective technique, which gives their students incorrect information and places pressure on them to force their voices to imitate a vibrato, often through unhealthy means. Some methods of creating (or fabricating) vibratos are capable of causing strain and harm to the voice; something that no good vocal instructor should ever permit.
While achieving a vibrato through natural, unforced, unhurried means may take more time and skill than “faking” it, it is well worth the wait. To learn more, please read Vibrato: What It Is and How to Develop It.