Musical Tone

Tone is hard to define! If you think about all the things about the way a person communicates that aren't the pitch or loudness of their voice, those things are tone. Similarly, there are unique things about each voice and instrument that distinguish them from every other voice and instrument, regardless of what part of the range or dynamic spectrum the performer is playing or singing in.
"Bright" tone
Bright tone, in terms of singing, is tone that resonates farther forward in the mouth and face. Instruments can vary their tones just as singers can (though not as much). An instrument that could be said to sound bright is the trumpet. Vowels that bring your tone farther forward into your "mask" are the vowels [i] and [e].
"Dark" tone
Dark tone, again in singers' terms, is tone that resonates farther back in your mouth and head. A viola typically sounds darker than a violin...but remember, tone is different than range. A viola plays in a lower range than a violin does, but the tone of the viola is distinct from that of a violin, even when they are playing the exact same notes! It might be hard to hear the difference at first, but with practice, you can learn to quickly tell the difference. Dark vowels include [a], [o], and [u].
Strident tone
Strident tone is harsh and unpleasant. It can sound forced or tense, and can usually be corrected by sending more air through your instrument when you sing. If a singer sings with improper support for too long, he or she can develop calluses on his or her vocal folds (these are called vocal nodes). Nodes are painful and require either months of complete vocal rest (no talking at all) or surgery to remove.
Breathy tone
The inverse of strident tone, breathy tone is typically a result of a singer not using enough of the air that he or she is sending. As young voices mature, some breathiness is natural, so it is important that you keep this in mind and don't develop a bad habit by trying to correct something that isn't a problem.
Vibrato is that rapid change in pitch that you hear when a singer is singing or an instrumental musician is playing. It is a natural part of good vocal production--if your technique is correct, you will have vibrato. Again, though, vibrato is something that comes with maturity, so don't try to force it into your voice. Your voice teacher can show you how to work on getting vibrato into your voice. Trying to copy someone else's sound--especially that of a mature singer--can cause you to develop bad habits that might take years to break.
Straight tone
Straight tone is the opposite of vibrato. Sometimes it is appropriate to perform music without vibrato, like if you are singing a piece from the Renaissance (from the 14th to 17th centuries, or the 1300s-1600s). Straight tone when you don't want straight tone is usually the result of tension somewhere in your vocal tract, but sometimes a person's voice hasn't matured yet and doesn't have that facet to it quite yet.

Vocal Terms -- Theory Terms -- Dynamics -- Musicianship
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