Vocal dynamics create the ebb and flow of a song. When executed with skill and intention they create the compelling and intensely dramatic feeling in the experience of your listener that could be compared to standing on the sea’s shore on a starry night, whilst taking in the magnificent voice of the tide.
Dynamics are basically the quality of singing from loud to soft or soft to loud in a song. What this does, is it feeds the listener with something to interpret. Commonly dynamics help to create a particular mood in a song and are instrumental in either drawing a listener in, or projecting vocal intensity towards a listener, adding to their overall experience and emotional interaction with you as the storyteller.
In my experience I have found the art of vocal dynamics needs to be properly understood to be effective. If a singer considers approaching a song dynamically; practises and implements this, it can truly add artistic value to a vocal performance and it doesn’t cost the voice as much as belting, riffs and runs or growling, which can be harder to execute. Using vocal dynamics is a skill that can be mastered very quickly.
A great exercise singers can use to master dynamics outside of working with a good vocal coach is to practise the Messa di voce exercise.
So what is Messa di voce? The actual phrase means in Italian the ‘placing of voice’ and is described on Wikipedia as ‘a musical technique that involves a gradual crescendo and diminuendo while sustaining a single pitch. That is, a note is sung at a quiet volume, gradually and smoothly made louder until it reaches a high volume, then similarly made quiet again’.
Watch this video example to learn more.
It is important to note that the practice of dynamics is not just about singing as loudly as you can, but rather about the control that is developed to sing from both extremes with a smooth, gradual progression. Good breath management and good vowel tuning are key in developing this vocal art. Remember it is the subtle power of dynamics that reaches out and touches people.
In saying that, it is important to recognise that different genres of music may use this skill perhaps more abruptly or even more boldly such as in the case of rock or experimental jazz. When a singer is very advanced, various vocal nuances can also be added to the production of dynamics to completely change the emotional feel or mood of a phrase, so once it’s in the bag, mess around with it – but do it safely and practice responsibly.
Watch and listen as I instruct Martina Borg through various nuances and dynamics.