As a singer, understanding and utilizing dynamics can turn a mediocre performance into a great one. Read on to learn some singing exercises to practice, as shared by Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L...
Dynamics is a word that comes from the Greek word dynamo, meaning “power.” In the context of general music, we use it as a term for how loud or soft sounds are. Dynamics can make or break a song. Frankly, in the world of singing, sometimes the lack of or presence of dynamics can make a difference in whether a singer is regarded as great or not. Think of the best singers in the world and I’ll bet that many have a tremendous sense of dynamics.
The improvement of the use of dynamics in our singing voices comes right down to a word that I don’t typically like to use as a voice teacher: control. The simple passing use of this word can often, maybe subconsciously, cause a singer to tense and strain. Control, however, is truly the thing that enables us to do much with our voices. Just make sure to maintain a free and open sound as you incorporate the concept of control in the following singing exercises.
Learn and Practice Messa di Voce
Perhaps the best singing exercise to help improve your vocal dynamics is messa di voce, an Italian phrase meaning “place the voice.” To sing a messa di voce, you sustain one single pitch, getting louder, then softer. The proper musical terms for getting louder and softer are crescendo and diminuendo, respectively. Decrescendo is a word created in modern times to mean “become softer,” but it is not an Italian word or a proper musical term. When using this exercise, be sure, as always, to use a warm, resonant sound and to stay connected to your breath. Remember, your sound begins at the bottom of the pelvic floor. Keep your shoulders floating in place; do not allow them to rise.
Lip Trill Like a Revving Engine
Another singing exercise to practice dynamics is singing lip trills, or “lip bubbles,” using messa di voce. This is a great one that I learned from Celine Dion. Begin with a low breath, filling up your torso all the way around. Start at a comfortable low/middle position in your voice, trill up to a comfortable high point, and begin to sail down to your lowest register. As you slowly sail down in pitch, make stops along the way. On those stops, crescendo and then diminuendo. It’ll sound a lot like a old drag car revving its engine! Not only does this singing exercise improve your ability to sing dynamically, but it will also help to warm up and strengthen your singing muscles.
Laugh Out Loud
Speaking of strengthening exercises, it’s essential that the muscles of your torso are strong enough for the control that’s needed for great dynamics. Sing short “ha, ha, ha” sequences on a descending scale, making each “ha” very short, but warm and round. You’ll notice quite a jumpy motion from your tummy as you instinctively work to produce short bursts of air.
In this exercise, you’ll sing a single pitch on “yow-wow-wow” with a loose, open jaw, as if you’ve just touched a hot stove. This loosens the face, especially your joints, which is vitally important in preventing tension.
Lastly, remember that singing dynamics comes not only from phonation–the pitched sounds that our vocal folds produce–but also from articulation. Our articulators are our teeth, our tongue, and our lips. To be clear, crisp articulation should be an inherent part of your singing voice. You can use it, though, to sound even louder or softer than your phonation is. And as always, be yourself and sing with your own voice.
Photo by whartonds