Tonight Mezzoid Voice Studio will be covering the topic of singing dynamically – finding the full range from soft to loud and knowing how and when to use those dynamics. How do we do it? Why do we do it? How do we know how and when to do it?
The composer often tells us where to do it. But why? Why do they want us to sing loud here and soft there? What’s the point of dynamics? It’s not enough to say, “oh, I have to sing soft here because the composer told me to.” There’s a reason for it.
Sometimes the composer doesn’t tell the singer what the dynamics are, but they’re marked in the piano part. So you might want to take your dynamic up a notch from where the accompaniment is, because you don’t want it to drown you out. That’ll depend upon how well you know the pianist.
Sometimes the composer tells you by the way he writes your melodic line. Is it conversational, like recitative? Is it a full legato line with soaring high notes? Or is it intended to be belty?
Sometimes the accompaniment tells you. Is it transparent? Is it played in double octaves? If orchestrated, what instruments are playing when? When is it just woodwinds, or piano and strings? When does the full orchestration come in? (If there’s brass, it’s a good bet that you’ll be singing LOUD.) Listen to the cast recording and note where the music changes. It doesn’t mean that you need to sing it just like the recording, but it gives a road map. You might decide on a different route, but the destination is the same.
And of course, there’s the text. What are you singing about? Do you sing lullabies at full volume? Do you sing patriotic anthems quietly?
If you stay at the extremes of your dynamic range, people will think you can’t sing anything else. Singing too soft for too long can come off as precious, or breathy, or frustrating, and people won’t get your message, or they’ll just get bored. Singing too loud for too long is tiresome to listen to, after awhile, and again, it obscures your message. And both of them aren’t that good for you, unless you really know what you’re doing.
Remember that dynamics are unique to you. Your range of dynamics depends upon your level of technique. If you’re singing so softly that you are breathy or sound vocally constipated, you aren’t doing it right. If you are exhausted from singing loud, you’re pushing. Perhaps the registration is too heavy. Perhaps your breath management isn’t where it should be just yet. If that’s the case, determine what pianissimo and fortissimo are for you based on your current level of technique. Hopefully, that range of dynamics will expand over time. But right now, do what’s attractive, effective, and healthy. Piano for Patti Lupone isn’t the same as it is for Billie Eilish.
The exception is if you’re singing in a choir. Then you’ll need to adapt your dynamic level as directed by the conductor.
You can live out loud, but to do it for too long is a little exhausting for everyone, including you.
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