Number 4, June 1, 2021
How Do Dynamics Work in Music? Create Meaningful Texture and Contrast
The word “dynamic” is defined by the aspect of movement. A dynamic object is one that is in motion. In music, dynamics are, at their simplest level, indications of volume and intensity, i.e. is it loud or soft, and how does the singer move from soft to loud and back? Dynamics are not JUST volume, however; dynamics are elements of rhythm, percussive attacks on notes and more. Dynamics can define intensity of tone (gentle or forceful), and how the volume moves within a note. As an aside: in classical musical terms, the words “crescendo” (moving to louder) and “de-crescendo” (moving to softer) indicate what I commonly refer to as a “swell.” The swell is just another name for growing louder. The tone literally swells.
When you apply dynamics to a song, emotional elements are made clearer via contrast, creating more meaning and expression in your song. Give it a try: go through the printed lyrics of your song thinking about where the song would naturally get louder or softer, depending on what the lyrics tell you. Where does the emotion grow, the story become more dramatic or the feelings more passionate? Mark the swells on the lyric sheet and then practice the song this way, noting how the feelings and mood of the song are effected.
Technically, the singer creates dynamics with muscle control of the air support. This means that your breath management can work as your engine of dynamics. Try it with one note: hold the note and grow the volume and then reduce the volume, without tensing your throat or face. Relax the face and jaw and use just your abdominal breathing to grow the volume and then bring it back down again. Feel how the muscles of the abdomen control the use of the breath. This will be your technique for applying dynamics in a song.
Check out this great article on Wikipedia on dynamics in music: Wikipedia on Dynamics in Music
What Do You Mean By “Painting with Sound?”
When you apply dynamics to a song, you are literally “painting” with sound! Applying the “colors” of volume, intensity, emotion and more, you are applying mood elements to your song. As a painter applies colors to his canvas to create a scene or object, you are applying colors of tone and richness of texture to create moods, whether to “swell” dramatic sections or create intimacy with quiet tones and volumes. Just remember that you need to keep your jaw loose and open during softer sections as well as louder ones. Use the breath support to control volume. Keep the jaw, throat, face and lips relaxed whenever you are singing.
See you next time for a discussion about how to approach performance anxiety, “authentic emotion” and more!
Thanks for reading! Sending blessings and love,
Award-winning recording artist, Broadway singer, journalist, educator and critically-acclaimed powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called “one of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass and folk music today” by Roz Larman of KPFK’s Folk Scene. LA Weekly voted her ensemble Best New Folk in their Best of LA Weekly for 2019, calling Susie “an incomparable vocalist.” “A flat out superb vocalist… Glaze delivers warm, amber-toned vocals that explore the psychic depth of a lyric with deft acuity and technical perfection.” As an educator, Susie has lectured at USC Thornton School of Music and Cal State Northridge on “Balladry to Bluegrass,” illuminating the historical path of ancient folk forms in the United Kingdom to the United States via immigration into the mountains of Appalachia. She is a current specialist in performance and historian on the work of American folk music icon, Jean Ritchie. Susie now offers private voice coaching online via the Zoom platform. www.susieglaze.com
VOICE NOTES: A FOLK DIVA’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY Number 4
A twice-monthly blog on topics of voice production for Folk, Bluegrass and Americana styles.