Adding some texture and dynamics to your show.
There are two simple ides that I would like to discuss in this column, between the two they add some powerful tools to the performers ‘bag of tricks.’ These two subtleties are texture and dynamics and while closely related they are certainly not identical, instead they are complimentary in nature. Let’s begin the old fashioned way, with a dictionary definition or two.
In musical terms, ‘The varying levels of volume of sound in different parts of a musical performance.’
Using the word as a noun, a force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process.
The quality created by the combination of the different elements in a work of music or literature.
I am asking you to think about employing these two ideas into one step to improve your show. We will start with dynamics and I will ‘Tweak’ the definition slightly, ‘To use varying levels of volume of sound in different parts of a performance in order to create a force that stimulates change or progress within your show.’
I watch a great many performers who never greatly vary the volume, pitch or pacing of what they say, and how they say it, during their show. They settle for a monotone effect that is similar to what is sometimes referred too as a ‘conversational tone.’ You can significantly improve the impact of your performance by making it a little more theatrical and a little less conversational.
Don’t be afraid to really highlight parts of your show by making your voice louder or perhaps letting it sink to a whisper. Each of these vocal deliveries has its own effect and impact on an audience. They can both draw special attention to what you are saying and the actions that accompany the words spoken. They can jolt an audience into attention or seduce them into silence, both very useful techniques.
During my 50-minute show, I work hard at building the audience into loud responsive fits of laughter and then ‘turning on a dime’ and creating a momentary silence, which is all the more effective because of the dynamic range between itself and the unrestrained laughter that proceeded it. It makes for a much more interesting show.
In my work I take this a step further and concentrate very carefully on the ‘highs and lows’ that my voice uses to convey my words. You can achieve an effect (or create a laugh) just by letting your voice rise or fall in tone, as well as in its volume. Before I begin any show I take five or ten minutes to explore the range of my voice. I perform vocal exercises to strengthen the upper and lower boundaries of my vocal range.
How do you know what will work best for a specific phrase, punchline or statement? You ‘mix it up a bit’ and experiment as you perform your shows and see what works. The very worst that will happen is that you expose the audience to your larger vocal palette. If ‘Variety is the spice of life’ then variety must also be an excellent ingredient for a variety act!
Nowadays it is commonplace for magicians to extensively videotape their shows and watch the resulting tapes to improve their show. This is great, however, the performer watching these tapes is often a great deal more aware of what he is doing than what he is saying—much less the subtleties of how he is saying it. As an organ the eye tends to influence us much more directly than the ear.
It is possible to learn a huge amount about yourself as a performer by slipping your iPhone in your top pocket and making an audio recording of what happens during your show. There is an entirely different dynamic involved in the use of the eye and the ear and it starts to open your mind to potential improvements just by realizing this and isolating your vocal performance,
While you are listening to this audio recording take the opportunity to notice, AND WRITE DOWN, every superfluous statement or words you use. You will be shocked by how much time you waste saying unnecessary things just to fill in time because of something you are doing. Is there a more economical way to choose your words that will allow you to create a more streamlined and effective presentation? Almost definitely, and sometimes by filling that verbal time with a more carefully chosen and polished audio you will make huge strides as a performer.
By carefully analyzing and improving the vocal dynamics of your performance you will have gone a great distance towards improving the overall texture of your show. Texture is the second word I began this blog by defining and we will look at it more closely next week.
Let me finish by saying that although I am choosing to illustrate my ideas about this topic using verbal examples, everything I am saying could, with minor changes, be applied to the material with which you are performing. If this is too abstract then I will happily add a third blog with some examples and hints about putting these thoughts into application in this area. Let me know your thoughts.
‘Cruise Magic 101: how to make a great living performing magic on a cruise ship.’ It is a really great book with tips, tricks and powerful techniques for shaping your performing skills to include bookings in this flourishing marketplace. If you want a signed copy of the book, in it’s early release; contact me at http://email@example.com