What is it:
A gradual crescendo, followed by a gradual diminuendo on a single, sustained pitch.
What it does:
Build coordination of the ThyroArtenoid (TA) muscle to gradually contract and gradually release.
Why it can be so challenging:
Many singers have trouble keeping the pitch from going sharp with the crescendo, and flat with the diminuendo. Maintaining the pitch, keeping the vibrato consistent, and making the approach and return as gradual and elegant as possible should be the focus of this exercise.
Proponents throughout the centuries:
The messa di voce has been widely discussed by teachers and singers over time — many agree that this is one of the most important exercises a singer can do as a daily practice. Alexis de Garaudé, who led the voice department at the Paris Conservatory at the beginning of the 19th century (and who was a student of the great castrato Girolamo Crescentini) wrote:
"The Scales of messa di voce sound [that is, each note of the scale having its own messa di voce] are the most useful exercises for singing well. One can never apply too much care to them. They work to perfect the vocal organ and to make the voice flexible for all the intentions of taste and expression."
Listen to the great soprano Leonie Rysanek sing Verdi's "Pace, pace, o mio Dio" to get inspired to do your messa di voce daily practice!