Have you heard someone refer to belting? Perhaps you’ve been told that it’s bad for you, but you don’t know why. And what’s the difference between just singing and belting?
Belt is something you hear all the time in popular styles of music. It’s the sound in a voice that tells you it’s not classical. Think of the loud Barbra Streisand sound or Ethel Merman. Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Bette Midler and Bernadette Peters are a few more. It’s not what you would sing in the soprano section of a choir performing church music.
I would define belt as a high percentage of chest voice and a lot of umph, which is exactly why it can be dangerous, if not done correctly. Plain old chest voice or anything that hurts would be incorrect. (Taking chest voice higher and higher will likely cause pain.) Singing should never hurt.
Correct belting has a strong bright resonance sensation in the mask, much like classical does, but not so much floaty or “up”. It could even feel kind of brassy, nasal and nasty. It’s more like talking or shouting than what you might think of as beautiful singing. The sensation in the throat is more engaged than in classical singing, feeling rather like it leans forward in the throat. This is where people can get into trouble, because the throat shouldn’t push or grab. You should have a teacher helping you discover the right way. (Some people are natural belters, though, and have little trouble with this.)
Is belt only for females? No, but the difference between belt and classical isn’t clearly heard in a man’s voice until he gets pretty high in his range, so we often tend to think of a belter as female. In musical theater “belter” is a female voice/character type.
Is belt always loud? No, but again, the difference between the classical sound and the belt sound may be more easily identified when it’s loud.
Is belting bad for your voice? No. When done correctly belting is not bad for the voice. That said, it’s a highly energized sound, and if you try to do it without getting it quite right, you will wear out your vocal instrument. (See above, concerning chest voice and pain.) Voice teachers used to be afraid of teaching belt because their training was classical and they didn’t understand it. Then they’d hear an untrained belter with vocal damage and say, “See! It’s damaging for the voice! I won’t let my students do it.”
Remember the golden rules: (1.) Belting is not the same as chest voice. (2.) Singing should never hurt.
What’s the difference between my normal singing and belting? Maybe none, especially if you listen to popular or theater music. When you are still pretty new to singing it may be hard to tell, because beginners do not energize the sound enough.
If it is not clearly indicated in the student’s singing or preference, I start singers with non-belt singing because it is probably a safer place to start learning about the voice.
What are some belt exercises? I’d hate to prescribe specific belt exercises without guiding an individual through them. It’s kind of like the doctor diagnosing and prescribing medicine without examining you.
If you think belting is what you are aiming for, then check out Lisa Popeil’s website: www.popeil.com
She uses the term “lean” instead of belt, referring to the sensation of the larynx leaning forward. There are videotapes available and information on singing.