Broadway belting – Should Singers Ever Belt?

Christopher Anderson-West teaches individual Voice Lessons, as well as a weekly group Singing Class and a class on Musicianship For Singers, at Raise The Barre dance studio.

A great post on “belting” as a style of technique for singing. There certainly are plenty of successful singers who do belt (Idina Menzel, for instance), however this technique often results in “pitchiness” (being off the pitch intended) and tension. That tension can often get worse and worse as singers try to make their instrument work … and this can lead to injuring the vocal cords.

I personally teach a classical technique that is based on relaxed singing that is “on the breath”; meaning there is no muscular clenching from the abdominal muscles or in the neck. If you would like to learn more about this, give me a call and we can set up a lesson. I teach at Raise The Barre dance studio, on Crown Valley Parkway (near Costco). (949) 613-0143

Should Singers Ever “Belt”?

Photo courtesy of Sarah Sloan voice studio

Photo courtesy of Sarah Sloan voice studio

To belt or not to belt? This is often a controversial question within the singing community. Part of the controversy lies in a preconception about the term “belt” and how it is used in musical theater. Belting has a bright, often brassy tone quality with significant power.

 

When talking about belting it is useful to understand the terms head voice and chest voice. Chest voice, where the sensations of the voice vibrate in the chest, is often used in pop music and is used in the lower ranges of the voice. Head voice, where the sensations vibrate in the head, is associated with the female classical voice, is used in the upper range and is called “legit” (meaning “legitimate”) in musical theater. Belting can be defined as pushing the chest voice up past the natural transition into head voice; when done improperly it can result in a “break” or sudden flip into the head voice register.

With Broadway-style singing, a safe alternative technique that comfortably executes the demands of today’s musical theater uses a combination of both head and chest voice or “Mixing”. Ideally in mixing, both registers are blended to achieve a unified voice. To acquire this, the entire vocal range, particularly the head voice, must be strengthened and developed. Eric Howe, voice faculty at Holy Names University says, “The voice involves many muscles, and often some of the muscles need to be strengthened and coordinated to work with the other muscles.” Here are some things to keep in mind:

If you sing primarily in your chest voice, spend as much time as possible singing in your head voice to strengthen that sound.

  • Try a “top down” approach by coming at the pitch from the top rather than pushing up.
  • Do not scream. The voice should never feel forced. If you become hoarse stop immediately.
  • Keep the head and neck in a normal relaxed position. Do not lift the chin or allow the neck muscles to tense.

Unhealthy belting can create excessive tension in the throat. Vocal chord injury is common. So find an experienced teacher who can monitor your progress. Learn to mix in a healthy way and your vocal chords can enjoy a long and fruitful life.

Sarah Sloan is a classical singer and voice teacher in the East Bay. You can find her blog at sarahsloan.net.

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Christopher Anderson-West is a conservatory trained operatic tenor and voice teacher currently living in Southern Orange County, California. Christopher is pleased to be working with Raise The Barre dance studio as a Vocal Instructor and teacher of a weekly class on Musicianship For Singers.

Christopher studied both voice and composition for five years at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has had the honor of performing in England, France, Italy, China, and around the United States.

As a voice teacher, Christopher’s method is primarily based on the operatic bel canto technique; meaning “beautiful singing”. This technique is currently employed in not only opera, but virtually every form of singing from Pop, to R&B, to Broadway and more … the principles can be carried over as a basis for just about any style of singing.

Christopher’s goal is to impart a healthy vocal technique that will allow you or your child to progress confidently into whatever field of music you or they enjoy.

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