A Guide to Belting
Before we talk about how to belt, we are going to do the how to not ever, ever, ever belt. Seriously, I have seen it so many times, people pushing out notes that their vocal chords aren’t used to; straining, cracking, breaking. It’s horrible – beyond horrible – and I don’t want that to happen to you when you’re belting. So the following is WHAT TO NOT DO:
Push Past the Pain
If there is pain, you are NOT, I repeat NOT belting. Seriously, if you feel strain or tension or tightness or anything remotely painful please stop. Belting correctly will not feel painful, it will be comfortable. If you push and belt with pain, you are increasing your chances of losing your voice, getting vocal nodes or causing other types of permanent vocal damage. Also, it just really erks me that I can physically hear your pain, so please don’t do it.
Belt Notes Out of Your Range
Seriously, if you can’t normally sing them, at a normal human volume, why are you trying to belt them? You have to get your vocal chords used to singing those notes comfortably first before you start belting them. Work on extending your range by practicing scales and exercises and when you can sing them comfortably, then start practicing your belting. PS. You should start with small, quiet noises first for up high – get your vocal chords used to the small noises and then gradually start to sing them.
Sing From the Throat
If you are not singing from your belly, you are not singing correctly at all. Your diaphragm is the real power of your voice, that is where belting comes from. Too many times I hear people sing without using the correct muscles in their belly. This results in a weak, breathy sound which will not produce a strong belt at all, sorry. You need to feel a slight push from your belly – it will feel like a very faint squeezing, pushing, lifting sensation and no, it will not hurt.
Close Your Mouth
It is quite simple – if you don’t open your mouth wide enough you are not going to belt. You need to prepare your body for a belt and if you don’t have your mouth open wide enough you are not going to produce a belt at all. Seriously, open your mouth wide – like a yawn. At the roof of your mouth there is this thing called a hard palate which you can touch with your tongue. Behind the hard palate is the soft palate, which you can’t touch. Your soft palate lifts up as you yawn and creates space for the note to ring. If you don’t open your mouth like a yawn, there is no space for your note to ring. For example, imagine a hollow acoustic guitar – what is all that space inside the guitar for? The sound to echo and reverberate – it physically shapes the sound.
Just Use Head Voice
No, you are obviously not going to get the sound you want with just head voice. There is a difference between head voice and belting, hence the different names. Belting requires using a mixed voice, which in layman’s terms means head AND CHEST voice. Chest voice will give you the power of a belt, whilst head voice will let you take your chest voice up and belt those higher notes – like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music… oh that’s right, I’m old. I mean like Elphaba in Wicked, kiddies.
Alrighty, Checklist of What to Do:
- Practice yawning on belted notes to lift your soft palate (give the note room to ring)
- Have a strong support from your diaphragm to give the notes power from your belly!
- Use both head and chest voice (develop a mixed voice)
- Open your mouth
- Make sure you can comfortably sing all of the notes you are trying to belt
- Stop if there is pain and go see your vocal coach!
- Ask your coach for belting exercises that will help ease the transition of belting
- Always warm up before you attempt to belt
For some quick tips on vocal care, check out this article.