Learning how to “belt” sing

There is much debate over what is “belting” in pop music and Broadway, let alone how to actually do it. I am a self-taught belter, and in fact never had any singing lessons until I was in my late 20’s, at which time I had already been singing with a band professionally for a number of years.

If you are classically trained, then belting may not be easy. You may need to undo some of the things you have been taught. If you have no training, then hopefully I can take away some of the mystery as to why you don’t sound as good as your favourite “belter”.

I would describe belting as singing above your first bridge (break, passagio) with thinning cords that are slightly stiffened with very little breath passing through, and a stable, tilted larynx to provide adequate twang. This gives the illusion of a strong chest voice `in the mix“. The belt I’m describing is the sound of Whitney Houston, Kelly Clarkson, Freddie Mercury or Adam Lambert. You know, the “big note” sounds in popular music. This is not the musical theatre belt sound.

The bridge is the area in your voice that differentiates your chest register from your head register. For women this is around A flat (above middle C) to B flat or even B, and for men it is around E flat above middle C to F or even G flat.

These are important areas of the voice. These are also very difficult areas of the voice for most singers. The way a singer handles this area will determine if (s)he can learn to belt safely or not. A singer must be able to maintain cord closure while ascending from the chest register into the head register. In order to main closure, the larynx must tilt and allow the cords to stretch and thin. This is called your mixed voice.  Belting requires extreme control of your mixed voice.

As you ascend in pitch keep that connection but allow the transition to mixed voicing. You will almost start to sound like a cartoon character. (This is the ability to add a cry to your voice to keep the cords thinning and touching on the edges). You do not carry the `heaviness`of the low notes with you as you ascend through the first bridge. You do not need to get louder. It may sound like your favourite singer is singing `heavy“ as (s)he goes higher, but in fact, belters are naturally zipping up their vocal cords as they ascend in pitch. It`s the ability to sing with very little air  that makes these belters sound so good to our ears. It may appear they are “loud” but they are actually not singing any louder than their medium speaking voice.

If you are untrained, and you find you are shouting and cannot decrease or increase the volume of a note above your first bridge, then you are not in a controllable good mix. This can mean a number of things, but in my experience it is commonly a problem with lack of ability to thin out  the vocal cords, while tilting the larynx. If you are a trained singer, and you are shouting as you go over your first bridge and cannot control the volume, then your larynx is possibly not tilting enough to get the cords to stretch and thin. There is a good chance you are sending too much air through the cords to try and get the sound you want.

Belting is not something you should learn on your own without a proper specialized teacher. However, hopefully I have shed some light on some possible habits or obstacles that might be in the way to accomplishing this difficult sound.

5 thoughts on “Learning how to “belt” sing

  1. Great article ! You really shed some light on this subject for me. One question if I may. Would Singing Success or Mastering The Mix help in the belt area of the ( my ) voice ? I’ve read a lot of comments on various blogs , forums, etc. that these courses are only good for softer styles of singing especially with no focus on breath support.

    • Hi and thanks for your comments and question.

      If you have read my posts before, you will know that I am a huge fan of Brett Manning and his products Singing Success, and Mastering the Mix. I’m sure you also know that one of Brett Manning’s teachers was Seth Riggs, and the essence of Brett’s products is speech level singing. That being said, the key to proper and efficient belting is in mastering the middle voice area, and the middle voice is your mix…so the answer to your question is an absolute YES! These products will definitely help develop a singer’s belt! If a singer can’t manage the exercises laid out in Singing Success and Mastering the Mix with ease, then they are definitely not ready to step up their game to master belting.

      Belting well requires huge breath support and an ability to control the voice in the high mix area. For men that’s anywhere from about F or F# above middle C to high C, and for women that’s anywhere from around B flat above middle C, all the way up to F & G above high C). When a singer knows how to control this area of their voice they can sing pretty much anything, and any way they want. And that includes belting! Singers who belt well can also sing quietly well! Singers who belt well can change their vowel placement and tone with ease….all within the flow of one single phrase of music. This is, without a doubt, what Mastering the Mix” is all about.
      Thanks again for your comments. I hope I have shed some more light to help you with your journey to singing better.

  2. But will Brett manning’s mastering mix also provide me with the ground breaking power in the mixed belt just like we hear in the voice of Celin dion,Whitney Houston,Beyonce Knowles,Mariah Carey,Adam lambert…..to name a few because i am pretty sure that they all use the cassical appogio technique,and displays extreme levels of physical exaggerations or torso anchoring while belting…these are usually not covered in the mastering mix course………….so do u think that it is wise to practice breath support exercise like……..holding ssssssssssss……on a steady airflow for a minute etc…along with mastering mix…..

  3. Also i would like to mention….that Michael Jackson….being a Seth rigg’s student……….really had a thin and less resonant belt…..which was really not thick and gusty….like that of other prominent singers…..i am not saying sls is bad….it really lays the basic foundation of healthy singing……but i think it lacks a bit on the power developmental part……that being said it would be really great if u can name a few sls trained singers who really has strong and resonant belts…….Thank you….

    • Belting is an extension of our speaking voice. The thickness of our cords and how much air we are pushing through the cords are part of the “power” you are hearing. There are other factors involved as well such as where the sound is resonating the most.
      Belting safely and correctly is not an easy coordination to do. If you are able to sing your songs in a strong mixed voice, then belting is likened to “having more chest in your mix”. For female voices this would be a strong B flat or high C. For males this would be a strong F or F#.
      The goal of SLS is to develop a strong, healthy, balanced voice. Belting is not healthy and not balanced. Do you see the contradiction?

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