How to Belt

Most singers want to know how their favourite singers get their sound…in other words, how they sing so well. We all want to understand the voices of Steve Perry, Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert. The list goes on and on.

It’s a complex question with a complex answer, but one thing is true with all these singers. They are great belters!

First, belting in the true sense simply means yelling. Is this a good form of singing? Absolutely not!

Can a singer learn to belt properly with a strong and healthy sound….absolutely yes! This is why we love singers who sing high notes with ease and power.

There are many key factors…and this may be an appropriate list in order of importance. However, proper and healthy belting cannot exist without all of these factors.

1. The ability to blend (mix) registers. In other words, the ability to transition from the lowest of your low notes to the highest of high notes without a bump in the road (vocal break….I think you know what I mean).

2. The ability of the vocal cords to withstand huge amounts of breath pressure….yes, this means attention to breath control!

3. The single, probably most important factor of all, the ability to “twang”. Twang simply means the larynx is doing remarkable things such as tilting to allow the cords to stretch and thin in a healthy manner. There are other things going on as well, and in a nutshell, it means the singer is able to make sounds which resonate easily because of the formants he/she is creating. This means the singer is able to make sounds that are loud and vibrant to the human ear with very little effort! This is the beauty of twang! This creates the illusion of a powerful chest voice, when in fact the singer is resonating in his head voice like crazy!

4. And lastly, but not necessarily of least importance, is the ability to control the larynx. A great singer can sing with their larynx high, low and in the middle. In other words, a great singer can maneuver the larynx and sing in all positions, depending on the “color” of sound he might want. A low larynx gives a darker sound because there is more space in the throat for the sound to resonate. This is the sound we hear in opera. A larynx that can move freely around from mid to higher, and that can tilt, is the ideal larynx for all other styles.

I hope this has given you a better idea of what good belting truly is. Have a question? Why not drop me a line!


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.