Have you ever heard, or been confused by, the term ‘belting’?
If you’re from a musical theatre background you’ve probably heard this term a LOT. You may have been asked in auditions what your ‘belt range’ is, or what note you can belt up to. But it may not be clear what it really means – and often people who use it aren’t even sure. So let me clear it up for you.
First off, if you’re not familiar with head voice, chest voice and mix – the basics of what we teach at The Voice Club – I recommend checking out my earlier post here.
Belting is forcing chest voice up beyond its natural register to achieve powerful high notes.
This is especially used in the theatre, as singers need to project their voices over a large area (theatre, auditorium, or even outdoor venue) so they use the more naturally powerful chest voice, because if they sing high notes in pure head voice, they simply won’t be heard.
The anatomical stuff
Chest voice is present in the lower register of the voice, and it brings with it all the power and guts of that lower register (think power notes). Head voice is light and airy, and lives at the higher register of the voice.
Simply put, somewhere in the middle of your range (technically known as the ‘second bridge’), chest voice should gradually lift off, and head voice gradually take over, so that each note has a different amount of head and chest voice. Most people need vocal coaching in order to achieve this level of vocal balance; only about 2% of singers can naturally mix seamlessly between head and chest voice.
No matter what you have heard, belting is NOT a good thing to do.
Forcing chest voice into the higher register of the voice is incredibly dangerous for your voice.
The amount of air used in singing a power note in full chest voice is WAY above what the vocal cords can healthily withstand, and as the cords are sandblasted with the excess air, they become sore and inflamed. This causes hoarseness and a sore throat – it is NOT normal.
Prolonged belting can result in nodes, nodules or polyps on the vocal cords, which may require surgery to be removed. This is something to be avoided at ALL costs, as even the best vocal surgery is risky and leaves scar tissue on the vocal cords, which are then more vulnerable to developing more issues, and requiring further surgery, and so on.
Healthy mix voices DO NOT belt. Because they don’t need to.
A healthy, trained voice can mix freely between head and chest voice, combining different proportions of each for each individual note. This allows a singer to sing any note in their range with as much, or as little, power as they need to in any song, and without pain, strain or damage to their vocal cords.
Think this is just a pipe dream? Andrea Boccelli, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand and Josh Groban have all benefited from training in mix voice, and they don’t have any problems getting heard!
For more information on mix, and vocal bridges, see our podcast at www.helpmyvoice.com
If you’re ready to start finding your vocal potential, come and train with me at The Voice Club. We offer private coaching and group classes to singers of all ages and abilities. Or, if you have a specific question about your voice, email me directly.