Whether you are just beginning singing lessons or have been training for years, it is likely you have come across the term “belting.” Belting is a well-known singing technique used by pop, gospel, rock, and Broadway vocalists alike and is characterized by a loud and powerful sound. Belting has a mixed reputation in the singing world and with good reason. If learned and utilized improperly, belting can be very harmful to a singer’s instrument. However, done with proper technique, belting is an excellent tool in singer’s arsenal.
Just like learning any other skill, learning how to belt takes a lot of practice. It is essential to properly train the muscles that support the vocal cords to create a better and more consistent sound. Let’s dive further into the information that will get you on your way to belting out those powerful and impressive notes.
Before we go over practice techniques and tips and tricks, let’s review some key vocal terms. Understanding the areas of your voice will help you learn how to strengthen and utilize them properly.
- Chest Voice. This is the lower end of your vocal register and has the sound quality and range of your natural speaking voice. When you sing in this lower range, you typically feel the sound vibrations in your chest.
- Head Voice. This is the higher end of your vocal range and typically has a bright, sharp tone. When you sing in this upper register, you usually feel the sound vibrations in your head.
- Mix Voice. This is the space in your voice where you transition from your lower to your upper register or vice versa. It takes a lot of practice to transition seamlessly between these different tonal qualities and placements.
- Vocal Break. Your break is the natural point when your voice transitions from head to chest voice. For beginning singers, it marks a shift in tonal quality where the more powerful chest voice becomes a breathier head voice.
- Belting. Again, belting is essentially bringing the big, powerful sound of your chest voice up into notes you would typically sing in your mix or head voice.
Now that we have discussed some important vocal vocabulary, below is a collection of practice techniques that will help you start or continue to develop your belt range. You will notice that the majority of proper singing techniques have more to do with your body than actually singing. If you are practicing and start to feel your leg and core muscles getting tired, but you feel like you could still keep going for hours, that’s a great sign! That means your body is supporting your sound, and that is a key ingredient in learning how to belt those big notes.
- Warm up your voice! Start with humming major scales to get your vocal cords gently moving. Then continue on to singing scales using specific vowels, and finish with warm-ups that use words and phrases. Just like with any other physical activity, it is crucial to warm up before jumping into training to avoid injury.
- Relax your vocal cords. It may be tempting to tighten your vocal cords to push out a powerful sound, but this just limits the tonal quality you are able to produce. Relaxing and letting go of vocal tension allows the cords to move more freely and thus create a better-quality sound.
- Focus on building vocal strength. Depending on where you are in your training, your singing voice will be at varying degrees of strength. For example, a Broadway performer doing eight shows a week will have more vocal resilience than someone just beginning to sing. As you work to build strength, proper technique will help to protect your voice from any harmful strain. Remember, if you are singing correctly, you should always be comfortable.
- Find and use vocal exercises. Vocal exercises are an essential component to singing success. Use the internet or talk to a vocal coach to create a warm-up and vocal exercise regime that works for you. These exercises help build vocal strength as well as smooth out the transition between chest and head voice.
- Posture matters. Proper posture is a key ingredient to building proper singing technique. The position of your body can both positively and negatively impact your vocal quality. Before you even sing one note, make sure your body alignment is in order. Start from your feet and work up through your body, checking in at specific areas to ensure they are working correctly to support your voice. Your body should basically be in a standing plank position. Here is a list of cues to help you achieve proper alignment:
- Plant your feet on the floor, about hip distance apart.
- Soften and keep some bounce in your knees so they don’t lock.
- Engage your glutes and tuck your pelvis to encourage proper breath support.
- Relax your shoulders back and down to elongate the spine.
- Picture a string lifting the top of your head to lengthen the back of your neck.
- Tuck your chin slightly and keep it parallel to the floor. Pro tip: It will be tempting to throw your head back to hit those high notes, but this actually pinches your vocal cords and limits the sound they can produce.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Breath support is critical when practicing proper belt technique. Since you cannot sing unless air is moving through your vocal cords, learning how to utilize proper breathing will definitely enhance your vocal quality. However, you want to avoid using too much air to push those notes out. Overusing air to force a big powerful sound will actually wear your voice out and weaken it.
Tips and Tricks
- The magic of your mix Learning how to belt properly comes down to increasing vocal strength and control. An excellent way to develop your belt range is also to build your mix range. As discussed previously, mix voice is a blend of both chest and head voice. Once again, instead of straining your chest voice higher and higher, developing a proper mix allows you to blend through your vocal break for a cleaner sound.
- Get your soft palate and tongue working together. In order to create enough space for your voice to resonate, you need to raise your soft palate and lower your tongue. This specific configuration feels a lot like yawning. Furthermore, keeping your tongue down also helps keep the larynx down which in turn allows the voice to belt and handle the pressure associated with volume and power.
- Not all vowels are created equal. As you are learning to belt, some vowel combinations make it easier to lift the soft palate and lower the tongue. When you start practicing, begin using vowels like Ih, Er, Ah, and Eh during your vocal warm-ups. Then as you progress and build strength, move to harder combinations like Aw, Oo, and Ee.
- Daily practice is crucial to success. Not only does regular practice build strength, but it also builds muscle memory. Creating muscle memory is important for vocal competitions, auditions, or any situation where nerves may get in the way of proper technique. It is so much better for your voice to practice daily in small chunks of time rather than a long session once a week.
- If your voice starts hurting, stop. Singing should never be painful. If you are experiencing any vocal pain while practicing, stop immediately and rest. When you practice, make sure to stay hydrated because it keeps your instrument properly
- Patience, patience, patience. Learning a new vocal technique takes time. There is no overnight belting exercise or method that will suddenly have you singing like your favorite pop or Broadway star. Take the time to learn the technique correctly so you are developing your voice in a healthy way rather than harming it.
Bringing It All Together
As you continue on your vocal journey, working with a professional vocal coach or online training program will help develop necessary skills while avoiding injury. And remember, practicing imperfection makes those imperfections perfect. So, practice using proper technique and do not cut corners. This will keep your voice healthy and help you build the strength necessary for those big and powerful notes. Below are few do's and don’ts to help summarize the information above.
The Five Do’s
- Do practice daily.
- Do stay hydrated.
- Do practice correct body posture and alignment.
- Do use vowel sounds appropriate for your level of training.
- Do focus on strengthening your voice.
The Five Don’ts
- Don’t skip your warm up.
- Don’t continue singing if your voice hurts.
- Don’t rush the learning process.
- Don’t compare your voice and skill level to others. Everyone’s instruments are different.
- Don’t continue to practice if you are unable to maintain proper technique.
Hopefully the advice above helps you on your way as you continue to build your vocal technique. Remember that learning any new skill takes time, practice, and patience. Good luck and happy singing!