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Tackle the Technique: Belting (Part 2)

Hello again! I’m SUPER EXCITED for this week, partly because of the topic but even more so because my “guest host” for today! Kalli Sonnenburg is an amazing musician, passionate about educating and encouraging singers, and a dear friend. She’s also been doing research around the ideas of belting and contemporary commercial music and worked with me on putting both last week and this week together.


So let’s start off with a quick review of what Belting IS versus what it’s NOT. Belting is NOT simply chest voice singing, it’s NOT shouting, and it’s NOT simply the “chest voice” pushed higher. Belting IS drawing from the two prominent regions of the voice (you may call them the “chest” and “head” voices) and combining them in varying degrees of dominance. 


We also want to establish the difference of viewing Belt as a “weight” concept versus a “color” concept, and this can have a lot to do with breath. We’d like to suggest a few key factors in understanding this difference.


  1. Breath: Understanding and being able to monitor your airflow in a Belt will help to reduce tension throughout your vocal tract, and can also aid in the ability to transition in and out of any sort of mix. 

  2. Release (Relaxation): Being able to maintain a neutral tongue, a neutral jaw, and a relaxed larynx is crucial to maneuvering throughout any sort of mix. You can check out the first two Tackle the Technique videos for the jaw and the tongue. Regarding the larynx, there is a TON of science as to how and why it moves and adapts its shape throughout the vocal range, but we’ll limit that conversation to a quick mention of “friendly pressure.”

    • When belting, there’s a slightly increased amount of subglottic pressure. This is the air pressure from the lungs that supplies the energy and generates the voice. Because this is slightly increased during belting, it may feel foreign to people at first … but as long as it doesn’t HURT, it’s possible to continue trying out in small doses, preferably with the assistance of a vocal coach. Different exercises and small amounts of practice can help to find those sweet spots!

  3. ….. which leads to a third point regarding the idea of “loudness,” and coming back to the idea of “color” as a Belting descriptor. It’s common to hear someone utilize Belt technique and automatically associate it with a louder volume than other singing, an assumption that may be largely to do with the extreme emotion that often accompanies those vocal moments. However, this “loudness” that we hear in belting is actually attributed to the frequencies of the higher pitches, the amplitude provided by the microphone (which is ultimately an extension of the instrument), and the overtones and the timbre/color of the voice. Believe it or not, Belters primarily sing at fewer decibels than opera singers do!


With that in mind, we’d like to demonstrate some more exercises. First, some more cricothyroid/CT-focused Exercises 


And now a few more thyroarytenoid/TA exercises.

  • TA #6, 7, 9


Lastly, a few mixed CT/TA exercises.

  • CT/TA #4, 8, 9

  • The “shout” exercise: You basically just “shout or speak loudly” (obviously not in an unhealthy manner so demonstration is key). So shouting “hey!” A few times to find how to do that for the singer and then from there a five scale descending scale. Then you can add descending to ascending to descending once that has solidified. It can take 3-6 months just for that to really settle!


Soooooo a few last things to consider:

  • Vibrato is something that can be eliminated at this point. It does not necessarily need to be present at this point in the game. 

  • Be intentional about voice mapping: how did you get there? How does it feel? What are you noticing?

  • Also pay attention to what your voice CAN do. 

    • Experiment with vocal tract shapes, vowel manipulation, characterization, etc. 

    • Focus in on primary and secondary resonances and sensations (BEHIND the nose, versus IN the nose



RESOURCES

1. Robert Edwin, “Belting 101,” Journal of Singing, Sept/Oct 1998, Volume 55, No. 1, pp. 53-55.

2. Keyona Willis-Lynam, “The Crossover Opera Singer: Bridging the Gap Between Opera and Musical Theatre,” D.M.A. Document for The Ohio State University, 2015.

3. MusicNotes.Com, “Expand Your Vocal Range with These 10 Simple Tips,” https://www.musicnotes.com/now/tips/expand-your-vocal-range-with-these-10-simple-tips/

4. VocalSkills.com Article, “What is Belt/Belting?” https://www.vocalskills.co.uk/What-is-Belt-Belting.html.

5. Kevin Wilson Voice, “Teaching Musical Theatre Voice: Female,” 2020 NATS Conference Presentation Document.







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