Thursday, October 15, 2009

But I Need to Learn to Belt!

Thursday musings from Los Angeles...

I often here this from so-called "legit" singers in music theatre. I have written a blog entry on belt and will elaborate more fully in future blogs.

Again, learning HOW to belt and DOING it are two very different things!

Belt within the music theatre arena, is a style associated with a type of character, and then can be a developed technical balance associated with tone and technical choices.

Learning the technique of belt is one thing - what is required of the muscular balance, the breath, and the support as well as the language is one thing. Executing it, maintaining it and ENDURING it are quite another!!!

So my question to the "but I NEED to learn to belt" is simply "Why?"

Belt is not a parlor trick. There is NOTHING about vocal behavior that is a trick!!! Ironically even though we use "belt" and "legit" as terms, the technique of "belt" is a "legitimate" technique!!! I often work with so-called "belters" who find out very quickly, they haven't been belting at all - but that's another blog!!

So the "why" of needing to learn to belt is very important! First of all, can you learn the technical behavior of belt? Then can you learn how to make it muscular and execute it physically? And then, can you infuse that technical behavior stylistically? And then, can you maintain a consistency and authenticity of style and physically while singing a so-called belt role?

Not all voices are the same!!! Some voices have the physical attributes to maintain a health belt, and some do not. Some voices are more suited elsewhere!

And here's the thing - not all roles are belt roles!! If you are an ingenue, yes, you are going to have to access chest voice to some degree, but belt? Certainly not in the fullest sense and belting a song like "If I Loved You" ain't gonna happen! Ingenues are not belters!

By learning HOW to belt, will it give you more access to different balances in the voice? Absolutely! Could it create more sense of a mix-belt in the lower extension when needed? Absolutely!

I am always amazed when a young light soprano with glorious high notes wants to learn to belt! We always want what we do not have, and don't realize that what we have someone else wishes they had!!

First and foremost, discover WHO you are in your voice - and then extend it. Trying to be a belter if you are truly an ingenue is just setting yourself up for disaster!!! If you are a more "legit" voice, then CLAIM it and develop it fully to be the best "legit soprano" you can be!!! (all examples of course!) If you know what your voice does best, claim it and lead with it!!! Nobody wants to hear what you don't do amazingly well. There are others who do that well. Find YOUR strength and lead with it.

If you are a "legit" type, then nurture that and make it impossible for others to look away! Trying to be something you are not is creating delusion and ultimately frustration and disappointment. Again, wanting and reality are not always the same thing.

Not all music theatre roles are belt roles!!! In fact, the irony is, most are not! Many of the contemporary theatre musicals have more mix and mix-belt in the styles that are presented, but then it is a matter of allowing the technical facets and demands to meet the physical behavior of the singer to determine how the execution is handled in a healthy and artistic way!

Learn to belt - but learn what belt is, and how to access it PHYSICALLY within your own instrument. You cannot change the natural balance of your instrument. But you CAN discover what that instrument can truly do!!! Give yourself time to discover and find it ALL before you start making judgements or demands on it!

Know WHY you need to learn how to belt and recognize how your instrument fits in the scheme of music theatre types. Before that belt, know the type you are going to be seen as and heard as - and develop that first!!! If you aren't a true belter, learning how to belt can be an enhancement to an already claimed instrument, instead of the "I wish I were a belter so I'm going to be a mediocre singer, trying to belt" syndrome.

BE HONEST. DISCOVER. ASK QUESTIONS - of yourself AND your teacher and coach. Get the answers that make sense, not that make you feel better! LISTEN to the answers so you can make the discoveries that are necessary and true.

Learn to do more than accept your voice - LOVE IT.



  2. Susan, I have been wondering, as you well know, if learning to belt, as a training exercise, can round out and inform a voice that is not going to be singing in that way as its main mode. For example, like a ballerina who is taking jazz classes on the side, but maybe incorporates what her muscles have learned and brings a fuller dimension, maybe more freedom, to her ballet? These are just thoughts and questions I have. Or that the opera singer, having experienced the other, understands more the choices associated with opera singing and can weave some of what is discovered in belting into the whole voice.??

  3. ABSOLUTELY!!! Recognizing the differences in sensation are important in discovering belt from chest as an example. Belt technique is seen in spanish folk music - which the marvellous Teresa Berganza showed eloquently and "classically" - a true "classical belt"! So yes, belt technique can be a great training tool, if it is done in a healthy and correct way.

  4. And I might add that under your supervision it definitely would be done the healthy and correct way!

  5. Hi Susan!
    I tried to leave a comment on your blog post "Elusive abt Belt", but I think there was a technical issue & it wouldn't let me post. So, I'm sending it to you, hoping you can post it yourself. Hmm... Thanks!

    I couldn't agree with you more. I especially have high school girls come in and say "I want to sing 'Defying Gravity'." I also teach belt as a balanced instrument - until the "regular" voice is lined up, I won't let them belt (and certainly not that song as a young singer!). I talk about belt being "the nasty" that is balanced by a released jaw creating a color that has top & bottom. But, if the "regular" voice doesn't have this, then the belt voice surely won't. Susan, as you know, I LOVE everything you say! Wish I lived closer so we could have lunch more often! :-) Take care & keep posting!

    Rachel Day Velarde

  6. I was wondering: Can anyone learn how to belt? I read somewhere that most soprano's aren't able to belt, which kinda bums me out because I'd really love to be able to use that technique :)


  7. Anyone can learn the technical and muscular behavior of belt - but not all physicalities will be able to truly have a instrument that can sustain it.

    What does "most sopranos" mean? I disagree! It has nothing to do with voice type. I know some mezzos could can't access belt either.

    Unless you train the muscles to access the technique, you won't know.

  8. Hi Susan !
    I want to learn how to belt, and I'm wondering how. How would I Project my voice ? In addition, when you said, " learn how to access it physically." what did you mean by that ? Sorry if I'm asking a lot of questions. I just think I'm so close to belting, but I'm not sure if its actually belting or just a loud head voice.

  9. no worries for the questions - but all these things need to be worked in person in the studio!

  10. My problem is that I have that high clear "sparkling" thing down pat, but I don't physically LOOK like an ingenue. So it's hard to get cast as anything, cuz my body says tough/loud/annoying/etc. But my voice says young and sweet. I don't like it

    1. hi! Please head over to the new website - the blog has been transferred over there -

  11. Hi Susan,

    I realise I'm like ten years late to this post but I just wanted to ask a question: do you believe belting really can be taught, in its biggest, loudest Broadway sense, to someone who can't naturally get past their break?

    I just need to know this because I keep being hampered by teachers online who say that:

    a) If you have a nice classical voice, you shouldn't even try.
    b) You should go straight to a voice teacher.

    In response to a), I am classically trained and have a good classical voice. But I want to move on from that now. Basically, I'm bored of it, and want a more contemporary sound.
    And b)
    I can't afford to go to a voice teacher, so I need to know IF it's possible before I try to save up money to get on.

    Thanks for your advice Susan, I really appreciate it.

    Sarah x

  12. Yes, Sarah, belting can be taught. The voice needs to have a certain physicality to maintain it, but the technique can be learned. You need to find someone who understands what it is, and can find you within your vocal development NOW. My blog has moved to my new website - so you can access all these posts there -