Sunday, January 17, 2010

Belters - are you HEALTHY?

Sunday musings...

Again, you will not get a voice lesson from a blog - but perhaps I can give you some things to think about and observe.

These musings are for the belters out there...

First and foremost - do you know what belt is?

Are you yelling? not belt.
Are you leading with your chin and tightening your jaw? not belt.
Are you pushing with your tongue? not belt.
Are you nasal? Not belt.
Are you breathy? Not belt.

So if any of these are coming through - you aren't really belting and need to get to a teacher who understands belt well, and also understands a balanced voice FIRST AND FOREMOST.

Belt can and should be produced from a healthy mix first. Some physicalities are more able to learn to belt and sustain its intensity, but all singers can learn the mechanics of it. I have written a blog about belt before, but remember, belt is about a suspended intensity - more width in formation of vowel, more suspension in upper body support, more flattened choice of vowel and still maintain an open throat, released tongue even though the laryngeal position is tipped (and you won't feel that by the way!)

So how does a belter maintain vocal health? How do you not develop a shortened range, MTD (Muscle Tension Dysphonia/Hyperfunction), portions of your range that do not phonate, raspiness, hoarseness et al?

You learn how to sing in a balanced way FIRST. You learn how to produce a well-balanced and evenly resonating mix/middle register. You work for a tangibility of breath support and physical energy in the tone without pressure. You create a true, "natural" balance of mix into chest voice back to mix and into head voice and mix it all together in a vertical balance to allow for even phonation - just like everybody needs to no matter their voice type or choice of genre!

As a belter, the last thing you need to do is keep drilling the belt! The belt needs a point of departure - and that point of departure is a balanced mix. The muscles need to begin in "neutral" in order to find balance and alignment. Then and only then can you begin to task them to associate with the suspension of a belt technique. The cords need to find closure so true phonation is achieved; The cords need to find a balance of closure and depth for resonance to occur and balance.

Finding out if you are physically mis-representing your belt will determine what you need to re-balance in order to find a healthy VOICE and thus, the possibility of a healthy belt.

As I say constantly, technique is behavior - and re-creating a positive physical behavior in order to align the voice is key to changing vocal behavior. You cannot stop a negative behavior without having something to replace it!

SO, belters, as scary as it seems - put down that belt. Quit hiding in it and make sure you can SING! Dare to strip it down and find the bare balance of your voice without singing in "genre" and rather, sing in "balance". Once those muscles find rebalance and the voice can adjust and there is a place of departure, your belt will find more power, more range, more flexibility, more longevity.

The true belters have a REAL, RESONATE and BALANCED MIX. If you don't - you are faking that belt, and it'll come back to you and bite you sooner than later. Don't ignore it. Develop a true mix to find the true belt.

You get ONE voice. Cherish it, nurture it, care for it. Don't dismiss it and say you'll wait til something happens to do something about it.

Learn why you do what you do; learn how you do what you do; develop what you NEED to do and know why so you can do it for a lifetime!


  1. Taking off the belt. I hope my pants don't fall down, lol. Great advice. I'll see you this year!

  2. Brava! I agree with you one hundred percent. I work hard with my students (especially the younger ones) to get a balanced voice before they approach belt. For all my high schoolers who want to sing "Defying Gravity" I tell them not yet!! WAIT until the voice registration is balanced throughout. Thank you!!!

  3. This is excellent. Thank you for posting this. There is nothing more obnoxious in the audition room than being yelled at all day by people who think that's what belting is. Good job!!

  4. Yvonne, I shall look forward to seeing you!

    Rachel - no kidding wait...for AWHILE!

    Joy - thanks - have a new blog for the weekend that I hope you can address too...