Belting Singing Technique [Step By Step Guide]
Many singers want to learn how to belt. Belting is identified by it’s powerful and ‘chesty’ sound in the high range, along with a very strong and supported delivery that sounds rich and full, but not pushed. In this step by step guide I’ll explain the mechanics of belting singing technique and share with you an easy guide for developing the belt register when you sing.
Belting is an advanced technique that requires you to have a good grasp of support, foundation, vowels and mix voice first – so make sure you sign up to our free Foundation 101 singing course and our mix and support booster courses to ensure the health of your voice when you start belting. Remember, singing is a process of balance and coordination, not a feat of muscular strength or force – if it’s not easy, and it doesn’t feel ‘right’ – then you’re not doing it correctly.
Are you ready to belt? Lets get started.
What is Belt Singing?
Belting occurs in the mix register, where both chest and head voice resonate. You create a belt by allowing a literal drag of vocal fold weight higher into your range than would normally be appropriate. This creates extra depth, volume and power to your tone – but comes at the expense of full release into head voice and can be physically tiring due to the support and coordination required. Belting isn’t just singing ‘as high as possible in chest voice’ and is dependent on head resonance to allow access to your high range. Here’s an example of belting:
The first step to belting is actually developing proper connection between chest and head voice and developing the mix voice. Mix occurs when you learn to resonate in both chest and head voice at the same time – mix is immediately identifiable in any great singer who retains the rich depth of chest voice while accessing the extensive range afforded by the head register. Mix is a literal mix of frequencies and resonance in the chest and head registers. Belting then occurs when you skew this balance somewhat with vocal fold weight and resonate high in your range with thicker vocal folds and deeper tonal frequencies. To belt when singing, you first need a strong foundation and a solid grasp of how your vocal mechanism functions – lets take it step by step.
Step 1 – Foundation
Foundation is key to a great singing voice. Foundation in singing is just like the foundation of a house being built, the rock solid base that your walls (tone) and roof (range) will be placed. Without a strong foundation, your tone and range will suffer and you will lack support. Foundation includes base techniques like breathing, placement, vowel shaping and of course support. The first step to setting up a strong foundation is a healthy posture, which looks a little something like this:
- Head up
- Shoulders Back
- Proud Chest
- Chin Parallel with the floor (look straight forward)
With this healthy posture, you can then engage the diaphragm and create support by balancing air pressure and air flow. The simplest way to engage your diaphragm in the formative stages of your singing journey is to imagine that you are breathing low and sharp through a very small drinking straw – not in your low belly, but around your mid section, ribs, sternum and upper abs.
Retaining this strong “middle tyre” of air will allow you to create air pressure with limited airflow – known as support. Support is key to many aspects of a great voice, from connection between chest and head right through to power, resonance and mix voice. By setting up a strong foundation in this manner every time you sing, you ensure that your support is consistent, and hence your singing voice and tone will also be consistent too.
Step 2 – Vowels
The word “vowel” in singing can be a confusing topic, in part due to the key differences between speaking and singing. While vowel in speech means a specific pronounced sound, in singing, vowel really means ‘efficient resonance’ and refers to the shape of your tongue, resonant space and also how and where your tone resonates. This in turn gives the ‘illusion’ of each of the vowel sounds that we associate with speaking, AH, AA, OO, EE, AY, OH in particular.
There are three main tongue shapes to be developed in singing, EE, AH and OO;
- AH – tongue low and concave
- EE – Tongue up at the back
- OO – Tongue back, lips forward
From these three central vowel shapes, all other vowels are formed. As an example, an AA vowel like “Cat” is formed with an AH shape, but a slightly forward tongue position. Learning to form your vowels in this manner will allow you to then create resonant space according to each vowel sound through each register of your voice, creating one long and connected note from your lowest pitch to your highest.
Step 3 – Resonant Space
Further to shaping your vowel sound with the tongue, learning how to belt when singing is dependent on your ability to resonate effectively in the pharynx, basically – the back wall of your head and behind your nose. Resonant space is key to tuning each vowel sound through your voice cracks and vocal breaks. In many cases, a vocal break is a switch in resonance rather than a ‘physical’ break occurring in the mechanism (although this form of break does also occur). To effectively create resonant space when you sing, you need to learn proper use of the soft palate, the tongue root and also the glottis itself.
The soft palate is the soft, fleshy flap that sits at the top of the back of your mouth. You likely already have control over the soft palate, it is used in the process of sneezing, coughing, yawning and speech. If you breathe through your mouth only, the soft palate is closed, if you breathe through your nose only, the soft palate is ‘open’. By familiarising yourself with this feeling, along with shaping each vowel sound correctly you can/will learn to raise the soft palate, in effect closing off airflow to the nose at the same time creating resonant space and an elongated vocal tract – allowing you to sing higher with ease.
Step 4 – Compression
Achieving compression through use of the supraglottis and the AES is imperitive to developing belt singing technique. Compression occurs when you learn to ‘constrict’ your airway in a healthy manner to moderate resonance and airflow into a powerful, pressurised and focused tone that results in a powerful but effective resonant sound. Each vowel sound requires it’s own unique element of compression, and you can also create ‘twang’ compression by activating the AES at the top of the epiglottis. By limiting the opening of the throat, you can control your resonance more effectively while limiting excess airflow in place of air pressure. Compression is an advanced technique that does take time to develop, but is ultimately a very simple process once you learn to shape your vowels and resonate effectively.
One of the most common exercises for developing an understanding of how compression relates to power and ease when you sing is a “GuhGuhGuh” sound – which is effective only when you learn to do so in mix voice while connecting your chest and head registers – pushing chest voice is never the answer to developing power or range. The “G” sound in this exercise often creates compression in the glottis by engagement of the supraglottal area between the vocal folds and the AES – it’s very important that you practice this exercise properly, so make sure you have been shown by a professional voice coach how to create compression first to ensure your vocal health. Remember, if it’s not easy, then you’re not doing it correctly.
Step 5 – Vowel + Support + Compression + Placement = Belting
After you’ve spent time developing and mastering each of the first four steps in this guide to belt singing, you can start using them together to find your belt register. By adding further support, more compression and achieving placement, you can start leaning into your sound a little bit more each day until your vowel opens up into a powerful belt.
Remember, singing is ultimately a process of balance and control, not one of strength – don’t push, don’t strain and always aim for a comfortable balance of support and compression with a pleasant tone. If you try to belt in pure chest, you will not achieve a belt, but if you back off too much into a full ‘heady’ tone, you will also lack a central balance and a belt register.
Belting is an extension of the mix register, so make sure you use our Mix Voice Booster course to develop control over your middle voice. A great place to start with each of these steps is the free Foundations 101 singing course available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will set you up with a bullet-proof foundation and the best base for a powerful belt to built upon. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching, you can become a premium member or book a single Skype Lesson with me and we’ll start working towards extending your range and building your belt register.
If you have any questions about these how to belt singing tips, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.