What Is Belting? [How To Belt]
Belting is one of those abstract terms that is often referred to without explanation. This tutorial is going to dispel any myth that surrounds the vocal technique of belting, and better still, show you how to belt while retaining healthy vocal technique.
Belting is literally a drag of the lower register up past the point of no return where you can release into your high range, meaning that the balance of vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension is a disproportionate mix towards weight, resulting in a very loud, very powerful and open sounding resonance that is often associated with rock singers and even musical theatre. Lets talk about your vocal registers first.
What are vocal registers?
Your two main vocal registers are known as Chest and Head voice, or your low range and high range respectively. Chest voice occurs in tandem with engagement of the TA muscles, the Thyroarytenoid which contract and thicken your vocal folds. Head voice occurs with engagement of the CT muscles, the Cricothyroid which stretch and thin your vocal folds. These two processes are actually linked and can join in the centre to connect chest and head voice, while also creating an honorary third register known as mix or middle voice. Now, head and chest are also interchangeably used to describe resonance, with chest resonance occurring on your lowest notes, and head resonance occurring on your highest notes – by blending these two resonant tones together you actually create a bridge between your registers where a highly powerful, connected mix occurs – and this is where belting occurs.
Belting is not Chest Voice
Many singers try to drag their chest voice as high as possible while avoiding their head register to try and achieve that massive “Rock Belt”, when in fact belting occurs as a direct mix of vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension. Without head resonance, you are simply yelling in your chest voice, but with a slight stretch of the head mechanism you will learn to sing with a powerfully strong lower tone in your higher range, known as a belt.
How to Belt
The first step to learning how to belt is building a rock solid foundation, as after all, your singing voice is only ever going to be as strong as the foundation it has been built upon. Foundation in singing involves posture, breathing, placement and vowel shaping. To set up your posture, it’s important you take these steps EVERY time you sing:
- Head High
- Chin Parallel with the floor
- Shoulders back
- Proud chest and wide ribs
Keeping a naturally wide rib position when you breathe using the diaphragm allows you to moderate your airflow and air pressure and will ultimately allow you to belt over time when you learn to pressurise your air in a process sometimes called compression or support. Support occurs when you moderate your airflow and air pressure using solely diaphragmatic engagement instead of the rib contraction we sometimes use in speech. Singing and speech are ultimately two separate processes, just like walking and running are two separate means of movement and transport – running isn’t just fast walking, just as singing isn’t just speaking at pitch.
The best way to belt is to shape your vowels correctly first and develop a connection between your chest and head register. The more resonant space you create for your vowel sounds, the BIGGER your resonance will be as your voice develops and your support matures. A great place to start is the free foundations short courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up a rock solid foundation that can be used for belting and will allow you to support your high range without vocal strain.
Singing in a relaxed and controlled manner is the best way to develop a belt into your singing tool-kit. Remember, belting is a tool, not a singing style. If you have to belt, yell or strain to hit high notes, you are quite simply not singing correctly and you’re putting your voice at risk of damage and strain.
Belting is a direct result of proper vowel shaping, creation of appropriate resonance space, rock solid support and controlled balance between your registers.
When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with profession vocal coaching, you can book a Skype Lesson and we’ll start working towards a belt by extending your range and building control and consistency in your voice every time you sing. Remember, singing is a process of balance, and this includes belting, so don’t push, don’t strain and remember – every aspect of singing requires balance and control, not muscular force.
If you have any questions about learning how to sing and developing a belt when you sing, 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.