Belting is becoming more common in the singing industry. It can add power to your performance and captivate your audience. But, as with most singing terminology, the name creates some confusion around the exact definition of belting. In this article, you'll find out what belting is and how you can do it.
Belting refers to singing at maximum volume in the modal voice register to produce a powerful note. It is similar to yelling, but has directed pitch and more voice control to avoid damage to the vocal cords. It is mostly used to deliver powerful high notes above your natural chest voice range.
I will expand on this definition below to help clear up any confusion as to what belting actually is. Further down, you will also find ways you can belt properly and tips for incorporating it into your singing.
What is Belting in Singing?
Belting is singing at maximum volume to add power to a note. Belting can be done in both chest voice or head voice (not falsetto), but is always done in the modal register. This is the voice register we use when talking, and is therefore naturally the strongest.
You can find a more detailed look at the different voice registers here.
In a very basic definition, belting is the tuned version of yelling. The main difference between these two is that belting has directed pitch (singing a particular melody). Belting correctly also involves techniques to protect your vocal cords, if done correctly.
Prior to modern amplification technology (ie. microphones), belting was used to allow a singer to be heard above other instruments or across a large room/space. These days it is used more stylistically to add dynamic variation to a song.
Belting is most commonly used to reach notes at the top end of your vocal range, particularly those notes you usually can't reach. However, it can still be used for lower notes, such as when you 'belt out' a song (ie. singing it at the top of your lungs!)
How to Belt when Singing
Belting requires training and care. Do it wrong and your voice will soon become crackly and damaged. You may even lose your voice (known as laryngitis). This is because belting incorrectly puts too much pressure on the vocal cords. Below you will find how to belt correctly to avoid damage.
Proper Belting Technique
Belting correctly is what helps separate belting from yelling. When you belt properly, you help prevent damage to your voice, while maintaining the powerful effect of belting out the note.
Yelling often comes from your throat, straining your voice and damaging your vocal cords in the process. When you sing 'from your throat', this essentially means that you are not singing with the support of your abdomen (belly).
Engage Your Muscles
In order to support your voice with your abdomen, you need to engage your abdominal muscles, gluteal muscles and diaphragm when you sing. This is something that happens naturally when tickled, which you can see in the video below.
From 1:25 in this snippet of the movie Sister Act, Whoopie Goldburg's character encourages Sister Mary Robert to engage these muscles by tickling/shaking her stomach as she sings the note. This support is exactly what you need when belting out a note.
Engaging the Diaphragm: Essentially, you want to take a big breath in and hold it, ready for the note. This tenses the diaphragm muscle.
Engaging the Abdominal Muscles: imagine pulling your belly button towards your spine. As you do this, your abdominal muscles will tense, supporting your abdomen as you sing. Your stomach should feel harder than normal when you do this.
Engaging the Gluteal Muscles: The gluteal muscles are the muscles in your buttocks (ie. your behind). Tensing your cheeks will provide an opposing force to your abdominal muscles, providing support for the whole body.
Twang is another term for nasality, or a nasal tone. This is adding a 'witch-like' tone to your singing voice, which allows you to sing higher notes with less strain.
Twang is also used to give your voice a clearer ringing quality (provided it's not too much). Therefore, adding twang to your voice when trying to belt will both protect your voice and keep the sound clear and strong. This will make it easier to hold the note as well, adding to the 'wow!' factor.
Keep in mind that adding too much nasality to your voice may reduce the overall volume of the note and actually make the lyrics harder to understand. It's a fine balance that you can play around with during rehearsals.
You can learn more about twang in this article.
When belting, it is important to brace your body. This means preparing your body for producing such a big sound. Below is a list of things you should be doing before belting out a note.
- Straighten your posture (to open your airways)
- Take a large breath in from the diaphragm (stomach should expand)
- Open your mouth wide
- Keep your shoulders relaxed
- Engage abdominal and gluteal muscles (tense your abs and bottom)
That last one probably seems a bit odd, but it's all about supporting your body as you sing. I will never forget my vocal teacher telling me to imagine holding a coin between the cheeks of my behind to brace for a big note. Sure enough, it worked!
You can also do exercises in your day-to-day vocal routine to help with belting. Below are some resources you can take a look at.