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How All Singers Can Learn To Belt

How All Singers Can Learn To Belt
Voiced plosives, vocal fry and glottal attacks encourage the vocal folds to participate -says Justin Stoney.

Justin Stoney of New York Vocal Coaching has helped countless singers learn to Belt. Once given the right exercises, he says singers discover a new “mechanism” to achieve a Belt easily – usually within their first lesson:

I use carefully designed exercises to help singers learn to Belt. Learning this skill is best done in a face-to-face lesson with an experienced teacher, but I will give you some examples here of the exercises I use with my students.

Expect lots of cracking from your voice

When you Belt, you are doing something with your vocal folds that is very precarious. On one side, you will err on straining and on the other side, you will err on cracking or flipping into Head Voice.

You will be walking the line between two extremes, where one is too strong and one is too weak

You will be walking the line between two extremes, where one is too strong and one is too weak.

If I am someone who is too hard on myself, easily frustrated and judging myself, then I am not going to like the reality of Belting, which is that you have to mess up a lot.

The journey towards successful Belting requires you to take risks and be OK with not having a final product right away.

Make JOY your singing ally

Thankfully, we have JOY! Joy is the most helpful emotion for singing technique and expedited vocal improvement.

A smile to represent joy

Joy is the most helpful emotion for singing technique and expedited vocal improvement

Joy is especially applicable to Belting because one simply does not force things as much, when they are operating from a place of Joy.

Joy is staying positive whether or not things are going your way. Joy is a state of allowing things to be.

You could know everything there is to know about the voice, but if you are feeling a sense of fear, doubt or shame about your voice – all the technique in the world is not going to help you achieve the sounds you want.

If you approach singing from the position of Joy, you will be happy with things as they currently are, experience them in a positive frame, and live in the moment.

When things don’t work out quite right, then you won’t be terribly down on yourself – because you are operating from that Joyful foundation.

Make those vocal folds hang on

The exercises I use to teach Belting are designed to strongly encourage the vocal folds to participate instead of lightening into a higher vocal register.

This means that the Thyrovocalis muscle, or the muscle of the vocal folds (see diagram below), must remain engaged to keep the folds strong as they stretch out to attain higher pitches.

larynx

My Belting exercises frequently employ three different techniques:

I use voiced plosives, such as B, D and the G. For these, I would have my student sing syllables such as bib-bib-bib, go-go-go or day-day-day.

I also use syllables such as ah-mah-mah, and have the singer begin with a balanced glottal attack.

The third technique is the vocal fry (see description of vocal fry in part one), where I use the syllables, um-mum-mum that begin with a gentle and thoughtful fry.

For all these various syllables, I would usually start off with a descending arpeggio (in A, these notes would be A4, E4, C#4, A3, or scale degrees 8, 5, 3, 1).

We sing these exercises first in a comfortable range, then ascend higher.

When done correctly, these exercises essentially guarantee that the Belt will happen.

This is almost always a huge revelation for singers because they suddenly produce sounds they didn’t know they could achieve – they simply never realized they could control their vocal folds in this way.

When done correctly, these exercises essentially guarantee that the Belt will happen

Yet, while this breakthrough is an amazing feeling for singers, it doesn’t mean that we have completely mastered the skill of Belting.

We have merely awoken the muscular action skill at this early stage.

Master belting for every situation

The next steps involve many various challenges that allow the Belt to work consistently in every situation and with every variable that a singer might face.

For example, we need to be able to ascend as we Belt. We need to be able to sustain while we Belt, and use vibrato and straight tone.

We need to be able to Belt on every single vowel. We need to be able to do this at different volume levels, from varying intervallic leaps, and we need to be able to have agility.

For me, working on Belting is as valuable as any other vocal technique – what matters most is helping a singer achieve a vocal victory and an inner transformation.

I personally don’t care if I am working with a celebrity, a Broadway performer, a young person or old person, a beginner or pro – my job is to give singers the breakthrough they are looking for. Very often, this victory can be found in the feelings of empowerment that Belting can provide.Any singer can achieve the powerful sounds of Belting

Any singer can achieve the powerful sounds of Belting – I just have to help them find the right mechanism to use inside their larynx. After all, strength, (just like Joy) comes from within.


My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Matilde Paul Matilde Paul - Disclosure

Matilde is amazingly creative and skilled in this clip. It takes quite a lot of talent to be able to pull off layering like she does here. Her beatboxing, harmonization, and advanced musicianship make this a mesmerizing performance. It is clear that Matilde is talented in many ways aside from just her great singing voice. Because of all that is going on in the layering and the electronic effects, it is sometimes difficult to hear and appreciate Matilde’s very nice vocal tone. When you can hear it on the solo lines though, it is evident that she has developed a lovely pop Mix tone quality. Pop singers often sing with a brighter sound that incorporates elements like Twang, Nasal Resonance, and Higher Larynx positions. I would encourage Matilde to add some slightly deeper and darker resonances to her voice via some slightly lower Larynx positions. Also, she will benefit from some decompressed or “breathy” qualities within her Mix as well. Not just for style, but also for her Technique. It will keep her sound more balanced. Overall, this is a very impressive and inventive performance!

Why I chose Matilde Paul as a Finalist

Although all four artists were very talented and gave great performances, my pick is Matilde Paul. I chose her because her performance was so inventive, creative, and diverse. She incorporated beatboxing, harmony, modern pop/dance layering technology, advanced musical skills, and her great pop Mix tone into a very difficult-to-achieve final product. Truly well done Matilde! Bravo! And, congrats to all on your excellent singing!


justin-stoney-bio

Justin Stoney is an internationally recognized Vocal Coach, and is the Founder of New York Vocal Coaching. As one of the leading Voice Teachers in today’s industry, Justin has worked with thousands of singers, including students from over 60 countries, Celebrity Recording Artists, Tony Nominees, and anyone seeking to “Make A Joyful Noise!” 


  • Lisa Marie Garver

    Just want to wait for comments to see what others think of this approach and get updates. I’m skeptical.

  • Dev Web

    Sounds like it will be a painful, non-joyful experience.

  • Justin is a sound voice coach. To be certain, to train the musculature for belting you HAVE to workout. The best thing you can do for building TA strength and belts is to learn how to train controlled glottal attacks. At The Vocalist Studio, we do this in our training program. We call them, “Attack & Release Onsets”. You cannot train belting, but being “gentle” and giving into fear of the voice. It requires assertive resistance training techniques, with the proper acoustics/formants. http://thevocaliststudio.com/testimonials/

  • Freya Astrella

    I see the main lesson from this is to not be fearful of volume and mistakes. Go for it! And keep it happy!

  • Great post Freya, I totally agree! Good practical advise, yes.

    But my point is, that mental imagery alone is not going to create tangible results. It is good mental imagery FOR SURE, but that is not a vocalize. That is not a demonstration or lesson on HOW and WHAT to train to actually work toward a real result. It is a comment that is more about mental imagery. I am not belittling it, I think it is important, but for the benefit of people reading this, they need to know that once you have a healthy disposition toward belting, you then need to have a program/teacher, with demonstrations and workouts that will teach you how to train.

    We, ( the voice teachers ), need to talk about training. The real execution of techniques, vocalize, scales, practicing that actually get students to a real, lasting result by building muscle strength, coordination, and motor skills. Discussions that only point out the mental imagery toward singing better are not enough.

    https://youtu.be/AGBG-z2Bxes

  • Kathy Coneys Alexander

    I have met singers who were never taught how to belt – they just do it instinctively. Then there are tons of singers who are mystified by belting and have never done it. This article, and his previous ones, clarify the mechanics of belting and the types of training exercises that help singers develop their skill. Justin has taken away a lot of the mystery around belting and shown that with a good teacher and effective training, anyone can learn to belt. That’s inspiring!

  • Don C

    I can attest that it can be done- and one way to go is very unlike what you would think…If you raise the key of the song, you are essentially forced to sing in a lighter tone. If you keep at this, over time it will get stronger. Most singers do the exact opposite- they lower the key so that they can shout everything. This is dangerous because it reinforces the bad habit of “muscling through”. Once you can sing in the lighter sound (not to be confused with quieter- it’s just not as thick and weighty), you will find that you are able to sing songs in the original key.

    The rule of thumb is, “strengthen the notes above your breaks and the ones below them will become available to you”.

    This process doesn’t happen overnight- it took me 3 years and was greatly assisted by the singing products and books of many teachers, not just one. I don’t want to list them here, out of fear of leaving out someone’s name. But every teacher has at least one tool to help with your singing, and none of them have all the knowledge. You pick and choose the best from each one.

    Three years ago, I could not sing above D4 in anything but a wimpy, airy falsetto and had no low notes, either. Now my range goes from F1 to F5 with a falsetto scream to A#5 and the tone is getting clearer and more solid on every note.

    Lots and lots of work, water, rest, and patience. At first, your belt is going to sound HORRIBLE. It will crack and crumble in your break areas, and sound very unmusical. Remarkably, after awhile (and it’s different for everyone), the harsh, crackly/witchy sound mellows and those once-unstable notes solidify and sound piercing and shimmering. The strange part, is that you can not trust your inner hearing because of the directionality of the tone and when it is the most developed, you’ll have to do it completely on feel or a good set of monitors or headphones.