Many people mistakenly think belting is forceful, which is why it gets a bad rap -says Justin Stoney.
Justin Stoney of New York Vocal Coaching has been teaching singers to Belt for years.
His YouTube series “Voice Lessons To The World” has attracted millions of views and thousands of subscriptions with more than 90 free episodes on just about every topic related to singing.
This is the second part of VoiceCouncil’s Belting series with Justin Stoney:
When singers come to me, the majority of them want to know how to make strong sounds on high notes consistently.
They want to know how those Broadway singers do it and how all those people on the radio do it – they want to know how to Belt.
For a classic example of belting, listen to Whitney Houston’s legendary rendition of the American National Anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991:
Belting Is Not Yelling
Many people mistakenly think belting is forceful and loud, and this is why it has had a bad rap in the past. In fact, many teachers think it will hurt the voice.
This is because of the misconception that belting is just a bunch of yelling. But that understanding is far too simplistic.
Yelling (dragging pure chest voice up higher than its naturally occurring range) can be used sparingly in the context of belting, but if that was our only method of Belting, that would be bad Belting – and, yes, it would be harmful.
A Nuanced Form Of Singing
Yet, Belting is not just yelling. In fact, it is not a forced sound at all. It is a nuanced form of singing that involves just as many intricacies as any vocal technique that you can find.
I like to define Belting as the ascending drag of a specific vocal register (see my previous article: Learn To Belt By Understanding Vocal Registers), including Chest Voice, Chest Dominant Mix, Mix and Head Dominant Mix.
In order to achieve the power of Belting, we take the register of our deliberate choosing and we drag it up higher than it would natively live.
You see, Belting is not just one thing – in different parts of your range, it requires different coordinations.
Now let’s go into more detail about how I teach Belting. Remember, the best way for you to ensure your technique is healthy, is to work in person with an experienced voice teacher.
Drag Each Register Up A Little Higher
As a singer sings higher pitches, the vocal folds must stretch longer (and vibrate faster). They naturally want to become lighter and thinner as they stretch out. This is a major component of what lets them shift gears into a new register.
In Belting, we are training the vocal folds to maintain a thicker, stronger coordination of a specific register while still lengthening for higher pitches that would normally live in the next register.
To do this, we must teach the vocal folds how to stay strong as they go long.
They must have strength as they attain length!
Your Vocal Folds Must Act
To achieve this ascending drag, we must teach the vocal folds how to hang on.
As we sing higher, we say, Are we going to get louder? No.
Are we going to open the mouth? No.
Are we going to push? No.
Are we going raise the larynx? No.
What are we going to do? We are going to teach the folds to combat the tendency to lighten to a different register.
For greatest precision and success, we allow this adjustment to happen within the folds themselves as opposed to making major adjustments to the resonance, vowel shape or breath pressure.
In other words, the vocal folds must act! They must be responsible for their own destiny.
How Far To Drag
The chart below shows where each register natively lives in a sample female voice, followed by the range that register can be dragged up to, to produce a Belt quality.
|Sample Female Voice|||||Native Range|||||Belt (Register Dragging)|
|Chest Voice||D3-D4||Up to A4|
|Chest-Dominant Mix||D4-A4||Up to D5|
|Mix||D4-D5||Up to A5|
|Head-Dominant Mix||A4-D5||Up to D6|
In this sample voice, the Chest Voice lives in the octave from D3 to D4. These ranges might vary slightly from female to female, but this is a common example.
Now, to achieve a belt, you could drag Chest Voice up. You could even drag it as far as A4, but at that pitch, it will be pretty shout-y. So, in most situations, you wouldn’t drag it up that high.
Another option available to you, is that you could change gear out of Chest Voice, at E♭4. It is possible to use pure Head Voice here. This would be bringing your Head Voice down to a range where it would be pretty darn weak.
Since Head Voice is too weak down there, you would likely want to use a Mix in that range instead instead of the extremes of pure Chest Voice or pure Head Voice.
Belt With Chest-Dominant Mix
Chest-Dominant Mix is the lower area of your Mix register. It is also an important coordination for Belting. To achieve a Belt, you would maintain that specific compression (strength) in the vocal folds of your Chest-Dominant Mix as you sing up to D5.
Here again, you could flip to Head Voice, and there are times when – for stylistic reasons – you might want to do that.
Belt With Head-Dominant Mix
There is yet another option for singing beyond that D5. You can now use the lighter compression of Mix or Head-Dominant Mix and extend your Belt all the way up to A5.
Some women can even extend it to D6! But the acoustics and resonance start to sound a bit bizarre up that high in the voice. Belting in Pop music usually ends at about A5.
You hear a few singers like Arianna Grande, Tori Kelly and Beyoncé extend their head-dominant mix up to the A5, but it is not too common.
As you can see, Belting is all about using a healthy vocal coordination of a specific register, such as Chest-Dominant Mix, then dragging that coordination 5-12 semitones higher than it’s natural place in your voice.
Be sure to come back for part three, where I will explain the exercises I use to help singers achieve this drag of registers.
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
Chrys Henderson - Help Me Make It Through The Night
Chrys’ soulful baritone voice is quite effective in this country ballad. He sings with such great emotion and passionately conveys the lyrics of the song with wonderful truth and feeling. One thing to watch out for are the many slides in the song. This mournful country stylistic lends itself to many scoops and slides. So, it is certainly not wrong to do this. However, this can sometimes lead to some “pitchiness” instead of just the purposeful pitch bending. Chrys’ pitch overall is quite good. But, the many scoops and slides that are incorporated into the song lead to some notes that don’t land as squarely on the pitches as is desirable. Although Chrys is singing in the lower part of his range in this song, it is still evident that some “weight” could be shed from the upper middle and upper part of his Mix. This said, Chyrs’ current vocal chops and his commitment to his lyric make him very successful in this performance.
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!”