Voice Students: What is Healthy Belting?

Healthy belting is an extension of speech, so as voice students, if you do not have a strong, clear sound when you are speaking, particularly in your lower notes, you may not have a natural capacity to belt.

By Jeannette LoVetri

Healthy belting is also produced with a kind of trumpet-like intensity that makes the sound seem to be very powerful without causing vocal fatigue or stress. It takes a good amount of breath support generated by a strong, deliberate use of the abdominal muscles while singing, but it does not use air in the same way that a good classical sound does.

Belting may or may not have a vibrato (a steady fluctuation of the pitch being sung), and it may or may not extend to the very highest pitches in a singer’s range. Some singers belt only up to a specific pitch or pitch range, particularly if they also sing in other styles that are not belted. Those vocalists who also sing classically have to learn to “shift vocal gears” if they are to sing easily in both belting and classical sound, and that takes time (from months to years) to do well.

It is rare, but not impossible, to find teachers of belting who are not, themselves, belters at a high level, who also sing classical and other styles of repertoire, and who are experienced and effective singing teachers. Many who claim to teach belting are neither trained belters nor have any professional-level experience as belters. Students who want to learn to belt should be especially wary of such teachers.

Note that it is possible to learn to make the belt sound without training, through trial and error and through imitation.

What You Need to Know about Belting

  • Many classically trained singers who now teach were taught that belting was automatically injurious to the vocal folds (cords). This is an old wives’ tale, based on a lack of accurate understanding and experience. Sadly, many vocal programs do not allow students to do any belting throughout their entire four years of undergraduate training, and will not accept any belted material from a student during an entrance audition.
  • Any kind of squeezing, pushing, forcing, yelling, and extreme nasality in belting can lead to both musical and vocal health problems over time. The sound should be free, easy and comfortable, and the vocalist should also be able to sing softly in most pitches without undue effort.
  • The face, neck, head and body should be in harmony and look comfortable in a belt sound, although the louder, higher sounds will require more activity on the part of the vocalist in order to be done correctly.
  • General advice: if it feels good, and sounds good, and does the job over and over, it probably is good. If it feels bad and sounds good, be suspicious. If it feels good but sounds bad, something is not working correctly, and if it feels bad and sounds bad, it is bad and should be stopped. This is true in any style of music.
  • If you study with a teacher who is not familiar with the belt sound, with repertoire that uses the sound, and who can’t answer your questions about how the sound is made, find another teacher! Knowledgeable teachers understand all these things and will happily explain them in a simple, clear manner.
  • If your voice ever feels “bad” or “sounds funny” and doesn’t get better, find a good otolaryngologist (ENT or Ear, Nose and Throat specialist) and have your vocal folds examined. Serious vocal damage can sometimes be permanent and prevent you from singing professionally for the rest of your life.

Jeannette LoVetri  is the director of the Voice Workshop and has been teaching singing since 1972. Her students appear on Broadway, in concerts and recordings, and include rock, pop, jazz, classical, gospel and other styles. She is a voice researcher and author, and teaches at five nationally-recognized universities.

Comments

  1. Francesca

    Hi! I was wondering if you had any tips for someone looking to start belting. Any exercises that can help? And also if you could give a brief description of what belting feels like in terms of chest voice, nasal, soft palate, etc.
    Thanks!

    • Belting can be challenging to your voice if not done properly. So we highly recommend finding a voice teacher with this expertise who can model proper belting technique and teach you this skill in a way that doesn’t injure your voice. Also consider summer music programs where you can learn healthy belting (see 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs.)

  2. Janki

    I’m 16, and I just started to sing back in the summer as I auditioned for a school musical ‘Fame’ and my teachers were truly amazed at my skills. I ended up getting the lead role. I can belt up to the note C comfortably, and at C#, it sounds a tad flat. I was wondering, as a belter, will I ever be able to belt notes such as C#,D comfortably without switching to head voice? Will my voice improve?

    • It’s impossible for anyone to give you the kind of feedback you’re looking for without listening to you and seeing what’s going on with you. We suggest you find a highly qualified voice teacher who is skilled in working with belt voice and knows how to help you protect your voice. Check with the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), a local college or university, or a professional musical theatre program in your area.

  3. Gabrielle

    I have a friend who belts in every single music piece. It sounds really strainish. The vibrato of her voice makes it better but still it sounds she is pushing too hard. Last year she was a lead. She was great but I saw her body language. She was taking really deep breaths and she was cracking a little. She got herself thinking that it is normal and that her voice is perfect. I am just wondering what I should tell her. Another question: is mix voice kind of considered some form of belting?

    • Perhaps you can mention your concern, and point to your observation of her body language. Ultimately, it is up to your friend to seek the advice of a well-trained voice teacher with a background in studying and teaching belting. We saw this article recently, about belting vs. mix voice, that you may find interesting.

  4. Fay

    Hello, Miss LoVetri. You have written a very interesting article, and I have a couple questions. I am currently in high school, and I need help with belting. I have been able to belt well in the past, but nowadays my belt sound is forced and shaky. My belt voice goes as high as the second F above middle C, and it feels effortless and sounds beautiful. However it’s the B flat, B, C, and C sharp above middle C that I’m having trouble with. I can sing them fine as quarter or eighth notes, but when it comes to sustaining them I end up pushing and they sound terrible. I know all about vowel modulation, keeping my tongue down, opening the mouth, and breathing using the diaphragm. I am really stuck on what I can do to make those notes more effortless. Please help!

    • Fay,
      Sounds like you might have a small irritation on your vocal folds that is interfering with your upper middle belt range. Belting is a high-level activity for your vocal folds and even though it “feels OK” it can still cause trouble. The insecurity you feel on the notes in question could also be a technical problem. The only way to know is to see a qualified laryngologist – a medical doctor who specializes in issues that affect the vocal folds. Try to find someone near you and have an exam. After you know if your vocal folds are OK or not, you can proceed to address the issue appropriately. If they are OK, you need help from a qualified voice teacher who understands belting. If they are not, you need to see a Speech Language Pathologist who understands singing. Not all of them do, so be sure to ask. Either way, this will help you get back to easy singing once again.

      Good luck!

      Jeanie LoVetri

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