What is “belting”?

Good morning, fellow Singers! And welcome back to Everything Singing and our Blog posts! What is “belting” and why are so many singers instructed to yell in order to prove talent? This week I’m going to discuss why soooooo many singers now a days are yelling and being taught how to “belt” incorrectly despite its obvious wear and tear on the voice, eventually pushing the untrained singer to damaging their voices…. What is “belting” and why are so many singers yelling to prove talent?
Let’s go back in time and start with what have been popular syles of singing through the last century… Opera is where trained singing first became popluar and the art of singing through breath control orginated. No longer was singing in the community a simple form of expression but it was where talented singers could entertain their audience through dynamics, long sustaining notes on vibrato, and “belting” out those high notes. Unlike the singing now a days, these singers trained for HOURS a day mastering the technique of singing at their optimal volume and creating a healthy sense of tone as to promote longevity in their voices. This style of singing is not considered to be popular now but it will always be honored and revered for all time.
After the operatic movement had been around for more than a 100 years the US started to put it’s stamp on musical expression by making popular musicals, big band and jazz the style of music. This style held strong for almost 50 years (until the late 50’s) maintaining the trained voice sound and holding it with high regard. If you listen back to these syles, less “belting” was used while singing. In the legit style of musicals hitting high notes with lots of volume, “belting”, was used because the legit musical was the closest to an Opera as we would come to write. But unlike what is popular today, “belting” would be used in a very small portion of the song to create dynamics, and these trained singers knew exactly where to sing and place these dramatic notes in order to conserve their instruments for 5-10 live shows a week – un-microphoned!
Since the late 50’s a more untrained sound has become what is popular to listen to. In speaking to some close friends and colleague’s they actually enjoy hearing a rough tone (smoker and heavy drinkers sound) and wondering while the singer is performing “are they going to hit that note?” There is so much diversity in music today that it makes what we enjoy and listen to a rainbow of sounds. And I think its wonderful we have such an open pallette for music now and not just one style that is being listened to. But as a singing professional, who has trained extensively in the maintenance of the voice, it worries me knowing these singers, who are untrained, have a shelf life of maybe 10 years tops until they are unable to produce even a fraction of what they were capable of at the beginning of their careers.
So what is “belting”? There are many definitions of what this actually means but the absolute defintion of belting is NOT yelling. Yes, it can create a loud sound but yelling is not it. Belting most definitely came from the word belt, which as you know, a belt is wrapped around the waist to hold a pair of pants or skirt up. So to “belt” would mean to pull the sound from the stomach, where this belt is wrapped around, using your diaphragm to create this intense sound by way of using your breath in a trained and technical way. Yelling, is where an untrained voice tries to create the loudest possible sound by screaming from their chest and throat and ultimately hurting their voice and going off pitch in the process. There is 1 healthy way of using your voice in this way and endless unhealthy ways of attempting this.
So why are so many singers yelling to prove talent? I will continue this discussion in the 2nd part of this blog next week! 🙂 Stay tuned….singing 2

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