Tools of Translation



Wikipedia: “Belting is a specific technique of singing by which a singer brings their chest register above its natural passaggio (break) at a loud volume; instead, as alternative production is developed, often described and felt as supported and sustained yelling. ‘Belting’ is sometimes described as ‘high chest voice’ but this is technically incorrect and potentially damaging for the voice. It is often deserved as a vocal register, although this is also technically incorrect; it is rather a descriptive for the use of a register. Singers can use belting to convey heightened emotional states.”

“Strictly speaking, belting is when a woman takes her chest voice up into her head voice range; belting is a term that comes directly from musical theatre, and was used to describe such singers as Mary Martin and Eileen Rodgers. Later, the term “belter” was also applied to men and indicated that they took their chest voice up higher than one might normally expect.” (from “Belting: How Singers Can Safely Belt” by Kristina Seleshanko [])

Furthermore, Seleshanko offers these instructions for belting:

  1. You must be able to practice in an environment where you’re not afraid to be loud or make mistakes. If you’re worried about being “too noisy” or making squawks, you’ll usually tense up…and therefore fail.
  2. You must feel entirely free of tension in the face, neck, shoulders, etc. Contrary to what some believe, a good belter does not sing with undue tension. Quite the opposite, in fact.
  3. You must develop stamina. Like singing large opera roles, belting is an athletic experience.
  4. Belting requires less breath pressure (just as high notes require less breath pressure).
  5. You’ve gotta drop that jaw (think 3 to 4 fingers) and raise your soft palate.
  6. Like a soprano hitting her highest notes, the belter has to trust her high chest notes to be there. She can’t “push” them at all. Imagining the notes flying or floating out of the top of the head may help.
  7. The voice must be placed forward, in the mask.! has this as its fourth definition for “belt”: “to sing in a forceful manner”

***Seleshanko’s definition above is certainly in line with what vocal coaches and voice teachers would describe as “belting”, though that may differ from one genre to the next. The Mirriam- Webster definition is the typical conception of belting, which is to sing very loudly and forcefully. While that may be the resultant sound of one who is belting, it is not a prescription for the process of belting. To imitate the sound of a belt is to make oneself liable for vocal damage, whereas understanding the tempered and physiological aspects of belting is to insure longevity as a singer of popular or stage music.

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