Singing with a belt voice is so exciting! It's dramatic, emotional, powerful, and loud! And it feels damn good to have that much power, to move people with your own voice. With your emotion. And with your personal connection to a song.
But--Thing is, belting has become a go-to technique that is, in my opinion, way over-used in today's popular commercial styles. I remember way back in the 80s and 90s when the TV show Star Search was the big singing show, it was the belters who almost always won. Who are some of the Star Search winners whose names you may recognize? Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Usher, Alanis Morissette; and, country singer LeAnn Rimes belting out "Blue" at age 14 with an adult-sounding voice. Yup!
And that program translated into American Idol, which then spawned The Voice, and then dozens more vocal TV competitions all around the world have sprouted up that have changed the landscape of what it means to be a great singer....in the eyes of television competition. At at Berklee College of Music (where I'm a senior voice professor), this year's entering class has the largest number of singers of all time, 600! Singing is BIG.
Don't get me wrong--belting can be amazing too, and I teach it. And I do it. And I wrote a book about it! But all the time? Please, loud goes really well with soft! And, belting isn't even necessary at all. It so depends on the song you're singing, and the style.
There are many great singers who don't belt. (Maybe the majority?) We are moved instead by their artistry with a phrase, lyric interpretation, tone, rhythmic phrasing, and use of dynamics. Well known artists like Billie Eillish, Norah Jones, James Taylor, and John Mayer--just to name a scant few--are not belters. The list is long throughout so many styles of music, even pop--including singer/songwriter, folk, soft rock, EDM, soul-R&B, smooth jazz, Latin styles, and a whole lot more.
So why do young singers believe they have to belt in order to be a respected singer? (What is your belief about that?) Most singing teachers, unless they're popular style coaches or work in contemporary musical theater, won't even touch belting. The truth is, most don't understand how the mechanism for belting works, and when it can be done safely, largely because they weren't taught it, either. (I wasn't. I learned it through graduate school work and studying with laryngologists--medical doctors who specialize in the voice--and, from decades of teaching and singing professionally.)
And yet here Belting lives, one of the six category "buckets" for this Subscription Series! "Why?" you may ask! That's because while I do believe it's overused, belting nonetheless remains an important tool for many singers, and many song styles include it, even demand it. And as I said above, let's face it--it feels great! Rock styles come to mind...and big pop singing...and Gospel...again, just to name a few styles that employ belt singing frequently. And, belting is a rigorous singing technique that, when done poorly, can truly damage the voice. Hence--belting instruction for you here in this series!
So, if you don't fancy yourself a singer who wants to belt, or if it feels unnatural and difficult for your voice--no worries! You don't need to belt in order to sound great! It may just be that certain songs are for you to enjoy listening to, and not necessarily for you to sing. That is true for every singer.
When you do study this way of singing, keep these important considerations in mind:
1) Warm up really, really, REALLY well before you start belting
2) Be sure you're well hydrated! (That goes for all the time anyway.)
3) If you can, study with a qualified teacher so you learn how to do it safely
4) It's likely you'll need to change the key! Your voice is not the same instrument as the original artist.
5) Never, ever scream, strain, reach up your chin in tension, or burst the sound out. These are recipes for hurting your voice.