Belting doesn’t have to feel terrifying.
Can you imagine having the confidence and trust in your voice to just let it fly without any hesitance or unhealthy tension?! There are a few ways that you can break through your fears of belting. It requires some self-awareness and practice, but it is absolutely possible to let go of the doubts that hold you back from having the bold & powerful voice of your dreams.
By working with my students in the past few years, I’ve seen how the fear of high notes causes tension in a singer’s voice. They could actually hit the notes with ease if they just trusted their voice to do the right thing. They could hit the high notes if they let go of controlling the outcome. They absolutely have the potential to rock that high note powerfully. There’s just one thing missing... the most important ingredient. Confidence!
Whether you’re a beginner singer, or you have some experience under your “belt”… (ha)…
If you’re struggling to hit those high notes, the secret may lie within your psychology.
Fear = Immobilized
Belting is an emotionally intense & explosive sound, and it takes a really brave person to be able to sing outward with confidence and power. Using a belting technique can be intimidating, especially for people who’s personality types tend to be introverted, shy, reserved, etc. For those who always speak in their “inside voice”, finding that “outside voice” can be quite nerve racking at first. Even for outgoing people, beginning to explore the singing voice can be intimidating. The intimidation of “outward” singing can make a singer feel uncomfortable, and they become physically tense as a result of that. Being outside of your comfort zone can kick in your fight or flight response, putting your nervous system completely on edge. Being nervous tends to make our bodies go rigid, which is no good for a singer!
Hesitation = Doubt
There will always be some hesitation in your approach if you don’t trust your voice to make the right sound. When it comes to belting, any sense of self-doubt will be detectable in the execution of your notes. This doubt will show up in our voices with muscular strain and tension, voice cracks/breaks, falling flat in pitch, and scrunched up facial expressions.
I’ve heard about singing teachers telling their students that belting isn’t healthy for their voice. This is somewhat true - if you are belting with poor vocal technique, belting can absolutely be hard on your vocal chords. However, belting does not cause damage to the vocal chords if it’s done properly! These singing teachers are instilling fear into their student’s minds. But the good news is that it is VERY possible, and even safe to sing if done properly!
Ideally, there shouldn’t be any doubts in your mind about your ability to deliver the note. But how do you get to that point where you have the confidence to just... go for it? The answer is…
Practice = Freedom
The more you practice, the better you will get at singing. Repetition is great for developing muscle memory. So the more you do-the-thing the better you get at doing-the-thing. By the way, everyone sucks at doing something when they are doing it for the first time. To get an amazing voice, you have to be willing to suck at first.
Training your voice can be seen as the equivalent of lifting weights at the gym. The more often you lift weights, the stronger you become. When you practice, you get better. When working out at the gym, if you don’t have good “form”, the physical exercises are ineffective for the targeted muscle group. When practicing singing, if you don’t have good vocal technique, the exercises will be ineffective. Without learning vocal exercises that give you good technique, your voice will suffer.
When practicing your belting voice, keep in mind that your voice is made up of a system of muscles and cartilage. Be aware of vocal fatigue while practicing belting, and know when to call it quits for that practice session. If you over do it, your muscles will need to rest and recover!
You are literally a vocal athlete. Your vocal muscles need time to strengthen and build endurance. As a vocalist, you will need to understand proper breath support in order to save your voice from unwanted tension/squeezing/pushing. Voice cracks & breaks need to be worked out with vocal exercises that target transition points between vocal registers. Only then can you go for those high notes with more ease than ever before!
Belting ≠ Shouting
Belting can easily be mistaken for shouting and loudness. Belting requires more skill than just cranking up the volume on your voice. There is a degree of compression necessary to hold the vocal chords together, however pushing too hard can result in hard slamming/impact of the vocal chords.
The belting technique uses a blend of Head Voice and Chest Voice registers, and it required a forward placement in the mask of the face. Classical singers who are trained to resonate mostly in head voice typically struggle to place the sound forward into the mask. These classical singers are in the habit of using a lighter vocal chord coordination, and they are trained to resonate mostly in the back of the head.
If a singer is “shouting”, it will be obvious because there is an apparent breaking point that they are constantly fighting against in order to reach for the notes. This will sound miserable to the audience, and it’s almost painful to watch!
What does it mean to blend registers?
If you’re new to singing, you will want to learn the anatomy of the voice before we talk about blending the registers. To quickly go through the resonators of the body, lets identify some vocal tones and the anatomy behind them.
Chest Voice is a full bodied tone produced from using a heavy vocal chord co-ordination while using the space in your chest to resonate the sound. Chest voice tones are quite relateable to the spoken voice. I would consider a chest voice tone to be “grounded” because of its resonance, which is closer to the centre of gravity in our bodies.
Head Voice is a lighter tone quality, produced from using a light vocal chord co-ordination while using the space in your head to resonate the sound. While head voice tones can also become “fuller” with thicker chord closure, the resonance still remains in the head while the vocal chords thicken to produce a fuller tone. This wouldn’t be considered chest voice because of the tone placement, quality, and a sense of being non-grounded.
When you blend chest voice and head voice qualities, it creates Mixed Voice or Middle Voice. Using “mix” creates a smooth transition between chest voice and head voice, that way there is no obvious “break” or “switch” that occurs when flipping into a different register. There are specific vocal exercises that are useful for targeting this transition point, and helps singers to eventually smooth out the break/crack!
Chest Voice dominant belting requires a thicker/heavier muscle coordination which can be related to chest resonance & the spoken voice. These chest voice dominant belts are powerful and “full-bodied”.
Head Voice dominant belting requires a thinner/lighter muscle coordination that can be related to head resonance & a non-grounded tone production. These lighter belts sound out of this world! A world-class example of head voice dominant belting would be Ariana Grande.
Being aware of your mind-body connection will help you understand why your voice behaves the way that it does. During your next practice session, pay attention to your mental state as you set up to sing higher notes. Are you afraid? Is something making you feel uncomfortable? Is there a moment of hesitation mentally? Do you trust your voice to do the right thing? Do you feel confident that the note will come out clear & strong?
Then check in with your physical energy as you set up for the high notes. Do you tense up when you go for it? Is there a moment of hesitation physically? Are you feeling afraid that you will experience a voice crack or break?
Remember... Rehearsal = Control = Confidence
Have you ever heard of the phrase “confidence is a muscle”?
Well it’s true, confidence can be built up with practice.
So doesn’t it make sense that by practicing belting, you’ll get more confident about your belting voice?
The only way to get over your fears is to face them.
So go make some noise!