What is vocal belting in singing?

If you are an avid listener of Adele’s songs, you probably have some idea about belting because she is one of the best belters out there. Belting can be a bit difficult to understand owing to the wide variations in its definition present on the internet.

Put simply, belting is a technique of singing where a singer carries their chest voice over and above their passagio (transition zone between different vocal registers). Some schools of music also define it as a technique in which a singer sings the notes in their head voice range with the strength of their chest voice. For this precise reason, it is also sometimes referred to as ‘high chest voice’.

Famous singers who are powerful belters are:

Demi Lovato

Sam Smith

Bruno Mars

Christina Aguilera

Charles Bradley

Lady Gaga

For you to have a better understanding of the aforementioned definition, let us describe the chest and head voice briefly.

Chest voice: The term chest voice is reserved for the lower part of the normal vocal range. It is an archaic term that is going out of style as anatomists gain a better understanding of the physiology of phonation and singing.

The chest voice is the range of notes that lie at the bottom of your voice. Singing teachers discovered that when you sang low notes, you could feel a resonance or vibration when you place a hand on your chest. Hence the term ‘chest voice’ gained popularity. It is produced by the dominance of thyroarytenoid muscles. Vocal cords acquire a short and thick configuration while producing chest voice. That is how you sing lower notes. It is the voice that one uses while normally talking, singing or shouting.

Head voice: The head voice is the term used to refer to the range of notes that lie at the top of your voice. These days, the distinction between head voice and the falsetto register has almost blurred with people confusing one for the other.

In contrast to chest voice, the head voice makes dominant use of the cricothyroid muscles. Vocal cords get thinned out when you’re using your head voice. That’s how you sing high notes. You can put this voice to test by singing some of the high notes and placing a hand at the back of your neck to feel the vibrations there.

Belting incorrectly

Belting has become very popular in modern singing and a singer must learn this technique if they hope to make it big. Some claim that belting comes naturally to them, while some try as they might always end up sounding weird when they belt.

Belting the wrong way can invite a lot of future problems in your vocal cords. Do you know that feeling when you have continuously yelled for a long time? You know how hoarse and scratchy it feels in your throat. You feel like your vocal cords have been under so much friction that they have run dry.

Well, belting the wrong way can feel the same, so you want to look out for these after-effects when you belt and if it is a ‘yes’, then you need to change your technique because you are not belting the right way if you are winding up with this hoarseness after you belt.

If you use too much of your chest voice while hitting the high notes in your range, then you are doing it wrong because you are using the configuration of your vocal cords in your chest voice to reach high notes. This will cause your cords to be under extra tension and pressure and the end product will not be something impressive.

The correct way to belt

Belting is not as hard as it appears. With enough practice and under the right guidance, you will learn how to belt like a pro in no time. For belting the right way that is not likely to damage your cords, you need to strike the perfect balance between your chest and head voice.

While singing the high notes, you do not want to use too much of your chest voice lest you should sound like you are yelling or be flat or strain your voice. A good belting technique metaphor is the ‘gas pedal’ in your car. It should feel smooth and every time you need to increase your volume, try adding more gas or in this case, go into the note you are on to transition it into a slightly higher one. Remember to not accelerate all of a sudden or else you will be straining your cords again. Take it slow, be gentle and relaxed and never force a note out.

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