But I Need to Learn to Belt!

But I Need to Learn to Belt!
Thursday musings from Los Angeles...

I often here this from so-called "legit" singers in music theatre. I have written a blog entry on belt and will elaborate more fully in future blogs.

Again, learning HOW to belt and DOING it are two very different things!

Belt within the music theatre arena, is a style associated with a type of character, and then can be a developed technical balance associated with tone and technical choices.

Learning the technique of belt is one thing - what is required of the muscular balance, the breath, and the support as well as the language is one thing. Executing it, maintaining it and ENDURING it are quite another!!!

So my question to the "but I NEED to learn to belt" is simply "Why?"

Belt is not a parlor trick. There is NOTHING about vocal behavior that is a trick!!! Ironically even though we use "belt" and "legit" as terms, the technique of "belt" is a "legitimate" technique!!! I often work with so-called "belters" who find out very quickly, they haven't been belting at all - but that's another blog!!

So the "why" of needing to learn to belt is very important! First of all, can you learn the technical behavior of belt? Then can you learn how to make it muscular and execute it physically? And then, can you infuse that technical behavior stylistically? And then, can you maintain a consistency and authenticity of style and physically while singing a so-called belt role?

Not all voices are the same!!! Some voices have the physical attributes to maintain a health belt, and some do not. Some voices are more suited elsewhere!

And here's the thing - not all roles are belt roles!! If you are an ingenue, yes, you are going to have to access chest voice to some degree, but belt? Certainly not in the fullest sense and belting a song like "If I Loved You" ain't gonna happen! Ingenues are not belters!

By learning HOW to belt, will it give you more access to different balances in the voice? Absolutely! Could it create more sense of a mix-belt in the lower extension when needed? Absolutely!

I am always amazed when a young light soprano with glorious high notes wants to learn to belt! We always want what we do not have, and don't realize that what we have someone else wishes they had!!

First and foremost, discover WHO you are in your voice - and then extend it. Trying to be a belter if you are truly an ingenue is just setting yourself up for disaster!!! If you are a more "legit" voice, then CLAIM it and develop it fully to be the best "legit soprano" you can be!!! (all examples of course!) If you know what your voice does best, claim it and lead with it!!! Nobody wants to hear what you don't do amazingly well. There are others who do that well. Find YOUR strength and lead with it.

If you are a "legit" type, then nurture that and make it impossible for others to look away! Trying to be something you are not is creating delusion and ultimately frustration and disappointment. Again, wanting and reality are not always the same thing.

Not all music theatre roles are belt roles!!! In fact, the irony is, most are not! Many of the contemporary theatre musicals have more mix and mix-belt in the styles that are presented, but then it is a matter of allowing the technical facets and demands to meet the physical behavior of the singer to determine how the execution is handled in a healthy and artistic way!

Learn to belt - but learn what belt is, and how to access it PHYSICALLY within your own instrument. You cannot change the natural balance of your instrument. But you CAN discover what that instrument can truly do!!! Give yourself time to discover and find it ALL before you start making judgements or demands on it!

Know WHY you need to learn how to belt and recognize how your instrument fits in the scheme of music theatre types. Before that belt, know the type you are going to be seen as and heard as - and develop that first!!! If you aren't a true belter, learning how to belt can be an enhancement to an already claimed instrument, instead of the "I wish I were a belter so I'm going to be a mediocre singer, trying to belt" syndrome.

BE HONEST. DISCOVER. ASK QUESTIONS - of yourself AND your teacher and coach. Get the answers that make sense, not that make you feel better! LISTEN to the answers so you can make the discoveries that are necessary and true.

Learn to do more than accept your voice - LOVE IT.

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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