Why Can't I Belt Without Squeezing, Tension or Strain?
Okay all my Whitney, Freddie, Jennifer Hudson, Sutton Foster, Adam Lambert, Beyoncé, Ben Platt or Aretha fans, this is the post you’ve all been waiting for.
How can they sing these notes that effortlessly soar into the stratosphere with the power of a freight train?
And even more importantly, how can we mere mortals get up there without it feeling AWFUL?
Let me see if I can serve you up some insight on a silver platter here…
ARE YOU RESPECTING YOUR LIMIT (AND MAKING SURE YOU PROBLEM SOLVE)?
Firstly, just remember that this will take time. Those powerhouse voices aren’t built over a few weeks.
And everyone has a limit to how far up their range they can take this strong quality (what I call chest dominant mix) and you need to know yours.
As soon as you feel the slightest tickle, pinch or constriction - you’re going to want to stop and PROBLEM SOLVE.
There are a whole bunch of issues that might need your attention - breath management, tongue tension, soft palate position, but if you just keep surging ahead without FIXING THEM things will not get better.
Please please please do not keep going higher until things get all strangly and cracky.
ARE YOU WORKING YOUR WHOLE RANGE AND MAKING SURE YOU’RE ABLE TO BLEND FIRST?
Too many keen belting wannabes (my younger self included) tend to avoid their head voice like a clingy ex.
It’s too sweet or bright or not impressive enough so they stick to the low chestier notes.
Well it’s time to make friends with your head voice dude.
You’re going to want to be able to easily, cleanly and efficiently blend all the way from your chest voice through your mix (a head dominant mix this time) and into your head voice.
Being able to do that “hard” note in a number of lighter ways across the spectrum of mixed voice means you’re less likely to try to keep it strictly in your chest voice gear (which ends up sounding and feeling a lot like yelling).
DO YOU PANIC AND HOLD BACK YOUR BREATH?
This is a big one. Belting is a loud, powerful sound and requires full commitment and that can be confronting.
Self doubt or the fear of being heard or making a mistake can be a huge belt killer.
And I get it, believe me, but it’s definitely contributing to your throat tension.
Because of this, it’s really important that you practice belting in a space where you’re able to let yourself be loud without hesitation.
The breath is your fuel and you want to be able to project pretty far away from you, so if you have grouchy neighbours or family members that aren’t a fan of “Let It Go” on repeat - perhaps hire a rehearsal space or find somewhere more private.
MAYBE YOU HAVEN’T BEEN GIVEN INSTRUCTIONS THAT HAVE CLICKED FOR YOU
“Add more support”
“Don’t sing from your throat” and
“Just give it a bit more”
are not helpful instructions for a singer who is looking to Jessie J it up.
Firstly you’re going to want to be teaching your body how to work with your breath separate from your belting training (with vocal function exercises).
And secondly, be given cues that are going to help you access your strong mixed voice (so you don’t drag your chest voice up too high or flick into your head voice).
Obviously it depends on how you’re approaching your belt as to what will work for you but one I find really helpful is to help the student work with “calling” rather than “singing”.
This gets them working with a much more natural sound rather than manufacturing something they’re unsure how to make safely.
YOU MIGHT NOT BE AWARE OF HANDY VOWEL MODIFICATION TRICKS
Ever heard one of your faves pronounce a lyric kinda strangely?
Or noticed that the colour they’re producing is different from yours (almost as if they’re singing with a different accent)?
More often than not, this is done on purpose to make the note easier for the singer.
You may have worked on elements of vowel modification before (like lifting your soft palate) but it becomes even more nuanced and important in this high mix register.
WANT A LITTLE MORE?
If you want to
feel like you can navigate your mixed voice like a champ
get an understanding of what’s holding yours back from feeling consistent and reliable, and
love the sound of a week of free mixed voice training (from yours truly) complete with 3 full length live online workshops