If you watched the Tony Awards in June you would have heard a variety of singing. Broadway covers all styles and all kinds of voices. You would also have noticed that there is a lot of belting and that, in fact, the belting is louder and higher all the time. The idea that people are shouting while singing seems to have disappeared because now it’s just “the way people sing”. In fact, loud for loud’s sake is the name of the game.
Yes, belting is exciting. It is amazing to know that people can sing that high and loud in a powerful sound but if you had a moment to listen to Bebe Neuwirth, you might have noticed that she has a pronounced wobble. Twenty years ago when she was in Chicago (and she was terrific) she screamed her way through the show and I wondered then, how long will this voice hold up, given how she is singing? The answer is, not too long. She is, after all, only 56. Maybe the problem is caused by something other than her singing, but I wonder.
The need to sing in a loud, high belt isn’t going to change any time soon. The need to make this sound if you are going to work on Broadway continues to be essential. Considering that a lot of singing teachers are still old enough to have been exclusively classically trained, most have only a vague idea of how to approach it.
You must understand that belting arises out of chest register. It requires a very open mouth (dropped jaw), strong pressure from the abdominal muscles and the ability and willingness to lift the head on high notes.
If you are singing this music, understand that it takes a toll on the vocal folds, even in those who are good at it. If you sing 8 times a week in a show, you are even more likely to incur vocal injury. You MUST learn to do this sound with the least amount of effort possible. If you have a teacher who asks you, “Does this feel OK? Are you belting now?” RUN away. RUN away!!!!! If they are asking you how you are singing, they should be paying you.
Remember, if it feels hard and sounds bad, it’s wrong. Find another way, another teacher, another coach. You only have one voice and if anything serious happens to it, you might never get it back. The world is full of people who think they know because they do.