Legit, Belt, Mix

These three terms, “legit”, “belt”, and “mix” are used as normal parlance on Broadway and on the West End in London. They were terms created by the marketplace. If you audition for a Broadway show, you must understand these terms and the sounds they represent. If you do not, you won’t get a job.

If you think that singing all music in your “classical sound” is appropriate, you are living in a world that has nothing to do with the music business. Most of the people on Broadway, in jazz, in R&B, in gospel, in country or folk music do not know or care about “vocal technique” and many of them never have a single lesson in their entire lives until and unless they have a vocal problem. This has been true since the early 1900s. You can go back to the early movie musicals and find Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, both classically trained singers, and compare them to Joe E. Brown, Al Jolson, and the young Ethel Merman. If you hear all of their sounds as being “the same”, you need to get someone with educated ears to help you listen.

If you do not know that classical music has its roots in Europe in either the church or in the halls of the aristocrary and royalty, you should. If you do not know that most of the music indigenous to the USA (separate from the music of the original native Americans, who have their own musical traditions) then you should. The origins of the two overarching genres are totally different.

The reasons that all styles in CCM are grouped together is because of their common roots in the average person, not in the sophisticated, the educated, and the elite. In fact, Cole Porter was probably one of the first people of “upper class” status who had a significant and lasting impact on theater music and he was heavily influenced by the many immigrant composers whose families came here in the great influx of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Composers like Gershwin and Berlin had their compositional roots in the music of eastern Europe and that music was influenced by other cultures going back for generations.

The idea that all singing should be regarded as being the same is not only not grounded in the real world, it is detrimental to those who would train singers to get a job in any CCM style. Contrary to the idea that all musical training at a college level is part of a “liberal arts education” making the student a more well rounded human being, functional training has no such goals. In an applied degree program, if you are not training students to get jobs, what are you doing? Making them better at appreciating music? If you bring in casting agents and directors from Broadway and you do showcases for your graduates and you are not doing voice training geared at having a viable career, what are you doing? The confusion isn’t in the music business, because, truly, when you stand up to audition no one cares where you went to school, or even IF you went to school, they care how you sing the song. If you don’t know how to do what is expected in the audition, you won’t get the job. Period. If you are singing for a jazz combo and you can’t easily sit in and jam, you won’t be asked back up. If you are making a demo of country music and you don’t know how country music sounds, and you sing in your best English pronunciation, you won’t get a record deal.

The list of young singers who came to me to learn “CCM styles” after graduating from a college where they could not belt or belt/mix is very long. Why should this be so?

If any of this had to do with exclusively with one person, one approach, one philosophy, one kind of
training, that would be so revolutionary it would attract attention world over. Seriously, it would be nothing less than a miracle. The music is so diverse and it is necessary to know so much about each style to do it comfortably and authentically, that it would take lifetimes to be equally good at everything.

I admit to having absolutely no patience for the arguments of those who are “classically trained” who think they know more than the people doing the hiring.

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