What many fail to realize is that belting is as much a controlled type of singing as anything else. Most think belting is just singing louder.
There is a difference between applying good vocal technique to “belt” out a tune and screaming at the top of your lungs while music plays in the background.
I work with a lot of different types of singers in my practice. There are youngsters and “tweens” whose vocal apparatus has yet to mature, there are the older teens, who are still growing, there are the 20 somethings who want to be rock stars, the 30 somethings that want to sing show tunes, the 40 somethings who wants to sing opera, and the 50, 60, and beyond, somethings who just wanna kill their next audition.
One thing I try to get across to every student is that proper vocal technique applies to all ages and all styles of music. If you want to sing throughout your life, you need to do it right. Once a good, solid foundation is built, the student can learn to adapt to stylistic differences.
How well one sounds in each genre depends on individual physiology. I, for instance, am not at my best singing hard rock. My vocal apparatus is better suited for American Standards, Musical Theater, Pop and Opera. But, again, these are all styles of singing. The underlying fundamentals of sound production are the same; it’s the delivery that’s different.
The most important thing to remember is that singing (or speaking) should not be painful. If singing is painful, you are doing something wrong and will, most likely, end up at the ear, nose and throat doctor.
I have had the joy of working with a young gentleman for the past 2 years. He came to see me because he heard me sing at his grandmother’s funeral and thought I had the voice of an angel so he trusted me to know my stuff. He’s the lead singer with a classic rock band and while it’s a hobby, not a living, he was in pain and knew he needed help.
He had some pitch problems. He spent most of his gigs truly screaming which rendered him unable to speak afterward. His posture was terrible for singing. His vocal focus was in his head and throat because he had to use the very top of his range to imitate Robert Plant for the band’s Led Zepplin set, and not knowing any other way, squeezing his vocal bands and neck muscles were his closest attempt at imitation.
He was smart. He knew he was hurting and wanted help before he did any permanent damage. He was willing to work hard. He was open-minded and worked on every vocal exercise I gave him. He learned to sing other styles of music as a stepping stone. He was already very athletic with great core strength; which is essential. On my advice, he changed his gym routine to add more cardio and correct some muscle imbalances.
Together, we worked on learning to read music and the basics of sight-singing, we reviewed all the classic vocal warm-ups and exercises that have stood the test of time since Manuel Garcia. We worked on repertoire that I picked out by asking what other styles of music he liked… Sinatra, Martin, Sam Cooke, Christmas songs so he could sing “O Holy Night” for his Mom… and then we’d spend time analyzing the voice of Robert Plant.
The hardest thing for my student to ‘get’ was that while some may think Plant sounds like he’s screaming; he’s not. Plant’s voice flies on pitch and can be created in a controlled, aka “safe”, way.
Fast forward a year, my student has a big show coming up. He’s had many breakthroughs. This is where it will all come together or fall apart. Had we established enough of a foundation to carry him through a performance?
He sang 2 hour long sets, all classic rock and mostly Led Zepplin tunes. He used the vocal siren technique to get into his high range, was able to complete the passages with ease, and at times, able to recover and pull some notes back from what might have been, for me as the teacher, disaster, without the audience knowing. Best of all his diction was perfect!
At the end of the show, he came over to me and said he felt good. He was able to talk to his friends and family without any hoarseness. He wasn’t guzzling water, and, most importantly, he was wasn’t in pain at any time during or after the show.
This was his triumph. I am happy to have been there to help him achieve his goal.
Our job as voice teachers/vocal coaches is not just to teach the song to get the job, or land the role, but to instruct all who come to us in the preservation of the voice.