For decades, individuals within the theatre and voice communities have struggled to form a unified definition for the term ‘belting’. In fact, there are literally hundreds of different definitions floating around out there (some more similar than others). I have written a few blog posts on this subject myself, but I’m not here to force my personal definition on anyone. In this post, I will instead explore how eight Broadway-level voice teachers and vocal coaches have defined the term ‘belting’ in articles and videos over the years. All of these teachers regularly work with high-level, professional and pre-professional musical theatre performers (though perhaps not exclusively). Therefore, their insights on this subject are very valuable. In addition to my previous related post, it is interesting to see what similarities appear across the board in these quotes. I hope you find them as fascinating as I did.
DISCLAIMER: The following short quotes are included here for non-profit, educational purposes ONLY. Some of these quotes are drawn from written sources dating back over a decade, so they may or may not be representative of how these individuals define belting today. Remember, a great deal of research on this subject has been done in recent years, and opinions can certainly change. Please view these quotes as very small snapshots into the minds of several professional voice instructors. If you are intrigued by what they say here, research their work and methods more extensively. All of these teachers have MUCH more to say on this subject and others.
“My definition of belting is that it’s a high-energy sound with lots of ring or brassiness to it that’s, in a way, analogous to yelling. It is only sometimes nasal, but always ‘twangy.'” – Joan Lader (2004)
“Belting is a dynamic theater sound produced from a mixed speaking voice. What we think of as the ‘belt sound’ is the apex of a spoken crescendo. Singing a belt style, however, includes all the colors and mobility of a well-trained speaking voice. There is only high belting above the primary passaggio. There is no belting in head voice.” – Mary Saunders-Barton (2001)
“Belting can be defined as controlled yelling or projected speech. It’s bright, intense, and powerful. This is the style most often used in musical theater today.” – Lisa Popeil (2012)
“The most consistent ingredients of belting are that it is ‘chest register’ or thryroarytenoid muscle dominant, it’s loud, it ‘carries’ and it has elements of speech production through all but perhaps the highest pitches, and it doesn’t ‘kick in’ as belting until it is near or above the traditional ‘break’ or ‘passaggio.'” – Jeannette LoVetri (2013)
“Belting is using an excessive amount of air (air blast) and vocal cord tension in an attempt to sing louder.” – Seth Riggs (1992)
“A twangy, often loud, bright sound that is the result of the coordinated activity of the thyroarytenoid (“chest”) and cricothyroid (“head”) vocal fold activity that, although thyroarytenoid dominant, is influenced by increased cricothyroid activity which increases as the voice ascends in pitch.” – Robert Edwin (1998)
“I would call it a more primitive style of singing that has greater thyroarytenoid action, particularly as one ascends, than the typical western classical voice… There is a greater vocal stiffness, there is greater thyroarytenoid action, the vocal fold is thicker, the vocal fold is a a little shorter creating a more chest dominant production.” – Neil Semer (2004)
“Belting is the drag of a stronger register or gear of the voice up into a lighter register or gear. It is the dragging of chest voice past the point where it wants to switch. It’s kind of like a yell– it’s a shout, or, a ‘belt’.” – Justin Stoney (2014)