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Belting (or vocal belting) is a specific technique of singing by which a singer produces a loud sound in the upper middle of the pitch range. It is often described as a vocal register, although some dispute this since technically the larynx is not oscillating in a unique way. Singers can use belting to convey heightened emotional states.
The term "belt" is sometimes mistakenly described as the use of chest voice in the higher part of the voice. The chest voice is a very general term for the sound and muscular functions of the speaking voice, singing in the lower range, and the voice used to shout. Still, all those possibilities require help from the muscles in the vocal folds and a thicker closure of the vocal folds. The term "chest voice" is therefore often a misunderstanding, as it describes muscular work in the chest-area of the body, but the "sound" described as "chest voice" is also produced by work of the vocal folds. However, the proper production of the belt voice according to some vocal methods involves minimizing tension in the throat and change of typical placement of the voice sound in the mouth, bringing it forward into the hard palate.
It is possible to learn classical vocal methods like bel canto and also to be able to belt; in fact, many musical roles now require it. The belt sound is easier for some than others, but the sound is possible for classical singers, too. It requires muscle coordinations not readily used in classically trained singers, which may be why some opera singers find learning to belt challenging.
In order to increase the number of high notes one can belt, one must practice. This can be by repeatedly attempting to hit the note in a melody line, or by using vocalise programs utilizing scales. Many commercial learn-to-sing packages[quantify] have a set of scales to sing along to as their main offering, with which the purchaser must practice often to see improvement.
'Belters' are not exempt from developing a strong head voice, as the more resonant their higher register in head voice, the better the belted notes in this range will be. Some belters find that after a period of time focusing on the belt, the head voice will have improved and, likewise, after a period of time focusing on the head voice, the belt may be found to have improved.[original research?]
There are many explanations as to how the belting voice quality is produced. When approaching the matter from the Bel Canto point of view, it is said that the chest voice is applied to the higher register.[clarification needed] However, through studying singers who use a "mixed" sound, practitioners have defined mixed sound as belting.[clarification needed] One researcher, Jo Estill, has conducted research on the belting voice, and describes the belting voice as an extremely muscular and physical way of singing. When observing the vocal tract and torso of singers, while belting, Estill observed:
- Minimal airflow (longer closed phase (70% or greater) than in any other type of phonation)
- Maximum muscular engagement of the torso (in Estill Voice Training terminology this is known as Torso Control or Anchoring)
- Engagement of muscles in the head and neck in order to stabilize the larynx) (in Estill Voice Training terminology this is known as Head and Neck Control or Anchoring)
- A downwards tilt of the cricoid cartilage (an alternative option would be the thyroid tilting backwards. Observations show a larger CT space)
- High positioning of the larynx
- Maximum muscular effort of the extrinsic laryngeal muscles, minimum effort at the level of the true vocal folds.
- Narrowing of the aryepiglottic sphincter (the "twanger")
Possible dangers of belting
Use of belting without proper coordination can lead to forcing. Forcing can lead consequently to vocal deterioration. Moderate use of the technique and, most importantly, retraction of the ventricular folds while singing is vital to safe belting. Without proper training in retraction, belting can indeed cause trauma to the vocal folds that requires the immediate attention of a doctor.
Proponents of belting say that it is a "soft yell," and if produced properly it can be healthy. It does not require straining and they say it is not damaging to the voice. However, the larynx is higher than in classical technique,and many experts on the singing voice believe that a high larynx position is both dangerous to vocal health and produces what many find to be an unpleasant sound.
On the other hand, it is thought by some that belting will produce vocal nodules. This may be true if belting is produced incorrectly. If the sound produced is a mixed head and chest sound that safely approximates a belt, produced well, there may be no damage to the vocal folds.
As for the physiological and acoustical features of the metallic voices, a master's thesis has drawn the following conclusions:
- No significant changes in frequency and amplitude of F1 were observed
- Significant increases in amplitudes of F2, F3 and F4 were found
- In frequencies for F2, metallic voice perceived as louder was correlated to increase in amplitude of F3 and F4
- Vocal tract adjustments like velar lowering, pharyngeal wall narrowing, laryngeal raising, aryepiglottic and lateral laryngeal constriction were frequently found.
- Henrich, D. N. (2006), "Mirroring the voice from Garcia to the present day: Some insights into singing voice registers", Logopedics Phonatrics Vocology 31 (1): 3–14, doi:10.1080/14015430500344844
- Singers such as Christina Aguilera are known for their signature styles of belting Soto-Morettini, D. (2006), Popular Singing: A Practical Guide To: Pop, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Country and Gospel, A & C Black, ISBN 978-0-7136-7266-4
- Estill J (1988). Belting and Classic Voice Quality: Some Physiological Differences. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 3:37-43.
- Yanagisawa E and Estill J (1989). The Contribution of Aryepiglottic Constriction to "Ringing Voice Quality. Journal of Voice, 3:342-350
- The OXFORD DICTIONARY OF OPERA. JOHN WARRACK AND EWAN WEST, ISBN 0-19-869164-5
- Metallic voice: physiological and acoustic features