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Applied Belting - Text Guide

In this unit, we'll take the techniques we've learned in practice and warmups and learn
how to apply them to actual performance. What happens when you actually have to
stand and deliver and sing? In this video I'll give you some helpful tips and strategies
that will help you in performance.

Belting in Performance

Why does it seem so tricky? Well, for one thing, so much of singing is mental, and when
the stakes are higher it can sometimes compromise your technique. This, of course,
further emphasizes just how crucial it is to practice -- so that technique becomes second
nature, and it doesn't just evaporate at a moments' notice. But in addition to practicing a
lot, there's some other stuff you can do to get in the right head space during a
performance.

What's the first thing to go?

Breath!

Honestly, the breath is almost always the first thing to go, and this is unfortunate,
because the breath powers your singing. A common thing that happens is that people
hold back, often holding their breath. They often tense their cords, and also tense their
diaphragm.

How to Guard Against This


In terms of activating breath, it's a great idea to always be doing lip trills before a
performance. In the wings, during applause. Just to awaken the breath and keep that air
flowing evenly.

Also, in performance, take deeper breaths than you think you need. It helps to
steady you and keep you grounded, if your diaphragm is moving very deliberately and
flexibly. Especially in performance, you can take larger breaths than you might
remember during warmups or exercises.

If you've ever meditated, you know that focusing on breath is a great way to keep your
mind from freaking out -- so not only is focusing on your diaphragm practical, because it
helps you to produce great sound, but it also keeps you from thinking all kinds of crazy
stuff or worrying about whether or not you're going to hit the high notes.

Another strategy I like to employ is the butt clench. The butt clench is something I did a
lot while I played Elphaba. It helped keep me grounded, particularly during "Defying
Gravity," but the other thing it does is it aids in the activation of your diaphragm. The
floor of your pelvis becomes activated and helps to create the right amount of muscle
control under your ribcage. From a mental standpoint, and energy standpoint, it also
helps to draw your energy and focus down which is hugely helpful in belting.

So why is it helpful to think down and to activate these muscles?

We keep talking about not tensing or drawing your larynx up but thinking of sound as
floating from you. Clenching your butt and thinking of staying grounded really helps
make this sensation possible.

It's like a counterweight. The counterweight of being grounded, and thinking about
breath and clenching your butt, helps you achieve that sense of ease and
weightlessness in the voice while belting. You can even think of your feet. Imagine that
the earth is a giant magnet and your feet are metal and you're getting pulled down to the
ground, very firmly. The higher you sing, the more grounded you become.

Tactics, "Tricks," and Strategies in Performance

1. Alternate vowels. This is probably the best "trick" that will help you belt in
performance. Find your go-to vowels -- your best vowels -- that allow you to hit a sweet
spot. Then apply those go-to vowels to as many words as possible. More often than not,
ANY word can be morphed into your favorite vowel, or at least made to feel very similar.

What do I mean by sweet spots? It's when you're planted, you're open, and your sound
is soaring in a perfect breath-to-tone feedback loop. You'll know when you hit it!
Memorize where the sweet spot is, and find the ideal vowel. Then manipulate the vowels
of the lyrics so that they're easy for you.

It's often very effective to sing an entire song on an easy vowel before you layer on the
lyrics. Just a simple /ah/ or /aa/ or even a /gnaa/.
Example: "And the rockets red glare" from "The Star Spangled Banner."

Lyrics, in general, can be really annoying because it seems like they're forcing us to do
certain vowels that might not be ideal for belting, or whatever style or tone we're trying to
achieve. So what do we do? We manipulate the lyric to conform to our sweet spot vowel!

So "and the rockets red glare" becomes "aanaa raakaa zraa glaa." And the listener fills
in the gaps.

Consonants can be tricky. Toss them when you can without getting sloppy. "And" the
rockets red glare. You don't have to voice the D. You don't have to voice the G in "glare."
Etcetera.

Every song presents new challenges; but the point is that you don't have to "obey" lyrics
exactly as written. A good vocal coach is great for helping you strategize about ideal
vowels. But, in general, if you know your voice you can start to develop great ways to
approach any lyric.

Never forget your alignment and posture.

Stand up straight! Keep that chest propped up! If you're playing a role, this can be
challenging. Things can get dicey if you have to adhere to blocking, but it's important to
keep your chest elevated. Never collapse your chest, this can cut off your sound
immediately! This is a very basic cue, but it can work wonders for helping you to create
that floating, easy sound that we're going for.

The takeaway: Singing is strategic! Your technique needs to be solid, but you also
need to take each challenge as it comes, employing our modified/alternate vowel
technique to the trickiest sections of your songs. And, as always, breathe, breathe,
breathe!!

Happy singing,
Felicia