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Belt that Twang


By Daniel K. Robinson
(2009)

There are many contentious topics surrounding the teaching of voice. From the most obvious such as the Classical vs. Contemporary debate through to the more sublime; Where and how is vibrato produced? One reason, among the many, for these points of controversy is our lack of knowledge. Thats right! There is still so much we dont know about the human voice and how it does what it doeslittle alone how we might then teach it to undertake certain tasks. It is in this context of developing knowledge that I offer the following musings... For years I have stated to my students that two areas of technique that are foundational to the contemporary singers development are Twang and Belt! These two technical skills are still amongst the first skills that I cover with a studentbut what are they? Twang is a term codified by Jo Estil to label the focused resonance achieved when the epiglottis is shaped by the function of the aryepiglottic fold to form the laryngopharynx. In laymens terms, a new resonating chamber is formed which in turn produces a bright forward sound that we call Twang. NB: Twang is not nasality, but will often employ mask resonance which may be accessed through the nasal cavity. Research has shown that a singer who employs twang in either their spoken or sung voice production will achieve up to 600% more volume (15db) with no more effort. Twang is highly efficient in its use of air and it allows the singer to employ far less physical exertion in their vocal production. In turn, Twang proves to be an excellent ideal in helping to remediate the voice due to the manner in which it encourages a clean onset and evenness in adduction of the vocal folds. Contention still remains around whether Twang is the same as the Classical Ring or Singers Formant with much research and study still needed to qualify their differences (if any). I personally think that the classical singers formant is produced higher up the vocal tract towards the lower end of the pharynxtime and further research will tell! Belt, as we know it today, has its origins in Broadway with singers such as Ethel Merman. Originally identified as a raw sound with little resonance and colour, the ideal of belt has splintered the singing teaching community with many decrying its supposed damaging effects upon the voice. Having just returned from a National conference where Belt was a major topic of presentation and subsequent discussion, I understand that there are many strongly contested views which may in fact be contrary to my own understandings. Nevertheless I
Daniel K. Robinson - 2010 Page 1 of 2

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will offer the following as a simple yet carefully considered explanation. I have come to think of Belt as healthy loud singing produced with shortener dominance. Thats it! This definition takes into account that there may be different types of belt as some have suggested and it also allows that the activity, when produced carelessly, can become unhealthy. I generally define the unhealthy activity as yell-function. To go a step further I would suggest that the main ingredient in Belt is Twang. I.e. to achieve the healthy loud singing produced with shortener dominance, a singer must first form a clean focused sound with an efficient use of air (often heavily reduced sub-glottal pressure). You will notice I have stopped short of offering any vocal exercises which might help the student singer develop the techniques of Twang and Belt. This is due in part to the required and necessary partnership between student and teacher to maintain a healthy orientation in forming these sounds and also an acknowledgement to the varying methodologies offering established pathways to the formation of these techniques. You can hear Twang and Belt produced in all manner of Contemporary styles, such as Music Theatre, Pop, County, Rock and some forms of Jazz. Twang and Belt, when produced skilfully, will offer the singer increased volume, resonance and performance energyall with a healthy orientation which should allow the development of increased vocal stamina. This is, of course, if you continue to Belt that Twang.

Daniel K. Robinson - 2010

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