Screaming and Belting are both terms that some people use to describe a powerful dynamic voice. The terminology implies that a singer needs to shout or force their voice. This in turn creates confusion as to the methods used to acquire this skill and causes many singers to harm their voices by using destructive methods instead of healthy ones!
Centuries ago techniques were developed by singers who were capable of being heard across a crowded theatre or room without the aid of amplification - it hadn't been invented! The use of technology has provided singers with a means of being heard regardless of their vocal ability. A clever sound engineer with good equipment can mask or correct vocal errors, enhance a weak voice and make a quiet voice sound stronger so many of the aspects required for developing a strong voice are neglected.
Yes, there are singers who scream or use bad techniques, but they invariably suffer with vocal problems throughout their short-lived career due to overuse and strain on the voice, just as there are individuals who are blessed with naturally strong voices or an upbringing that encourages healthy growth, but for the majority of individuals there are no 'short cuts' or 'quick fixes', developing a powerful voice can take months or years depending on the individuals training, experience and natural ability. Don't despair! we have supplied a few tips on working with musicians and how to use amplification effectively that should help the voice to appear stronger whilst you work on improving your abilities.
Powerful voices are developed through a combination of correct Breath Control, Good Posture, healthy Vocal Techniques and Practice! These building blocks will enable the singer to develop the vocal mechanism in a healthy manner.
There are several techniques that can be adopted to produce a stronger sound, but the main things to remember when attempting any exercise or technique are:
A. If it feels unconfortable - Stop.
B. If your voice hurts during or after singing - Stop.
Never over-reach, over use or attempt to push your voice past it's natural limits. There is nothing wrong in exploring and experimenting, however, avoid anything that causes strain on the vocal mechanism and rest the voice completely if you experience soreness or discomfort.
Putting in the Power
Less is More! One of the most common mistakes is to exhale too much air when sounding a note. This places pressure on the vocal chords which as well as causing strain, prevents them from working at their optimum.
Be in Control! Using the abdominal muscles and diaphram correctly allows the singer to control the amount of airflow.
Tilt the larynx slightly, this stretches the vocal folds and creates a brighter tone. Tone is an important factor in the perception of 'volume' - some accents like the American nasal 'Twang' contain a natural brightness which makes the voice sound louder than when using more mellow rounder tones, even if the notes are sung at the same volume. Pick a note or two and experiment with tilting and lowering the larynx, raising the soft palate, mouth shapes, tongue placement, vowels and consonants to see how each combination affects the volume and tone of your voice.
Sing Forward! A singer should learn how to place their notes and 'project' their voice. Humming is good for practicing placement, if the note is directed forward then the lips should vibrate gently (no pursing or clenching or it won't work). Imagery is often effective for learning how to project the voice. Picture yourself on a stage in a large hall, sing at a normal level aiming the notes towards the back wall, try and 'bounce' them off the wall without raising the volume.
Stay Relaxed! Although slightly more tension is to be expected, everything above the abdomen should be relaxed, avoid clenching, hunching or straining the muscles in the throat, shoulders and jaw to allow the voice to flow freely.
The singer may find that they can produce a powerful sound during rehearsal but not during a performance or the reverse may occur. Adrenalin and tension can be a hinderance or a help depending on the character of the singer. In some it boosts the performance whilst others become stressed and try too hard.
When learning or practicing songs with a band it is easy to strain the voice by over singing. If a song is demanding, has difficult notes or requires powerful expression the singer should avoid performing at full belt on every run through. Use a lighter technique, hold back or hum the melody line until the accompanying musicians have a good grasp of the song, then have ONE run through at full efficiency and move on to the next song. You can always go back to the song later in the session, during the next band practice or during a vocal practice. The amount of time spent learning a song decreases in direct relation to the experience and proficiency of the performers. A professional singer who works with competent sight reading musicians is unlikely to require more than one or two rehearsals of a complete set whereas amateurs may need several hours of constant practice before one song is played to a reasonable standard.
Turn it Down!
Nowadays there are few excuses for a singer to be 'drowned out' by the accompaniment. A competent sound engineer will adjust the gain and e.q. so that the vocals are above the level of the music. Problems usually arise when the artist/band are required to operate their own sound system, this is usually due to inexperience and the inability to 'hear' themselves adequately.
1. Place the P.A. speakers behind the band or use a monitor. This provides a clearer picture of the overall sound.
2. Enroll the help of a mate with a good ear to listen during the sound check/set and advise band members if they need to adjust volumes/e.q. if a sound engineer is unavailable.
3. A singer is not a machine! All voices have their limits, the other musicians have to accept that. A guitar may have several means of increasing the noise level including volume control on the guitar itself, an effect enhancer plus the gain on the amplifier - the singer only has their voice and the gain on their sound system, there is no point trying to compete with an electronically amplified musical instrument. The louder you sing, the more the rest of the band will turn up their volumes.......although some musicians will do this anyway during the course of a gig, setting up the instruments volume levels during a sound check so that they are beneath the level of your quietest vocal will go a little way towards preventing a battle to be heard!
4. Know Your Songs and Communicate! A band should work on volume levels for each song during the rehearsal stage. Getting used to playing with more sensitivity and lowering volume levels for quiet passages and songs creates far more interest and impact than constantly playing at the same level. Watching and indicating to each other can prevent problems from arising and enable the band to produce a balanced sound. If your a singer, don't be afraid to say something if you cannot hear or be heard.
5. Organise The Set List! A singers voice has to work efficiently throughout the whole performance, placing demanding songs together may cause strain on the voice, it is more effective and easier on the voice to use this type of song at various points in the set with less exacting material in between. The voice should be warmed up before the performance and rested between sets.
6. Purchase a microphone that suits your voice plus experiment with e.q. settings and microphone techniques to enhance your natural tone.
Rock Belting & Screaming
A journey of voice discovery by Daniel Trigger.
Related Articles & Sites
These are just a small example of the extensive links to online articles and lessons available in the Singers Articles sections, which contain complete listings of lessons, exercises or articles available on each site with direct links to the page (when not a framed site) plus answers to pretty much everything a beginner, intermediate, advanced singer or teacher needs to know! (All links below open in a new window).
A Singer's Guide to the Well-Trained and Powerful Voice
by Cheryl Hodge gives an insight into the book with do's and dont's, vocal health and other issues for singers.
by Kristina's Vocal Studio, provides an overview of belting and dispels a few myths and How Do I Sing More Loudly? also by Kristina.
Misconceptions about the Power of the Voice
by Sharon L. Radionoff, PhD published in Texas Sings, Winter 1997 explores the myths and provides insight into powerful vocals.
Musical Theatre and Belt Voice 11
This is a review from the NATS Boston Chapter Winter Workshop 2001 by board member Anne Peckham. Other articles are available at the Boston Chapter website.
How to get the power without the push by Mark Baxter
Singing Dramatically without Pushing the Voice
Article by voice teacher & maestro David Jones explores the reasons behind 'pushing the voice' and supplies a solution.
The Control of Air Flow During Loud Soprano Singing
In this study, the control of air flow during the unvoiced consonants is examined for an operatic-style soprano. By Dr. Martin Rothenberg.