I remember a favorite student of mine at her first lesson announcing that she
only sang musical theater and she only sang to C5.
I looked over the top of my glasses and said, oh, really?
This same student was selected along with 30 other singers to participate in an international opera program held in China; I sing Beijing and successfully graduated from a prestigious opera /music theater program at Oklahoma State University where she was cast in Le Nozze di Figaro and featured in an article in the Classical Singer magazine. The moral of the story is that without the pursuit of solid vocal technique and balanced laryngeal musculature it is very difficult to obtain any sort of professional longevity. It is also a beneficial byproduct to be able to crossover and make money as a professional in various genres in this intensely competitive business. The truth remains that if you sing in this style well, you are a very marketable commodity and can have an extraordinarily long and rich vocal career.
When teaching belt style singing it is beneficial to warm up and focus a student’s instrument with a more formalized Italianate vocal technique and from that basis move on to different genres and vocalisms that are appropriate to that particular type of singing style that interests the student. Good, healthy singing is good, healthy singing. If you add scooping, straight tone and vocal intensity for a particular acceptable stylistic sound, it still needs to be produced well.
During one’s career, certain singers are able to sing everything from musical revue to grand opera. In a period of a month within my own career, I was chosen as one of twenty singers to compete in The National Finals for the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and then moved to Florida to be in The Walt Disney Epcot Center‘s vocal jazz ensemble; the Voices of Liberty. This professional diversity has provided a more consistent employment than an average singer. Some pedagogical colleagues denounce the importance of teaching a healthy belt technique meanwhile their students are more likely singing this literature without their knowledge. Many teachers of singing are unable to produce a sturdy and pleasant belt sound and therefore do not wish to teach of this technique.
While studying belt technique with Dr. David Alt of the Frost School of Music at Miami University, he was able to communicate how to belt high F’s (F5) without vocal fatigue in a one hour session. His ability to speak pedagogically and muscularly has guided my teaching of belt technique. Three areas of focus when belting that are most beneficial are: 1) the use of a modified and flattened colloquial vowel structure 2) an extended laryngeal length and 3) a higher zygomatic lift in one’s approach to optimal embouchure and positioning. These three areas of focus help the singer sound as though they are using a full muscular belt when in actuality the result is register blending and therefore the singer is less prone to vocal fatigue.
Vocal health and coordination is elementally vital in the discovery of one’s optimum singing expression. Some students prefer to pass over this technical vocal development and sing what they heard on the radio. These singers are liable to have an abruptly shortened career or develop some very undesirable side-effects along their professional road. Singing is a long-term process. Singers can be tempted to sing by imitation only, often the typical singer has an innate ability to mimic, and to mimic well.
Dr. Rebecca KoenigBerg
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Department of Music