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A common trap singers fall into: singing everything LOUDLY

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“How can I sing this whole song loudly and with more power?” and “How can I belt like the person on the recording?”

These are a couple of the most common questions I’ve noticed from singers-in-training over nearly twenty years of being a singing teacher.  I want you to know better, so that you don’t fall into the same trap!

Why do you want to sing everything loudly?

Firstly: why do you need to sing everything loudly?  Because the person on the recording does? Do they though? Listen to the recording again.  Are you sure what you’re hearing is loud singing, all the way through the song? Are you actually hearing continuously high vocal effort? 

Here’s the interesting thing: many people perceive ‘loudness’ when what they are actually seeing and hearing is a combination of things: backing singers, an orchestra or band playing, lighting, costume, special effects. Your brain translates all that sound and visual information as ‘loudness’ and your subconscious thinks you have to sing loudly to match the energy.  “It roars” from Mean Girls is a great example of this.

Let me tell you that you really don’t. And, if you do, you’re not going to be able to sustain your voice seven shows a week, week in, week out.  

Remember musical theatre and pop singers – you have a microphone. Yes, sing a few phrases more loudly if that works with the emotion and mood of the song. But the rest of the time? Let the mic do the hard work of ‘projection’ for you. 

I want to be able to belt like them though!

As for belting.  Again, ask yourself, why do you want to belt that note? Because the person on the recording does?

Fellow songbird, the person on the recording isn’t you.  They don’t have your voice, they might be fifteen years older and have a decade of professional experience under their belt (pardon the pun). 

Also – are they actually belting? Or is what you are hearing a skilful use of resonating strategies to give you that pingy, power sound that your brain assumes is a belt based on M1 (chest voice)? 

Please be reassured that my belt is not your belt and is not your course-mate’s belt.  We are all different and there is no law to say we have to sing a song the same way as the person on the recording.  

Don’t get me wrong – as a musical theatre singer, you will need to work on your technical skills so that you can belt or sustain a power sound for a few bars of a song that require it, but you never need to belt the whole song.  

I think we can all agree that no-one likes being shouted at by a singer on stage for three and a half minutes?  

‘Landscaping’ – crafting the emotional journey of a song

Pippa, your vocal coach in Manchester tutoring one of her students.

So how do you craft a song so that it hits the emotional beats but is still sustainable for your voice in the long-term?

Be it Musical Theatre, Pop, or Classical singing – the spine-sizzling, sweet stuff is in crafting a landscape of many dynamics and a variety of moods as your character switches between thoughts in a song. 

I like to think of it as a mountain landscape where there is only one highest peak.  This high peak is your loudest volume (probably not the loudest you can possibly sing, because that might end up in things becoming vocally unbalanced) and you’re only going to reach it once in the song – maybe once across a few bars.  

When you climb a mountain, think about how you go up a bit, then down, a bit, then up lots, then down a bit, until the final climb right to the top.  This is a good way to think about how to shape the dynamics of your song.  

Dare to sing quiet, intense phrases, be brave and sing excited-quiet, have the courage to take your audience on an adventure of tension and release with your dynamics. I promise they will reward you for it by listening intently and feeling the same thrill when you reach the top of your mountain. 

Oh, and remember musical theatre and pop singers – you have a microphone. Let the mic do the hard work for you. Back off the volume and tell us the story.

Have a go with the landscaping technique – let us know how you get on!

Looking for a singing teaching or vocal coach near you? Check out our article “How to find the right singing teacher or vocal coach for you.”

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