Hitting an impressively high note while performing can be a total showstopper. Hitting that note with a belt, which uses the chest voice to produce a loud and passionate sound, can be even more exciting to hear.
Singers in many different genres can use a belt to express emotion and provide a climax to whatever they’re singing, showing off their talent and helping the audience to empathize with their song.
However, belting is something that can be done poorly without proper techniques. In my 20 years as a musician, I’ve come across many people doing this poorly.
To follow the lead of these professionals, you need to know how to sing higher in your chest voice the right way.
If you want to learn how to sing higher in your chest voice, you must also learn the proper technique to avoid harming your vocal cords. Belting does not always come naturally, but knowing how to belt correctly and practicing can help any singer improve their skills. Useful techniques for singing higher in chest voice include:
- Finding your placement
- Breathing and breath support
- Relaxing your body
- Proper warmups
- Listening to good models
Look ahead for more details on these techniques to help you sing higher with your belt.
5 Ways To Help You Sing Higher In Your Chest Voice
When it comes to belting or singing higher in your chest voice, there are a lot of techniques you may want to try that fits your specific voice. But these 5 ways to sing higher are effective general techniques that can help anyone sing higher.
1. Finding Your Placement
In my vocal training experience, knowing how to sing so that your voice stays healthy is much more important than learning a skill quickly, and knowing the proper technique takes time and practice. Any voice teacher, including myself, will tell you that belting isn’t simply pushing your chest voice higher, and attempting to do so will only result in straining your voice.
In order to begin learning how to belt, you must first find out where the sound will resonate in your face when you sing. This is called your “placement” when it comes to singing.
A Crash Course In Placement
Many singers already know the difference between their chest voice, which creates a vibration in your mouth when you sing, and their head voice, which vibrates at the top of their head behind their eyes. At some point when singing up a scale, you’ll physically feel a switch between your chest and head voice.
When trying to sing higher in your chest voice, you may want to attempt a technique called “mixing,” where your sound will resonate both in your mouth and behind your eyes. You will essentially be combining your chest and head voice to create a higher-pitched sound that doesn’t push your chest voice too high on its own.
Three Placement Tricks
This is called the three-register theory. What high chest voice singers are actually doing is creating a third register for them. They use and stretch with this register to sing higher using the powerhouse that is the chest voice while borrowing on the range of the head voice.
Finding and feeling this placement is only done through the act of singing, but not every exercise will work. Here are three of my favorite activities for discovering the third register:
Using speech first, use your voice to explore the different ways your voice makes sound. Speak in the head voice and chest voice.
Then, try to find the in-between. You start with speaking so you don’t strain your voice.
After you discover your belting/higher chest voice, pay attention to how this voice feels and where you’re placing the voice in your head and mouth.
Now it’s time to do this with singing. This exercise increases awareness.
After finding this placement feeling, you explore the voice by doing a crescendo-decrescendo exercise often called Messa di voce.
In this exercise, you pick a single pitch starting in your middle chest voice and sing it on an open vowel such as “loo”. Start softly and then sing louder (crescendo), and then sing softer (decrescendo).
Repeat one-half step up. Continue until you’ve reached as high as you can sing.
This exercise will increase your familiarity with the higher chest voice. It will also strengthen this range as well.
I use siren sounds with my elementary kids, high school kids, and adults I teach in private lessons. There is no bad time for siren sounds.
Siren activities are when you slide your voice from as low as you can go to as high as you can go nice and slow. My personal favorite is sliding on the syllable “ah” while blowing gentle lip bubbles.
This exercise done slowly will help you feel where all the registers are and how the placement of your voice will change depending on the pitch. While doing this, make sure you pay attention to how your voice feels and not do it without thinking.
In the video below, vocal coach Roger Burnley demonstrates this technique, which he describes as pulling the head voice down into the chest voice:
2. Just breathe!
Belting is often misunderstood as being damaging to the voice, especially if it’s used over time, but many professional singers have been able to belt throughout their entire careers with no damage. In order to maintain this skill, singers must know how their breath and posture should cater specifically to their belt.
When starting to learn to belt, it’s easy to think that expelling more breath will lead to more power behind the sound. In fact, forcing more breath out when singing can cause additional strain on your vocal cords.
When you are first learning how to belt, you want to try producing as little air as you can. This is because belting is similar to shouting; it is usually done in short bursts and isn’t meant to be sustained.
Practice keeping the chest lifted while breathing in and out. This will help the diaphragm to drop and provide the air needed to belt. Push-ups don’t seem like they would help the voice, but regular practice will strengthen the pectoral muscles, which can provide the strength behind a good belt.
3. Relax Your Body
On top of learning how to breathe correctly, singers must learn how their posture will affect their ability to project their voices out and hit higher notes with their chest voice. Standing or sitting up straight is important for the singing of any kind, but is especially important when belting.
One of the best ways to prevent vocal damage when belting is to sing from the whole body rather than just the throat.
There is a sensation known as the “point of appoggio,”. It is mainly the point where the tension in the muscles reaches its maximum while singing. Many singers experience this in their throat or on their neck if they are not using proper techniques. Singers that are looking to learn how to belt must also learn how to move this point lower into their chest.
In order to sing from the chest rather than putting too much pressure on the throat, you should try holding the chest up high while keeping shoulders back and loose and the neck relaxed.
4. Proper Warmups
Singers that want to learn to belt can modify their vocal exercises to specifically target their chest voices and help them hit higher notes. Belting warm-ups should not take too long; belting is a technique that should only be used in short segments to avoid damaging the vocal cords. No one should ever belt through an entire song. Here are few tips and techniques that I personally use when practicing before performing on the stage. I also teach my students how to do them during their lessons with me.
“That’s Mine” Warmup
One method for warming up to a belt is to move through a scale singing “that’s mine,” emphasizing the “that’s” on sol and moving to do on “mine” (using a solfege scale). While singing, engage your obliques, or the sides of your abdominal wall.
You can feel how your obliques should engage by placing your fists above these muscles, then either coughing or saying “hey.” Over time, you should be able to feel this exertion without making noise. When performing the “that’s mine” vocal exercise, you will exert your oblique muscles on the “that’s.”
Another simple way to warm up before belting is to extend words or phrases. This can work with the above “that’s mine” exercise. When saying “mine,” try holding the sound out for a bit longer than you would if you were just saying the word in a conversation. Extending it will help you to move up in your speaking voice (or your chest voice) while making more musical sounds.
When you listen to a professional singer, their ability to belt may seem completely natural and, in fact, should feel natural as well. But all singers have to practice and learn about proper exercises and breathing to get their voice in a place where belting comes as easily as any other form of singing.
Lip Bubble Octave Stretch
As I recommended with sirens, this exercise will use lip bubbles while making a vowel sound behind them. You do lip bubbles by lightly making your lips buzz or bubble while singing.
The bubbles encourage you to support your sound with air, and singers are often distracted by the bubbles which helps you sing higher without realizing it.
As you do this exercise, your voice will naturally begin pushing your chest voice through the belting or third register. You can do this warm-up with many vowels, but try to follow the graphic as well.
5. Listening To Good Models
One of the most neglected aspects of learning how to sing or play an instrument is listening. Without a good idea of what something is supposed to sound like, you’ll never be able to your own awareness to your sound.
To this end, you should listen to good models of singers singing high in their chest voice. As you listen, don’t just relax and enjoy but think critically.
Listen for the tone of their voice. If it’s on video, notice their body posture and how they breathe.
Don’t just listen occasionally, listen every day.
If the person’s voice type and range don’t match yours exactly, that’s OK. Make sure you listen to the same gender as you and pay more attention to what we mentioned above.
Famous female artists to listen to include:
- Barbara Streisand
- Whitney Houston
- Celine Dion
- Aretha Franklin
- Mariah Carey
Famous male artists* to listen to include:
- Elton John
- John Cougar Mellencamp
- Rod Stewart
- Bobby Lewis
- Hugh Jackman
*Male voices don’t really belt, but these same techniques work for helping men sing higher in chest voice. It’s just called singing with mixed voice.
I hope you enjoyed learning about how to sing higher in your chest voice. These techniques won’t replace study with a professional, but they will make you better and give you a great place to start from.
Gaining the ability to belt will give you access to a wide variety of musical genres, like rock or pop, that require a more emotional sound. Musical theatre especially has an abundance of belting songs.
Although a larger repertoire and impressed audiences sound great, you must be sure that you are learning how to belt correctly before attempting one of the hardest vocal techniques. Correct posture, breathing, and warm-ups will help you to sound your best, but will also keep your voice healthy and preserved for your entire singing career.
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