Broadway belting has been something audiences love to hear since the 1940s, when the Queen of All Belters, Ethel Merman, was a main attraction.
Belting is a style of singing in which we bring the chest voice higher than we normally would to convey extra power or emotion. While some people (and teachers) shy away from it, it’s an exciting style of singing that when done correctly is marvelous. As one teacher described it, healthy belting should feel like “extended belly laughter”!
Musicals have almost always had a killer belt number or two in every show since then. Here is a list of six great numbers representing a wide variety of time periods, styles, and personalities!
Johnny One Note from “Babes in Arms”- made popular by the great Judy Garland, this number has you belting several big B flats.. “with gusto”! This 1937 show tune is a solid classic to choose when you’re auditioning for older shows. This is also a great choice for teen belters with a good middle voice: it provides enough of a challenge without too much of a chance to strain the voice as it doesn’t sit too high. Consider this a nice intro to belting!
Wherever He Ain’t- from “Mack and Mabel”- what a showstopper! Although Jerry Herman’s “Mack and Mabel” was not a hit, critics agree the music is sublime, and this is no exception! This sassy number is a bit higher and more challenging, so it’s best for an advanced adult belter with more secure technique.
City Lights from “ The Act”- Kander and Ebb wrote “The Act” for another legendary belter: Ms. Liza Minnelli! Don’t worry: you can make this one your own, and you should. It also runs for a 6 full minutes, so please make sure you perform the cut that shows you off best if it’s for an audition. This number is ideal for a dancer that belts! After all, these ARE the composers of “Chicago”! Not only will you be showing off your belting chops, but you’re expected to bring it as far as showmanship,too! This song sits lower, so range wise it’s not difficult. This one’s more about attitude and that Kander and Ebb “Razzle Dazzle”!
All Falls Down from “Chaplin” Ooh, this is a GREAT new one- yes, from another flop musical. However, it’s quickly being discovered as a fantastic piece to perform or audition . Why? It’s completely sassy and has a memorable “cakewalk” style. You get to belt this one full out: it’s probably the most challenging number on this list as you belt pretty high …again and again. For the advanced belters only!
I’m The Greatest Star from “Funny Girl”- Ok, so it’s been said “People” is off limits for all of us as it belongs to Barbra ( and I’ll have to agree with that!), but as far as I’m concerned singers should feel free to use the REST of the great songs in “Funny Girl”! The big belting doesn’t really come until the end of this song, so I’d say this is more for the intermediate belter. The bulk of the song lies in mid voice, and is meant to be sung with TONS of conviction… and serious comedic chops! Right now, Lea Michele is killing it in this role in the revival!
Live Out Loud from “ A Little Princess”-this is for younger belters! This charming new show has a wonderful , uplifting tune that is sure to wow. It is also very good for those who have more of a soprano-ish quality to their voice (soprano/belt is definitely a voice type! Lucky ladies like the fabulous Sierra Boggess , who performed it originally, are proof they exist. The melody is gorgeous and quick moving and it’s just under 3 minutes- so perfect piece for anything!
Remember that belting is a specific vocal skill that doesn’t come easy to most of us. It’s super easy to hurt yourself if you do it incorrectly. The last thing you want is strain or vocal deterioration!
Some voice teachers specialize in this technique, so make sure you’re working with someone that can help you achieve the sound you’re after! If you're wanting to improve your belt, book a lesson with me today!