Linda Ronstadt’s belting instincts were spot on.
Here is an example of me singing “Musical Theatre Legit” style:
Words and Music by Geoff Levin & Chris Many
And here’s an example of me singing in more of a pop style:
From Musical Beans: Animal Songs For Children
In both instances, these were three to four hour recording sessions. Actually, for “Follow The Dream,” I really didn’t like my vocal performance from the first session, so I called Geoff and offered to come back to get it right the next day. That took another couple of hours, but we all were much happier about the result.
Bottom line is, recording sessions can take hours, days, weeks, months. Whether you choose to sing in a big belt, legit or pop style is up to you, your instrument (meaning your entire body) and your artistic inclination. However, if the vocal instrument breaks down, the session ends right there. You don’t finish because the vocal sound is different than the sound you started with. In other words, you don’t want to start off with a clean sound only to end up all scratchy-sounding.
In both tracks, I sang with the exact same technique because as singers, we need to make sure we last for the entire session, whether it’s four minutes or four hours. The only thing I changed was the quality of sound I was going for. “Follow The Dream” required a much more Josh Grobin-type approach. With “I Wish We Didn’t Have To Say Goodnight,” I was the voice of a Teddy Bear.
Imagine having to lift a moderately heavy box. It’s on the floor, ready to be moved. Suddenly you get a phone call and you decide that you could probably carry on a conversation and lift that moderately heavy box with one arm. So, with the phone in one hand, you cheerily chat away, lean over, bend your knees a little bit, get that arm around the box and use your lower back and neck muscles to lift up. At that point, you realize that you may have misjudged this particular moderately heavy box and that it required more than one arm, it required two. That little bend in your knee should’ve been both thighs stretching and flexing. Not only that, but you probably should have used your glutes, back and chest to do the job properly.
And, just as suddenly, something is not right with your body and you are injured.
I’ve rehabbed a lot of singers’ voices. A Broadway/Pop Belt requires concentration, focus, trust and athleticism. After all, we’re talking eight shows a week on Broadway or six shows a day at a theme park or a four-hour minimum SAG/AFTRA recording session. What we do sounds difficult, but with concentration, focus, trust and athleticism, it is a relatively simple operation. All it requires is daily practice.
So, if you lift that same box incorrectly every day, you do not necessarily get stronger, you only risk further harm. Like that misjudged moderately heavy box, you don’t develop an unbreakable voice by breaking it every day. If it hurts when you sing, you’re doing it wrong.