The overlap between your chest voice and head voice is where you will find your belt zone, i.e. those few golden notes that can be sung in your head voice or with increased air pressure and support; belted. Although it is known by other names I refer to this area as the belt zone. This article can help you find and identify those notes which are specific to your range.
1. This works best with a piano or keyboard. It doesn't matter if you don't know your range i.e bass, alto etc. I find it simplest to use a full size piano with 7 octaves or you can use a 61 note keyboard with 5 octaves (C1-C6). Look at the picture below. Each number represents a different octave (most commonly depicted on C with C4 being 'Middle C'). This acts as a reference when singers say e.g. they can sing up to an Eb. Err...which Eb is that exactly? Eb2 or Eb5? Exactly!
2. Start by finding your breaking point. Sing a chromatic scale using something non distracting like vowel sounds from your lowest note to your highest note. A chromatic scale means to include every white note and black note in-between (see pic). Don't skip any notes as you would e.g. for a major or minor scale.
3. Sing lightly with only a moderate amount of air pressure so you don't get a false result. This is really important. Don't attempt to belt this test! That will defeat the object. As you sing up the scale you will feel and hear your voice getting higher in pitch. Eventually your voice will need to 'break' to continue into your upper register.
4. Check which note on the keyboard your breaking point occurred. Where did you naturally and easily switch from chest to head voice? It is that first note followed by about 4-6 consecutive notes that you will be able to belt with increased air pressure. For example I am an alto and my breaking point is F4 so my belt zone is in the fourth octave and it is: F, F#, G, G#, A, Bb. Armed with that knowledge you will be able to tell from sight reading if a piece is suitable for your range.
5. Using more or less air pressure in this test will alter the point in which your voice breaks. You may need to do this several times to get an accurate picture and then use it as a guide. For example, my voice usually breaks at F4, but I say my breaking point is between an F4-G4 as it will change slightly on variations in my air pressure, adrenaline levels, time of day or energy. Now you have located your breaking point, increase your air pressure to go past it and remain in chest voice. This is belting.
TIP: Refer to my article How To Stop Straining Your Voice for a guide to safe belting.
Georgie Cooper has been coaching and training singers for 10 years in the South East & Kent. With these articles she aims to simplify much of the myth & jargon when learning how to sing. Click here to read 5 Tricks To Master Your Breathing