Coaching for musicals – belting the money note
I’m at the Jacques Samuel studios in London’s West End for my regular coaching sessions.
Today seems to be troubleshooting day, and I thought I’d share one particular session on this blog.
My client was having problems with belting the money note in a song (the song title escapes me at the moment – must be middle age creeping in).
The second half of the song sits up around F and G, and the final note is a long held G on the word “go”. since he has easy high A’s, he couldn’t work out why the G was so taxing. So we broke down the task into its separate components.
The word components:
The g of “go” didn’t seem to be causing problems, but the vowels were. He was trying to close down onto the second vowel of the diphthong (like the conscientious singer he is). So we experimented with different vowels for the diphthong – Ah Oh (as in cart hot) worked best in this case, but you may need to experiment yourself for a better personal choice. Some vowels may need to be modified in belting to get the sound you want without losing too much of the word.
Doing “Gah-oh” worked superbly for him – giving him a really open and exciting belt sound, a clearer first vowel, and helping him avoid closing down too much for the second vowel. This change pretty much solved the problem, so there were really only two tweaks left.
The G isn’t really in his belt range, it’s just underneath, so vocally it feels a little odd. Even though he wasn’t in a vocal belt setup, by putting him in a physical belt position (body braced, head up “to the gods”, the sound got just a little thicker and easier without him weighting his voice any more. It also looks good!
Coming off a belt note can be tricky if you’re not completely balanced. We explored different tone offsets, including glottal offset (which sounds like a truck into a brick wall, frankly, but could be useful for shock value), and chose the slight pitch bend downwards for best effect. So his pattern was hit the note in ‘belt position’, hold it absolutely straight until the last few seconds, add the vibrato, and drop the pitch around a tone just as he offset the sound.
Working well so far…
And for more applause we added a delay to the word of a couple of beats, and a gasp offset right at the end.
Shockingly corny I know, but it builds the intensity of the performance without having to do it vocally. And in this song, corny works.
Client was pleased that the fix was so straightforward (and quick).
Well, that’s 25 years of experience, and that’s what you pay me for.
***Update. Client just emailed to remind me that the song is “She Was There” from The Scarlet Pimpernel. End of senior moment***