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We are BACK

Thanks for your patience over the last few days– the search feature is back up and running today with another few hundred entries!

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Database Temporarily Off-Line

The data base is currently undergoing a bit of remodeling and is off-line. While that is happening, please feel free to use the “advanced search” capabilities.

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Anything that Matters, part 1

“Anything that Matters Never Gets Any Easier”
–Philip Seymour Hoffman
part 2 coming soon

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The Belt Book is now on Face Book and Twitter- Check it out!

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How to Search the Belt Book

In selecting criteria, you need to think both logically and historically. For example, for females, pre-1965, there are no low and no mid-Tessitura power ballads that are belt for any type. Why? Think!
• Stylistically, power ballads are particular to contemporary music. So are belted ballads of any kind.
• Ballads usually will fall into a belt-mix, as the intentions are gentler.
• A Low Tessitura song would likely not have enough “oomph” in pitch to make it “power” anything.

Type matters. For example, Anyone Can Whistle’s “There Won’t Be Trumpets” is written for a leading lady. Ingénues didn’t really belt pre-1965. Unless you consider Annie in Annie Get Your Gun an ingénue.

Which brings me to my next point. When I began categorizing data for the Belt Book, I was being a purist about type. Who originated the role and the character’s place in the context of the musical were what I used to define type. I am aware that some of that is a judgment call, and that the difference between an ingénue and a young lead can be about the casting decisions for a particular production. I am in the process of adding additional codifications (as they relate to type), so you should see more data populating particular searches. Today, there are about 100 additional classifications of particular songs.

If you don’t find what you are looking for, widen the search by selecting less one criteria: Usually I’d start with eliminating the “belt/belt mix” category, followed by either era or tessitura (if you are a high belter).

If you have questions about how I am codifying data, please go to the page:

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Memphis Is In!

Check it out!
Memphis has now been added to the Belt Book database!

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Websites R’Us

I recently had the opportunity to spend a week at the University of Wyoming, teaching a variety of BFA students in a variety of classes. The senior class is working on their websites, a necessity today. I found some over arching themes in all of them:

• A new camera angle does not a point of view make. Use photos that express different points of view or give us a deeper understanding about WHO YOU ARE.
• Shorter video/audio clips are better. Be pithy. Trim the videos to start where you want your viewer to begin. Don’t make them work for it.
• Don’t put high school credits on your resume—really?
• Putting your “favorite” roles in your bio is redundant with the resume you are including on the site, and mostly readers aren’t going to care what your favorite was; they will want to make up their mind about you themselves. Use your bio to share something interesting and unusual about you.
• If you have an upcoming or currently in pre-production section, you have got to remember to update regularly.
• Make it EASY for your reader to get the info, not have to click around too much, or dig. NO TYPOS!

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More on Choosing a Key

From the “Audition Tips” for University of Michigan Department of Musical Theatre:

“Do not try to sing too high or too loudly. An enormous number of applicants present songs in keys that are too high for them to show themselves at their best vocally. Volume and range can be explored separately if the faculty has questions.”

It’s not “cheating” to alter the key of a song, so you can deliver it 100% of the time. While belting is an extremely energized sound, it is NOT singing at the top of your lungs. “Too loudly” or “too high” is “too” much.

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At last! It’s here! Your school or studio can get an institutional license from The Belt Book.
Just go to www.thebeltbook.com/institutional.php and have at it! Depending on the number of students you have under your license, it could be as little as $3/mo per student. Far less that a decent cup of coffee or tea. As always, I am interested in your feedback.

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The KEY to KEY

Original key? Key that’s best for me? What do I do?

There can be a lot of reasons a song is published in a particular key. The limitations or the skills of the person originating the role, a compilation in which the publisher seeks to find “every man’s” key (usually putting the song in a key that is awkward for everyone), or a publisher hoping to make a piece easier to play, often simplifying the original music and including a melody line in the accompaniment. Quite often a Broadway song is not in the original key when it gets published outside the score. (Kudos to Hal Leonard for the Musical Theatre Anthologies, which are all from the original scores.)

What to do if the key you have is not a key that you can sing the song in? The advancement of music software has made it pretty simple to change key at will. But is that necessarily the best choice? We all have zones, or sweet spots, where songs sound particularly good in our voices. If you’re at the top of your game, that zone should be substantial. AND you still don’t want to go into an audition or do a cabaret where the song poses a challenge on a day when you’re a bit under. Sing in keys and ranges that work for you.

That said, here are some very important considerations:

1) Text: Does the key suit the text? For example, published versions of Cole Porter’s “Find Me a Primitive Man” are in a soprano range. The text is very sly and seductive (“find me a primitive man… I could be the personal slave of someone just out of a cave”)—lyrics that are much better sung in a lower register to compliment the intentions.
2) Character: Are you taking the character out of the song by changing the key? Taking Hammerstein’s “Lonely Room”, a song sung by Judd the antagonist in Oklahoma, up a 4th or a 5th would just make the character and his pain sound like a pubescent boy’s whining. On the other side of the coin “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful”, the Prince’s song in Cinderella is rather low for the type of young man that usually portrays the prince. Taking the song up a 3rd into the tenor range is stunning on the right fellow.
3) Key: As you consider the key, examine how the transposition looks: Are there a lot of accidentals? Is it awkwardly placed below or above the staff? Is it in 5 or 6 sharps? Think about the accompanist. Not all transpositions are created equal.

So tread carefully as you think about transposing a song for yourself! If it puts the tune in your sweet spot and enhances the character and the text, and doesn’t look frightening, go for it!