Different Kinds of Musical Theater Singing

Different Kinds of Musical Theater Singing

When you go see a musical or cabaret performed, you’re likely to hear a lot of different kinds of voices throughout the program. While this is partially due to singers having different abilities vocally, it is also due to the song or a show itself calling for a certain kind of vocal performance. Since Broadway today is more stylistically demanding than it has been in the past, you should know the different kinds of musical theater singing to become a more well-rounded singer.


This type of singing is rooted in classical vocal training. It typically sounds more operatic, featuring consistent vibrato, tall, rounded-out vowels, smooth register transitions, and crisp diction. Legit singing is most commonly found in “Golden Age” musicals such as Carousel but is also found in more contemporary shows like Light in the Piazza and some songs in The Bridges of Madison County.

Traditional Musical Theater Belt

While Legit singing is the type of musical theater singing most associated with older Broadway, those musical still have plenty of Traditional Belt singing in them. Unlike some of today’s belting, Traditional Belt is more brassy and tends to be lower, intended to be able to fill an entire auditorium without (much) amplification.


Contemporary musical theater singing typically features brighter-sounding tones and requires higher belting than that of Traditional Belt. Vocally, contemporary singing is very speech-driven and often has elements of pop and rock music, although it still isn’t characterized as anything you’d hear on the radio.


These are the Broadway musicals that you end up jamming out to. The songs are repetitive and empathetic, featuring vocal distortions like growls, breathy tones, screams, and vowel manipulation. They generally sound like something you’d hear on the radio — and in some cases they are. Shows like Green Day’s American Idiot and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical were written using pop culture music.


While this isn’t a common kind of musical theater singing, it’s a pretty entertaining one. Songs sung in a character style are comical, sometimes nasally, and focus more on acting choices than vocal choices. If a musical features character songs, they’ll likely have just one or two — only a handful of musicals have more than that. One of our favorite examples of character voice is this rendition of Kerrigan and Lowdermilk’s “My Party Dress.”

No matter what style of musical theater singing you want to learn, Grace Music School can provide you or your children with the best vocal lessons in Huntington and the surrounding areas. For more information or to schedule a lesson, call us at 631-239-6169 (Fort Salonga) or 631-470-9705 (Melville). 

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