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Being a frontman/frontwoman - what does it take to be a good one?

Hey guys

I wanted to start a discussion about becoming a good frontman/performer.  Thanks to Ken and his amazing program we all know that the ability to sing is within our reach.  But what are all your thoughts on the other things that go into making a great artist and performer?

Ken touches on artistry in many of his videos, particularly the one on singing soul and r'n'b from memory.  I found all of his thoughts insightful and useful.

I also came across this article by Henry Rollins on the subject: 

http://www.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2011/04/27/henry-rollins-the-column-henry-on-what-makes-a-great-band-frontman

Mr Rollin's article is good, but of course it's observational rather than instructional.  I'm certain I do not fall into the same category as Lux Interior naturally.  Like singing now, and playing guitar before it, if I'm going to be good upfront it's going to take work.

I'd like this discussion to be open to everyone, but I'm particularly interested to hear from those who write and perform their own material like me.  I say that because there seems to be an element of salesmanship in performing original music that isn't required when performing covers.  To borrow a quote from a prominent 30's industrial designer "Good design is rarely accepted, it has to be sold".  I think the same applies to music.  Be it Tom Waits, PJ Harvey or the The Rolling Stones, there is a whole stylistic package that goes with the music.  When I see someone do a cover, I've already bought into (or not) the song, now I'm just evaluating your performance of it.  With originals I absorb everything, consciously or not - whether the performer looks, sounds and conducts themselves in a way I identify with or want to buy into.

Thanks for considering what I've written.  I'd love to hear everybody's thoughts.




Comments

  • ragnarragnar Posts: 410Pro
    edited February 2014
    My prospective band in still in the jamming-phase since we want to improve our respective skills before we try launch ourselves, so I don't really have hands-on experience to draw from here. With that said however, my own theory is always rooted in the belief that music is a conversation. The type of music you play and the image you project will, whether you like it or not, inevitably define what your crowd will be like (or if there will be one).
    And although it's not exactly fair, the singer/front-person still remains the main focal point and face of the band outwards, so you need to look the part and act accordingly (obviously without ever letting style dominate over substance).

    Another thing that has always struck me is that the big frontmen in a classic sense like Freddie, Plant, Daltrey, Bono, Jagger etc. - none of them generally had an instrument in their hands for prolonged periods on stage, even though I would assume they are all capable (Freddie obviously did some ballads on piano, but most of the time he was on the mic working the crowds).
  • voodoovoodoo Posts: 250Pro
    Make an emotional connection with the audience and lead them somewhere through that connection and the music.
  • micjmicj Posts: 7Pro
    Thanks Ragnar and Voodoo

    I like R's comment about conversation.  I agree but sometimes it's like you do all the talking - or maybe I need to be a better listener haha!  It's a solid point though - mates of mine play surf garage punk, not particularly well, but they look and act the part.  Their crowd is of course lots of bopping young girls and scensters.  Works well for them because venues love their young drinking crowds and they get lots of gigs.  They also love to party, which makes them good fun for local promoters and other bands that do the same - which also amounts to more gigs and the occasional tour.  Never underestimate the power of sticking around for a few beers after your set!

    I play guitar and sing each song.  I'm also the default band leader and guide the band through most of the changes since foldback is not always the best at the venues we play.  It's hard to do since you're mostly facing away from the band singing but occasionally have to shoot a glance here or there to bring things together when someone misses a cue or to wrap a song.  Makes it hard to really let go and connect with an audience - but it's possible and I've seen it done really well.

    Voodoo - I definitely understand your comment but could you give an example of what you do to achieve that connection and where/how you try to lead them?

    I think intensity plays a part.  When I pull faces to sing notes or fling my guitar around we get a lot of hoots from the crowd.  I guess it conveys that you're singing or playing your ass off.  Same when our drummer gets a chance to let it off the chain - people go mental.  Perhaps it really just boils down to the kind of energy you inject into your performance.  If you're having fun and letting hell loose then the audience feeds of that and reciprocates - which perhaps ties back to R's point about performance as conversation.
     
  • voodoovoodoo Posts: 250Pro
    So what type of personality are you, what can you convey to a group of people... Angry frontman (James Hetfield), mysterious (Robert Plant), party animal (David Lee Roth). Can you tell that Roth is having a great time and the concert is big party to him? The crowd gets caught up and involved when they can identify with what the frontman does and the music needs to complement what the frontman is doing. Roth in Pink Floyd would not work as the music does not complement the personality. Also, if someone is missing cues they are not doing their job. If you are serious and they not, find somebody else that can do the job.
  • ragnarragnar Posts: 410Pro
    micj said:
    Perhaps it really just boils down to the kind of energy you inject into your performance.  If you're having fun and letting hell loose then the audience feeds of that and reciprocates.
     
    I think that's spot on. I agree as well Voodoo that, whether instrumentalists like it or not, a band's sound will have to be based a lot on the type of vocals you have. Otherwise the band just won't sound like a unit.
  • JohLeeroyJohLeeroy Posts: 5Pro
    I agree with cgreen, the main part is the singing !
    And what I might want to add:
    Do it with passion, your heart and you soul, if you have fun, or just let your feelings out that matches to you and your performance the audience will kinda more get into the songs and into the show and you all will get a closer conection.
    I don´t believe there´s a straight way to be a good frontman, you just have to get the feeling for your performance and the audience and be selfconfident about what you´re doing...and the most important thing I´ve allready mentioned: The singing...even when you are a very very good entertainer, the main reasons people go on concerts is the music !
    greets
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 11,297Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro

    One comment that I have here is that if you are singing the lead vocal part, whether you know it or not, and even if you are behind a drumset, bass, guitar, or keyboard, you ARE the front-person at that moment.  You need to connect with the audience when it is your turn to sing.

    Some musicians don't want to acknowledge that, because not all musicians sing lead vocals. It implies that the Lead Vocalist is the Leader of the Band. Those Lead Vocal duties may be shared by different band members, but at the moment they are the lead vocalist, they are leading the other musicians.

    The audience, whether we admit it or not, focuses on the lead vocals, whether live or on recordings.  The vocals are the human element in modern music, and that's what HAS TO sit right with us when we decide whether we "like" this band or that, and whether we "like" this song or that.

    Ken Tamplin, who is an amazing MONSTER GUITARIST, has a much brighter spotlight on him when he SINGS!!!  It's that much better when he Sings and blazes on the guitar simultaneously. 

    Bands really need to invest themselves in Great Singing.  It will make them or break them.  A great band with mediocre singing will have a much harder time getting by than a less-stellar band backing GREAT VOCALS, delivered with Passion and Fire.

    Frontman/Frontwoman IS a different position than Singing Musician or "Singer". That is where the Frontperson is actually THE Focal Point of the ensemble.  They may share the spotlight with great musicians, but most of the time the audience is waiting to see what the frontperson is going to do next.  And often, what they do next may not necessarily be "to sing". 

    Good Lead Singing to YOU!

     

    Bob

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