It’s a nice fantasy to believe that a lead singer just gets to walk onto stage, perform, and amaze the audience with their brilliance. In truth, the job of a lead singer entails hard work and compromise — and that’s actually part of the fun! If you want to learn how to sing lead in a way that can ensure a long career, read on.
How to Sing Lead
Natural talent and a love of singing are only the first two ingredients in this complex recipe. The best vocalists train, practice, and learn as many aspects of music and the music industry as possible. They take lessons, write music and lyrics, and sometimes even dabble with other instruments, audio engineering, and music theory. Success comes when a vocalist is able to step outside themselves and listen to what others are saying. It might be a summary of their strengths, or constructive criticism. Sometimes it’s ego-boosting, other times it’s devastating. The road is not always easy, but passion is a driving force.
Once you’ve learned the basics, and gained knowledge in a variety of ways (think private lessons as well as activities in school like choir and musical theater), then it’s time to take the steps to become part of a band. Start scouring ads, attending shows, auditioning, and networking with other people and bands in the industry. If you have a clear vision, think about forming your own band.
When the band is formed, the real work begins. To create a career, you have to get out there! Start writing music together as a band, at least enough for a full set or two. Next you’ll need to practice and fine-tune your music. Practice until you’re singing the songs in your sleep — then practice some more.
Once you’re sure you can get through a full show, make your demo. You’ll also need a press kit (after all, it pays to be professional). Then it’s time to hit the pavement! Peddle your demos to every venue you can think of: coffee shops, bars, music venues, farmer’s markets, colleges, and so on. Create an online presence and build a fan base. Do more networking. When you start landing gigs, be reliable, honest, and as professional as possible so you build an impeccable reputation. Help promote your own shows — the better attended they are, the more likely you’ll be asked back. It also helps if you put on an amazing show. Lead vocalists are an essential part of this process, because like it or not, you’re often the face of the band, so what you do matters a lot!
Don’t Become a Diva
We’ve all heard the stories of outrageous demands — don’t be that singer! This advice is particularly crucial when you’re starting out. You can demand yourself right out of jobs, venues, and eventually the band.
Remember, nothing is permanent, and there are plenty of bands who have replaced difficult divas and gone on to become successful. Vocalists exist in abundance, and it’s not always about sheer talent. It is also about how they meld with the band. The best bands work together and compromise when necessary. Excellent lead vocalists are able step out of the spotlight at times to let the rest of the band shine — and they acknowledge how incredibly lucky they are to be a part of a great band. They show up for practice, and they help out in any capacity they can.
Like anything in life, the more effort you put into something, the more rewarding it is. The best lead vocalists embody class, talent — and they have worked hard to polish their incredible voice.
Photo by Patrick Kilkenny