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Unleashing Your Lead Player (Help, I’m Strapped Part II)

In my previous blog geared toward guitar players, I wrote about what you can do to be more interesting on stage.  I covered some excuses you may have for not moving, then gave you some solutions for that, plus gave you some basics in regards to movement.  Check out the article here.

Here in Part II, I want to focus on lead guitar players. It’s important for YOU guys (men and women collectively…. In the Midwest where I was raised, everyone is ‘you guys’) to know your role in the band. 

In most cases YOU are the proverbial rock star, so it’s imperative you know how and when to ‘bring it’!

In addition to the things I pointed out in Part I, a lead player needs to know how and where to best deliver a solo. Keep in mind that you need to SHOW the audience where that solo is coming from.

Depending on the length and intensity of the solo, you should move forward a few steps, move to  center stage, or go to the furthest point from your ‘home base’ on the far side of the stage.

By this I mean, if you are doing several leads during the set, be sure to change up where you go on the stage each time, to change up what the audience sees.

If it’s a shorter or less dramatic solo, you may just take a few steps up toward the audience. If it’s longer, moving to center stage works well and draws attention to it/you. 

For a monster epic solo, going to the extreme left or right side of the stage creates an even more dynamic visual to match.

So, as you begin your solo, start walking*. It looks the most natural if you start moving AS YOU START PLAYING THE LEAD – not AFTER you get to a new place on stage. That will look very canned and even hokey. 

It’s our ‘first note, first step’ rule; take your first steps as you begin to play – it looks much more natural that way.

Now, you know you need to draw attention to yourself when you have a solo, but what do you do when you’re not soloing? 

Well, part of your job is to draw attention to what the audience needs to pay attention to…ie; the drum solo, the singer, the keyboard player’s solo…whoever should have the spotlight at that moment. 

Not saying you have to stare at them the whole time, but throw a glance toward, or turn your body, to face the person who’s in the limelight at that moment. 

In other words, if you keep walking to the front of the stage throughout the song, you are misdirecting the audience’s attention.  Know when to stay back and not (in the words of one of my Southern friends) ‘Bogart’ the stage.

Something else the audience wants?  Some swagger.  Develop a style and at the very least, let your face and body show what you’re feeling INSIDE!  In other words BRANG IT!

The audience is BEGGING you to put on a show and have fun with it.  Nobody goes to a show to see you play it safe. Trust me!

We want to see you ‘bend with bends’ and ‘groove with the grooves’.  Let your face and body show what’s happening in your playing so we really SEE the music.

Hope this makes sense! We’d LOVE to see some videos of you lead players ‘brangin’ it’. Comment on this blog and tell us where to find you on social media.

THEN, repost this article on your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, along with your video clip or link and tag us in it! @TomJacksonProductions Hashtag #BranginIt

[*As you know already, we talk about the 4 ways to move onstage; walking, walk with authority, skipping and running. Ideally you want to match the way you move with the energy of the song.

HOWEVER, I realize playing a solo and skipping/running maybe difficult.

At least learn to walk to another place on stage while playing a solo. You may need to woodshed that before you get to rehearsal, but the payoff is huge.]

Amy Wolter

As a trained Live Music Producer for Tom Jackson Productions, Amy Wolter brings her years onstage as a lead singer & keyboardist - along with her experience as a producer, arranger, and songwriter - to singers and bands who won’t settle for ‘good enough’. She’s worked with artists at all levels, and genres ranging from Rock to Celtic, empowering them to have confidence and authority onstage, and put on memorable live shows, a few of whom have been on two of the largest US tours in recent history. Some of her clients include Grammy award winners The Band Perry & Lacrae, CMA and ACM –winning country acts, Gloriana & Thompson Square, 2016 The Voice contestant Mary Sarah, CCMA (Canada) winners High Valley, Jess Moskaluke & Chad Brownlee, and Winter Jam Tour veterans Sidewalk Prophets & Love and The Outcome.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. Great vid, Amy! I’m a vocalist (and also a vocal coach, but some of my vocal students play as well), and this is great info for our band, #WillCarter! Soo many times we play very tiny stages and can’t move very much at all. But, this is great info for soloing in bigger venues. Thank you!

    • Thanks Pamela! If you are playing small stages, at the very least make sure your guitarist steps forward – even if he can
      only take one or two steps. Plus, if YOU draw our attention to him, that helps the audience make the connection. Try to make more room for yourselves by putting the monitors off stage on cases or chairs as well…making space so he (and you as well) can cross the length of the stage is a big plus and the audience will appreciate getting closer and making the effort to ‘come to THEM’.

  2. Ray Brindley says:

    Thanks for this! The importance of stage presence didn’t hit me until late in the game. Can you suggest particular performances on YouTube or elsewhere that show guitar players using good stage technique for solos or otherwise? (Sometimes the greatest players are not necessarily the best showmen/show women.)

    Also, do you have any guidelines on eye contact? It’s not very engaging just to stare at the fretboard, but is more eye contact always better? Is there such a thing as too much eye contact, or situations where it might look awkward? I saw a Tom Jackson video where the soloist was looking at the audience throughout the solo and it didn’t quite work.

    • Let me work on this Ray…will find some clips and post! Yes, there are things you need to know when it comes to eye contact. It’s ok to look at, thus draw attention to your fretboard during a solo. It does look awkward to stare at the audience for an entire solo, and doesn’t really make sense. You can look up a few times during the solo though, and your expression can elicit different responses. For example, a questioning look says, ‘well, what do you THINK?’. A bored smirk says ‘I could play this all day with my eyes closed’, or a joyful smile just says you LOVE playing! There’s more on this topic of course…maybe my next blog! Thanks for commenting Ray!

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