K-Pop School: Main, Lead, Sub Vocalists
The secret to success for K-pop groups comes down to a combination of positions in the group filled with exceptional talent. These positions are quite general and are found in almost all K-pop groups, but vary in the amount in each. The main categories are Vocalist, Rapper and Dancer. With in each of these main categories are sub categories that many people find confusing. By Breaking down each category and adding some examples, you will be a K-pop position expert in no time.
For our first Lesson we are going to learn about the Vocalists: Lead, Main and Sub. Each of these positions hold their own importance to the group and one can not say that one position is better than the other or the person in the position is better when compared to another, because each artist brings a unique artistic perspective that creates a unique K-pop sound and visual.
The lead vocalist has certain attributes that can be found in general throughout all K-pop Groups.
- The Lead Vocalist is Able to reach one or more higher or lower octaves than their fellow groups mates.
- Because they are able to reach these octaves their voice is featured mainly in the chorus and sections where vibrato is needed.
The above two are practically guaranteed when it comes to K-Pop Lead vocals. Here are some common misconceptions of a Lead Vocalist.
- They get more lines because they have a better voice. This is not true because the company puts together many think tank type meetings to decide who gets to sing what parts. This all depends on who is being featured in the song, how many people there are to divide the lyrics between, and other key factors, that go into lyric selection.
- The Lead vocal has a better voice that is why they are the lead vocal. This once again is not necessarily true. First it depends on your personal opinion or the opinion of an expert you trust. Overall they may be able to reach those octaves and provide vibrator, but this does not make them the best, because they may not have very good range, or their voice may not suite lyrics as it does the vibrato.
- There is only one Lead vocal per group. Though people say this and it appears to be the case on many group profiles, this is not necessarily true. This really depends on the size of the group. For a group of five one main vocal is usually true but when you have nine members and above you may have two or more lead vocals.
Lead Vocal Examples
- Girls Generations Tiffany, Sunny and Seohyun : Girls generation is a nine member girl group that is why they have more than one Lead vocal. Each of these girls have their own vocal appeal and really blend well with one another.
- Shinee Jonghyun, By far one of the most well noted vocalist in general. He is known for his 3 octave voice, and his almost perfect pitch.
- Block B Jaehyo Not only is he know for being the visual of his group, he is also an impressive lead vocal.He may not get a lot of lines, but when he opens his mouth his talent really shows through.
- B1A4 Jinyoung his has a great octave range, and impressive vocal range in general, his voice is also very unique within his group.
Just as the lead vocalist, the main vocalist is categorized by some generalizations that can be found across K-pop as well as some misconceptions.
- The Main vocal may also has a superior octave range, but over all compared to the lead vocal they have a superior vocal range.
- Because they have a generally wider vocal range their voice is applied to more of the song.
- Their voice is underlying and supporting the Lead on the chorus, and vibrato.
- More often then not they receive multiple solo's with in the song.
Some misconceptions that are often associated with the Main vocal
- They are not as talented as the Lead vocal. This is by far not true the misconception comes down to people not understanding the difference between having octave range and vocal range.
- The Main vocalist is just support for the lead. Once again not true though they support the lead throughout the song, the Main vocal may have harder vocal parts because of their wider vocal range
Main Vocal Examples
- Girls Generation's Taeyeon and Jessica. Taeyeon is one of the most impressive Main vocals in K-pop. She has a superior vocal and octave range, as well as an almost perfect pitch. Because of her vocal ability she has done many OST's (Original Sound Tracks). Jessica has a very bubbly voice that is unique and makes it quite impressive for a main vocal.
- Shinee's Onew, another extremely impressive vocal talent, his voice is very unique accompanied by his range and his explosive solos on songs. He is a real joy to listen to.
- Block B's Taeil Though block B is know as a hip-hop group with a very rugged bad boy image, Taeil is able to round out the group and really put them in the spotlight in the K-pop scene. His voice is strong and powerful, and is often showcased through throughout their songs.
- B1A4's Sandeul He may look cute and small and oh so cuddly, but when he opens his mouth the pure power that comes out will make you fall flat.
Sub-Vocalist or Supportive vocalist is a very unique part of K-pop in the fact that their is a set standard for this position. Whereas their is always room for Main Vocal and Lead Vocal to switch a bit in their standards and structure, sub vocalists usually follow the most general and acceptable rules and structure. Their are also far less misunderstandings when it comes to Sub Vocalists.
- Their are two types of sub vocalists
- The First is the true supporting vocalist, the one or one's who have decent vocal ability and are very much helpful in moving the song forward while providing support for the main and lead vocalists.
- The second is not really a vocalist at all, their main focus is on a different aspect of the group all together, these are your dancers, and rappers. Though some dancers and rappers are good singers and help support the main and lead, some don't sing at all and instead focus on their respective art form in the group.
- The Sub Vocalist has between 7 to 10 seconds of the song. They either have one line or at times one word.
Their is only really one misconception about the sub vocal that brings about a lot of debate with in the K-pop community and this is
- The sub vocal does not really do anything and are not worth being in the group. This statement is rather unfortunate because it shows the lack of understanding when it comes to k-pop groups. First the K-pop industry is more than just vocals, its about visual and different genre influences coming together to create a clean well rounded appearance and entertaining performance.
- Though the Sub vocal my not have a lot of lyrical lines, they impress with self written raps, and expertly choreographed dances, that really make K-pop entertaining, and bring the song together to complete a perfect package.
- Girls Generations Yuri, Yoona, Hyoyeon, Sooyoung all four of these girls can carry a tune but their true passion lays within dance. Each of them hold a dance position in their group, and all four get really condensed Lyrics.
- Shinee's Key and Taemin What impressive about Taemin and Key is that they are not only both very vocally talented but they impress with their individual talents as well. Taemin being a dancer and Key being a rapper. But even so they are quite unique in the fact that their vocal talent really rivals that of the other members in their groups.
- Block B's U-Kwon and B.Bomb an impressive set of dancers that really know how to entertain a crowd, they both are exceptionally talented singers as well. Though their vocals is limited to small lines within the songs, they really know how to show impressive all around skills.
- B1A4's Baro, CNU and Gongchan. Here is an example of both types of vocalists. Baro and CNU though both great vocalist with surprisingly wide range are also very talented rappers. They are featured in the song in many ways wich is unique to their sub-vocalist status. Gongchan is an actual sub vocalist, it is his primary function in the group and he carries the title well.
Now that you have learned the functions of the Vocalist and its sub categories, you will be able to look at artist profiles and understand the meaning behind the seemingly confusing words. Do be careful though when reading online profiles because many people who put them up are unable to distinguish between the main and lead vocal and often switch them about unintentionally.