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Bailing Out

No, not talking about bailing you out of jail, or quitting your music career…though at times I’m sure you’ve felt like it! 

I’m talking about the ‘bail-out’ – an onstage technique you should implement into your performance now.

You’ve heard us talk about putting pressure on the audience from time to time, right?  This is when you come to the edge of the stage and get ‘up-close and personal’ with the audience. 

It’s something you do to make a point and change the intensity of what’s happening onstage. (It’s not the thing to do all night, or on every song… THAT would be too much… a form of Chinese Water Torture.)

So, you’re out there — ‘in their face’ — effectively…so how do you ‘get back’ or ‘go away’?   First thing to remember is, DON’T BACK UP. Why?  Because this looks too timid (not to mention squirrelly).  All the authority you’ve shown prior, would go down the drain.  Walking backward looks like you’re saying, “Ok, that’s all for me now.  I’ll just shuffle back away from you… uh…” Wrong!

The correct way to retreat is a bail-out.  Turn your back and walk away from the audience.  This tells the audience to look somewhere else.

This is against the grain of everything we’re taught since high school plays.  We’ve all been told, ‘Don’t show your back to the audience!’ Well, it doesn’t apply in our world, and personally I think it looks weird in theatre as well.  But I digress.

Let’s say your guitar player has a solo after the bridge of the song.  So after your lead singer finishes the bridge, she bails (turns around) and the guitar player walks to the front of the stage as he starts to play.  He plants himself up front for the rest of the solo.  When he’s through, he needs to bail – turn around and leave.  In most cases, this is best done by leading with the guitar neck, turning around in that direction.

Now typically after a solo, the vocal will come back in, so as the guitar player bails, the singer will be starting to move forward (first word, first step) so that the audience looks away from the guitar player to the singer.  (If another instrumentalist is coming in, then they are the one coming forward as they play.)

An important note here: Do the bail on the next downbeat after the solo or end of the bridge, etc.  Ultimately, it’s more effective this way.  I see so many players bail too early and it can ruin the solo, or at the very least does not maximize the moment.

Here’s an example from a band I’ve worked with several times.  At the front of the song, they put pressure on the audience, and at the end of the introduction, they bail. (at time marker 0:30)  The camera doesn’t catch the full stage unfortunately, but you’ll see the guitar player do a bail:

Another bail situation: Two players have come together face to face at the end of a musical trade-off. In this case, when the moment/solo is done, they need to bail away from each other across the stage.

This simple move helps your audience know who to focus on.  And understanding what’s going on by ‘seeing’ the music, helps them get more out of it!

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. This is very interesting, Amy, thanks. I understand building pressure, then relieving it. As a solo artist, though, how can you bail out when there’s no one else to take up the focus?

    • Even though you’re not ‘passing the ball’ to someone else on stage, a bail is in order as the best way to leave the front of the stage.
      You come up to play the intro, then bail to turn and walk back to the mic to sing verse one. You’re actually telling people, ‘the intro is over, now it’s time for me to sing’, and our attention goes to your vocal. Or you walk to the far left of the stage as you play a guitar solo then when it’s over, you use a bail to turn around and walk back ACROSS the stage. It’s a more natural looking move, whereas backing up looks unatural and awkward. Hppe that makes sense!

      • Thanks for the reply, Amy! Yes, that does make sense. I actually don’t sing – I’m an instrumental guitarist – but I can apply what you’re saying. Appreciate it!

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