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Help, I’m Strapped! [Setting Guitar Players Free]

I want to talk to you guitar players out there who are in a band, but not singing lead.  You might be wondering what YOU’RE supposed to do to be interesting onstage. [Part 2 will focus on some additional things more applicable to lead players.]

We’ve found that a typical rehearsal involving guitar players usually comes with some excuses when it comes to movement;  ‘I can’t move because I have to focus on what I’m playing’…’I can’t go far because of my cord’…’I have to switch on my pedal here’…’I can’t hear my amp if I move’…and many more.  I’m sure you have your own to add.

But Tom and I have found there are remedies for almost every excuse not to move away from your cozy little ‘home base’ behind your guitar, mic stand, pedal board, and amp.  Let me show you how you can free yourself so you can connect with the audience and be more interesting to watch.


First of all, get yourself wireless.  There are good units that won’t compromise your sound, and even if there IS a slight difference, the audience won’t be able to tell. This gives you one less thing to think about onstage…the last thing you need is to be worried about tripping on cables.

Next, try to lighten up your pedal board to what you really need and use, or at the very least position it to the side or at an angle so it’s not directly in front of you.  I realize in some cases this might not be possible if you have a lot of songs where you have to ride a ‘wah’ or volume pedal, but in most cases I’ve found where it’s an occasional on/off switch, moving your board is possible.

What we’re trying to do here is eliminate barriers between you and the audience whenever possible. Keep in mind that some pedals YOU think make a big difference sound-wise, don’t even register with the audience. Unless it’s something very distinctive, we’re not going to hear a subtle nuance in a live setting.

Some of you are relying too much on your amps to hear yourself.  Mic-ing your amp and running it through your in-ears will enable you to get the mix you want and allow you to move away from it.

If you sing background vocals from time to time, position your mic so you can easily get to it for the vocals, but aren’t blocked behind it when you’re not singing. Stepping up to the mic right before your part comes in, shows the audience you’re getting ready to sing and their ears will tune in to you.  If you’re always behind the stand, we don’t know when to pay attention to your part.

SO, now that you’re out of excuses to move, let’s be interesting to watch, ok?? We want to see you interacting with the rest of the band, so go someplace else onstage! This is important for several reasons;

First of all, people in the audience that are not close to your ‘home base’ spot, want to see you and be the subject of your attention, so venturing to other parts of the stage and making eye contact with the audience there, accomplishes that.

Secondly, you need to be able to balance the stage. For example, when the lead singer moves in front of you, you should move either right or left to ‘right the ship’ and balance the visual feel of what the audience sees.  It’s subtle, but noticeable, and just FEELS right to those watching you.

Lastly, we want to see you interact with the other players onstage. Walk or run over to them to jam together, especially if you’re playing the same groove, lick or rhythmic thing.  This will help us ‘see’ the riff, and as a result, really HEAR it… plus it lets us see that you actually like playing with these people!

Stay tuned for part II…. In the meantime though, post your questions or comments and let us know what YOU’RE doing to get freed up!

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. Amy, what about getting set free as a solo singer/songwriter? I want to create a show….tell stories, sing stories……not just sing songs. I found you through Sheree and Lou Spoltore Thanks….

    • Hey Charlotte! Glad to hear you want to really give the audience more than just SONGS at your shows. It IS important and as a solo artist you need to learn how to tell stories effectively We’ve done lots of blogs aimed at singer/songwriters in the past…check around the site and see if you can find them. Tom just shot video at our Spring event for you guys specifically and will be putting out a new video set soon. BUT, we’d like to help now and would love to answer your questions when we’re shooting some Q & A with Tom and I soon. Can you send us some specific questions? Email them to me at amy@tomjacksonproductions.com Thanks Charlotte – hope to hear from you soon!

  2. I still remember the night I was stripped of my background vocal mic and had to just stand up on the stage and deliver lead guitar to a packed out club. I felt naked and vulnerable for the first hour or so. It was a small stage and we ended up rocking it by the second set. My singer was a stationary sort of guy when we started but we soon learned to really move the stage as a duo and of course the better our show, the better shows and stages we got asked to be on. In ears and wireless are cool if you’re actually at a point where it can be justified but for me it’s never been practical or in budget.

    • Glad to hear you learned to work the stage Caleb! It’s certainly more fun and engaging for the audience. AND proof of that is getting asked to play better shows. Nice! You may be alright being wired if you’re playing small stages, but once you start getting on bigger ones, you’ll be restricted if you can’t run over to the opposite side of the stage because your cord isn’t long enough. I’d highly recommend putting off buying more pedals or another guitar until AFTER you invest in a wireless unit. So much freedom there! As they say, ‘once you go wireless….uh…the applause will be tireless??’ 🙂

  3. Daniel Upton says:

    Thanks Amy, this pretty much hits the spot for out live performances.


  4. Thanks so much Amy! I’ve been thinking about going wireless and really appreciate the nudge with this article. What kind of in ears do you recommend? Thanks so much!

    • You’re welcome Christie! I need to do some research on this…some of you reading this may have opinions on what you’re recommend, so be sure to chime in! I actually have a meeting today with a gear rep and will get feedback from him.

  5. Great advice! I have the book and have read it and this is a good reminder. Look forward to part 2!

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