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Bailing Out

September 20, 2017

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!

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