Singing and Playing
After a quick search for anything concerning singing and playing I turned up little to nothing. I'm very interested in practice techniques for singing and playing bass at the same time. Currently all I've been trying to do is memorize the bass and vocal line as well as is possible and then combine them... It's slow going to say the least.
Does anyone on the forums have any tips for practice techniques that sped up their progress? I will forever be in your debt! Thanks!
the first roughly 50 songs I learned while playing and singing - I acutally wrote out the bassline along with the lyrics rythm-wise.
I made like 8 bars and marked where the bass hit and which notes - same with the vocal with where on the beat the different syllabiles went.
That forced me to know where I was the whole time and not just "wing it" and play/sing overly sloppy. I don't write them out like this anymore unless it has syncopation in it. Those are REALLY hard for me.
I hear you, separating the rhythm and the melody feels almost like some sort of mental block. As far as practice goes I've been trying to stomp a specific tempo which I then play along too and then sing (Not any song, even talking or counting) at either a faster or a slower tempo.
It does get a little tricky, perhaps it'll help in the long run.
I've found practicing with a metronome while singing and playing bass helps. I often start at a slower tempo and work up to speed. I find that I need to memorize the bass line and the lyrics before moving to combining both.
Ive been going thru the same thing. I used to think that singing and playing was something that some people could just do and others (like me) couldnt. The funny thing is talking and playing is easy, speaking and singing uses different parts of the brain, prolly why ozzy can still sing like crazy but cant even say his own name.
I started off doing the samething, basically just learning both parts best i could and then combining them and i would inevitably wind up stumbling over one or both parts. And i did improve but its a lil tough to gauge your progress this way. I dunno if it speeds anything up, either way its going to just come down to time and practice, but if you can see progress it definitely keeps morale higher and that helps. So start off simple, just tap fours with your foot while singing, then move those fours to the bass, then play some different notes, then try eighths. Talk to your buddies while playing bass, basically anything that teaches you to use seperate parts of your brain helps
I've really ramped up the challenge lately as far as singing and playing bass. Currently I am singing lead and playing the original bass lines, (no cheating now,) to "Light My Fire" and "I'm Your Captain". I'm pulling those two off pretty well. next up is "Black Is Black"!
Heh, and if anyone pipes up about your singing/playing ability (or lack thereof) tell them to feel free to step up to the mic... shuts my bandmates up right quick ;)
The only other person in my band who doesnt get a panic attack when a mic is placed in front of him is our drummer. And when the mic is placed there everyone else, including me, is having a panic attack. I know im no worlds best singer, but at least I hit most of the notes and dont have a thick danish accent when I sing in english
Haha. Completely off topic but why does everyone seem to adopt a british accent when they sing? I do it myself, you make it hard becomes "You make it haad!" And yes, that line is as dirty as it sounds, but ever so wonderfully disguised within the rest of the lyrics ;)
I highly recommend anything with straight eighth or quarter notes. You'll find that kind of thing a lot of punk, new wave, and straight rock styles.
Another style that is GREAT to work on singing is older country. If you don't really like country, at least give Johnny Cash a try. He is pretty rock and roll in the attitude at least.
I can recommend enough to practice without looking at the instrument except for the beginning and end of songs. It may seem hard at first but it will make a huge difference once you get the hang of it.
I'm surprised the search didn't work as there are lots of good threads here, some with very detailed advice. Mostly what you'll hear is practice, practice, practice. This ain't easy. I think the advice about not looking at your fingerboard is new & useful. Your brain should be focused on the two tracks of play & sing, without adding visual distraction. That's good. Through responding to these threads I've come up with a desceiption of my learning technique that I call "polling". It amounts to rapidly shifting your concentration back and forth between the two activities, sort of always checking to make sure each stays on track. Practice it enough, and get good enough at your instrument, and you'll no longer even notice you're doing it ...a bit like becoming good at a new language. The really good part is, when you do absorb the technique, you can tackle most material, even brand new songs, right off the bat. However, there will always be tricky parts that cause you to focus on one track or the other. That's why practice is never-ending. Good luck!
This is a good thread. Take comfort in knowing that every musician I've spoken to on this topic comments on how difficult this is. My drummer says, "I don't know how you do that." Makes you realize how much the likes of Paul McCartney or Geddy Lee are truly freaks of nature. Tremcat's advice above is what someone from Berklee School of Music suggested to me (using the metronome). The same person also suggested practicing the skill of using two parts of your brain, by playing your bass line to the metronome, while reading a magazine out loud. If you can do both functions simultaneously, you can sing and play. I found that exercise challenging, however - and just keep practicing my vocal and bass parts over and over via brute force, until it gets better. I'm starting to do both functions more and more as I sing backing (and the very occasional lead) vocals for my band. It's especially difficult when playing active bass lines. You almost need to know the bass line so well that it's being playing by muscle memory/auto pilot, and I find that I tend to stare into space (and not look at my instrument, as has been said here) when singing, to be sure I'm hitting the right pitch. It must be an intense focus thing - it's weird -- almost like half of my brain is anticipating the next notes in the bass line, while the other is listening to me singing, and being sure I sound OK. I still don't find it easy, and have sometimes reduced the activity in my bass line when I need to (not what I want to do, nor what my drummer wants) - due to the difficulty of coordinating it all. I agree that it likely is only going to get better by lots of practicing, and finding what works best for you.
Singing and playing starts with being able to already do one skill ,so if you can sing you practice playing, not playing and singing, and if you can play you practice singing, not singing and playing. Once you get the two developed they develop together, depending on how you use them, to be a natural skill you do without to much thought. It is an inter-changeable skill that once learned it is the quality of the material that will challenge you in future, not the act of learning any more but the application of the act. This will usually mean syncopation of the playing V syncopation of the voice rather than any tone or pitch of the voice.
The criteria differers on the way the strings are struck, picking note with the fingers is harder than strumming them with a pick.
Our natural instinct is to strum, if you lay a bass down and a small child comes to it they will strum it, not pick it, the natural instinct is to strum.
In strumming we have a motion to time 1-2-3-4 to if need be.
The tempo can be altered by the length of the strum, so we can find the beats within the length of the motion, or use the motion to define the beat.
With the fingers there is no motion as such to play to, but react to.
The reaction is the fingers, and depending on how many fingers used the re-actions becomes more complicated, unlike the strum which is one action so easy to control and time.
Those than can already sing rarely have as many issues learning to play bass as those that can play bass have learning to sing.
Those that can sing do so for many reasons, but mainly it is because they have a good voice they like the sound of, and are willing to use it.
I know many that have a good voice, but do not like the sound of it, so do not use it. With a guitar you can EQ your sound to one you do like, with your voice you hear what you hear.....like it or not, this is a different issue but a relevant one, you have to like the sound of your own voice.
In learning to sing and play you first need to be competent at one so you do it naturally without thinking, so if you do not know the lyrics, learn them, learn to sing them with no instrument and no lyric sheets.
As in playing, spend about 10minutes warming up your voice so it is ready to practice.
Using lyric sheets involves another layer of thinking, reading and singing and playing, so learn to sing the song un-aided, then learn to play it un-aided, this now reduces it to two things, how good the two are together is just practice. Write out the lyrics, see the changes, make marks or notes, practice the changes till it becomes natural.
When singing, sing out in a performance level volume, do not sing to your self, do not sing quiet, this is not the way it will be live, so sing out.
If that is embarrassing then you have doubts about letting others hear your voice, but the voice is a muscle the more it is used the more it develops, it needs to get warmed up to truly do you justice and give you the confidence to really use it.
For someone who can sing, learning to play is the same as someone who cannot sing, but with the skill of singing in place already whether it gets used does not reflect on how well the bass is learned.
As i said, singers can learn to play and sing easier than a player can learn to sing and play.
Part of this is we sing as children, we sing freely and without care as we grow up, and the opportunities are all around us to do so and the skill of singing is developed.......we do not have that with playing bass......bass playing comes many years after singing, or when we have stopped singing for whatever reason, usually when our voice breaks.
Some may go years without singing, some may even never sing for the rest of their lives....for whatever reason, but they just do not sing again because they do not like the sound of their singing voice.
Learning to sing to a bass is hard, you should learn to sing to a guitar or piano. Good bass players that can sing pitch their bass to their voice, not their voice to the bass, that is a big difference. So start easy, find songs where the rhythm of the bass is the same as the voice, get used to that, then find songs where the playing is against the voice, get used to that, then fill in all points in-between. Remember you may have to learn songs you do not care much for because they best show the skills you need to develop. But you are learning such songs for their educational value to your learning, how you use that skill once learned is up to you.
Listen to these songs for example, the each have a skill in them that a bass player may struggle to perform, but they appear in countless other songs, so see it as learning the skill, not the song
Take it Easy - The Eagles
His Latest Flame - Elvis Presley
Stand By Me - Ben E King
Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits
The good thing is stick with it as it gets easier as the skill develops, and do not be put off with the 'tone' of your voice as that changes a bit as you develop. In the end singing and playing is a skill that will benefit you, even if it is just harmonies, backing or reinforcing vocals, it all helps make you a complete player.
It boils down to this: the bass playing has to be on autopilot. Then you can sing.
+1 to everything that's been suggested.
Two skills are required:
two things synchronised, almost linear.
Nursery rhymes, 50's rock'n'roll, many church hymns, a lot of classical music. Best place to start.
separate, syncopated, two different directions. Most Pop music. If you really know the music it's a lot easier.
I grew up listening to Sting & The Police. Have a listen to how Sting does it. The two parts are complementary, mostly simple repeated rhythms on bass, and bass runs usually when he's not singing. Vocals often fall when a bass note is played, simple choruses. (Pity I have to sing it an octave down though).
Every little thing she does,
Englishman in NY,
Walking on the Moon.
Some styles just seem to click, other styles take decades to finally get it. I grew up in church singing 4-part harmony, which came naturally to me. Learned 50's Rock'n'roll in guitar lessons and taught myself to sing along. Took that across to bass too. Singing a bit in my jazz band too - filled in for vocalist at rehearsal when she was sick last week. No awards, but we got thru. :)
TB search via google.
Absolutely. You have to play the basslines over and over until you can play them without thinking.
It also helps very much to know the lyrics so completely that you don't think about it either. If you are playing a cover, you should be extremely familiar with it.
I sing a lot of the high harmonies in my band, a Tom Petty tribute, and my personal rule of thumb is to keep it simple while I'm singing, and wait until I'm not singing to return to normal bass playing. If I have to I just play the root, but I always try to groove while doing that. To me losing the groove is the worst thing! This works for me, but as usual, YMMV. ;)
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