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Breathing Technique singing and playing bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by devilock76, Aug 21, 2012.

  1. devilock76


    May 25, 2009
    OK I have a question. I am having a quirk that is messing me up. I am trying to do more lead vocals in the projects I am in while playing bass. I know how to sing, as in I understand breathing and vocal technique. Not saying I am a great singer, I don't have a wide range in the upper registers as I am a low baritone and my transition to my "head voice" is not smooth.

    Anyway, here is the thing. In the past most of the songs I have sung were easy enough vocally that I could get away with bad technique without damage. I am trying to push myself more though to do more and one of the things I am finding is despite being able to do the song with proper technique without the bass, my breathing and everything goes to S*** once I start playing the bass. I it is like I can't hack proper vocal technique while hitting the bass line.

    So that being said I could use some pointers, exercises or song examples that are good to try to work myself through this. I mean I am sure as everything it is a matter of practice but I am having trouble getting both techniques to play right. Any singing bass players out there ever experience this. I find it weird. I mean I can fit the lyrical rhythm and the bass rhythm together with out the patterns going awry but trying to get proper breathing there just isn't happening. I figure part of it is getting comfortable in bad habits from past efforts.

    Thanks in advance,
  2. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    Hopefully my suggestion is more helpful than just saying "practice more," but to really master singing and playing at the same time (especially when both parts are complex) I have to get the bass line down so well that I can play it in my sleep.

    Make the bass part absolutely automatic, then you can focus on singing and let your hands do their thing.
  3. devilock76


    May 25, 2009
    I have heard Les Claypool say something similar. In this case it is not really a case of the part conflicting. Maybe it is just a mental block. Or maybe it is not as automatic as I think.

    Thanks man,
  4. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    Sure thing Ken!

    ...and I'm pretty sure I heard it from Les the first time too. When I tried it out it worked really well for me and I've been using that method since. Of course, I'm sure there are other, and maybe better, ways.

    You are probably already aware of this, but be careful not to over-practice when you are getting it wrong. Your muscle memory doesn't know the difference between what's being done right and what's being done wrong, it remembers everything, even little mistakes that are repeated.
  5. devilock76


    May 25, 2009
    I need to keep that in mind, because I bet that is a part of what I am doing as well.

  6. Devilock76,
    I believe you are referring to playing cover songs where you have the vocal and bass lines to learn. I've found learning the bass line then working on the vocals is usually easiest as you've been listening to both the whole time and one reinforces the knowledge of the other. Once I can play the song on bass, I practice/learn to do both standing up as this is the way our band rehearses and plays live as this can be a tough transition when you learned your parts sitting and then you need to stand to rehearse/play.
    I believe you get better at this as you practice more. If a song doesn't come together quickly, ask for more time to get it right from the band.
    Good luck!
  7. devilock76


    May 25, 2009
    By the time I am working on vocals I am always standing at that point. First of all I feel it is best for breathing anyway, you know when I remember to do it. hehehehee.

  8. devilock76


    May 25, 2009
    By the time I am working on vocals I am always standing at that point. First of all I feel it is best for breathing anyway, you know when I remember to do it. hehehehee.

  9. imdkoz

    imdkoz Supporting Member

    Nov 16, 2006
    Chattanooga, TN
    I'm in a 3 piece and sing a little over 50% of the tunes. After learning the bass line, then the vocal without the bass, I break down the more challenging songs by simplifying the bass lines on the parts I can't play/sing together and add more bass as the song becomes more familiar. Pretty soon you just find yourself playing and singing without over thinking. All of this is at practice, but eventually you'll find it all fits. Even songs that I've played forever, it all changes when you have to think about the vocal part. Worked on some pretty complex stuff so hope it helps.
  10. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    +1 to what has been said.

    Sometimes, it takes breaking the song down at a very fine level, and figure out where you need to breathe, and work on that while playing it.
    For that matter, at least for me with some complex and syncopated songs, I have to really figure out how certain notes, and my breathing, and the lyric go together to get it right.

    If you're having trouble, breaking the trouble-spot into a small chunk and working on it works wonders.

    Best of luck
  11. Put simply, you need to develop your singing skills BETTER than the average singer to do both at once really well. Bad habits always come back to bite you when things get more difficult.

    I would work with vocal teacher who can sing AND play. First unlearn your bad habits, then the rest will follow much easier. :)
  12. Sloop John D

    Sloop John D

    Jun 29, 2012
    If you're going to use proper singing technique while you play bass, you really need to have it down entirely before you put them together. This is exactly the issue I ran into. I could sing and play at the same time fine, but when I started learning proper singing technique, the whole thing would just fall apart when I would play. It's like playing two instruments at the same time. You can't play bass and sing if you've got to think about your rhythm and your notes while you're thinking about your breathing and your soft pallet.

    I think you should practice your singing on its own until you don't have to think about it so much to do it properly. Once the breathing and everything starts to happen more naturally as you sing, it will be much easier to do it while you play.
  13. devilock76


    May 25, 2009
    Well on a follow up I am starting to see some results, well hear results from my work on this. I basically took all advice, or at least a piece of all advice and upped my practice habits accordingly. Did two shows this weekend with my main project (which wasn't why I was trying to work on this originally) and got comments from people including our own singer (who was under the weather). I kind of helped him get through the night how much more vocals I was doing and how much more present they were from this work. More to do of course but it is already paying off.

    In the end, practice practice practice and be as critical as you can of yourself to make sure you are not rehearsing bad habits into your repertoire.

    Thanks all!

  14. Keep it up!
  15. Exemonium

    Exemonium Supporting Member

    May 13, 2010
    I'm one that has trouble with lyrics and those have to have a majority of my attention. Last gig I had with my goofy bar band I found myself not thinking about the bass AT ALL when I was singing and realized that those songs were so much better. Everyone is giving you the right advice when it comes to nailing that bassline so you can do it in your sleep. It's not like you're just strumming a chord up there and trying to sing. I tend to play basslines that are syncopated which makes it worse when the vocals and bass don't sync up nicely. But it absolutely can be done.
    I was always jealous how Les Claypool could play those lines, sing whatever he wanted (change it up whenever) and dance around at the same time. Just takes a lot of time and effort.

    Now sure how much help this would be to you, but it makes sense what she says.

    Yolanda Charles and Phil Gould: Bass Syncopation Exercise
  16. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Playing bass and singing is hard. Lots of bass lines don't leave enough brain left to do anything else. As stated before, learn the bass line. Then learn the bass line some more. Once that is firmly in your head, then just sing. Practice the vocals in the car. It's a good way to pound that in your head as well.

    One other thing. When I started singing a lot, I had to adjust where my bass sits. It was sitting on my stomach right where my diaphragm is. I had to set my bass a little lower to allow room to breathe (literally).

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