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It is tough to sing while you play the bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Rod Barchetta, Feb 24, 2021.

  1. jdh3000


    May 16, 2016
    It takes more practice to get used to. I used to could play guitar and sing but had trouble playing bass and singing, but I pushed myself to sing on songs that required complicated bass lines, now I'm confident to be able to sing lead or harmony while playing bass... Just keep picking bass lines and singing a little out of your comfort zone and you'll get there.
    Rodney Fritz likes this.
  2. Know the lyrics cold without stumbling. Bass playing goes on auto pilot, you must focus on vocal delivery or it will sound like caca.
    Rodney Fritz likes this.
  3. Hurricane Jimmie

    Hurricane Jimmie Supporting Member

    So Anyway, it's difficult for a lot of us.
    But if you want to gig and add value to a band, it can be worth your effort.
    I've got/kept a lot of gigs because I can sing a few songs every set and add harmony on others.
    Rodney Fritz likes this.
  4. We do Bozz Scaggs' Lowdown. Not a hard bass part. I sing it too. Not a hard vocal melody. So I first memorized the lyrics, sang it by myself till I had it down then picked up the bass. Trying to sing it and play the bass part wasn't happening. I couldn't understand it. But like others have said here, I kept at it and then it just clicked. I think I may have actually heard a clicking noise!
    Rodney Fritz, ToneMonkey and LBS-bass like this.
  5. tothemax


    Nov 1, 2013
    Annapolis Area
    It is kind of weird how it works out, for example I do "Born to be wild" easily while playing bass, but... I learned the song while playing bass. Also the bass line is not too far off the vocal. But songs like "Taking care of business" and "Stay" (Jackson Browne) with easy bass lines were easy to sing with a guitar but these take considerable effort to do well while playing bass (for me).
    I think from the many responses to your post, you see you are not alone.
    Rodney Fritz likes this.
  6. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    I agree, it is hard.

    I figured someone would mention Geddy Lee. Actually if you listen carefully for the pattern, he rarely writes or plays bass parts that are contrapuntal to the melody. Often, the two are very aligned.

    Sing in your head now both the vocals and the bass:
    • "You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice"
    • "Living in the Limelight, the universal dream, for those who wish to see..."
    • "All this machinery making modern music can still be open hearted"
    • "Big Money goes Around the World"
    So Geddy cheated a little. Good on him because nobody noticed.

    One guy to listen to is Mark King. His bass parts are nuts, and in many cases totally don't match the vocals. Check this out:

  7. When you believe you are ready, try to the "Major of Simpleton" (XTC)
    LBS-bass and SDC1-ClickClack like this.
  8. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    Or if you're willing to listen to it, try singing the background vocals in "Material Girl" by Madonna while playing the bass part. It's almost impossible, killed myself learning it in a band back in high school.
    Rodney Fritz likes this.
  9. I only made the comment as a challenge, LOL. I really admire someone who can sing and play a good bass line.
    Rodney Fritz likes this.
  10. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    Actually my reply was sincere. I really did play in a high school band in the 80s that covered "Material Girl" and I really did struggle to sing the background vocals.
    Rodney Fritz likes this.
  11. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the preceding page in this thread, see Comment #120.
  12. AndyLES


    Aug 25, 2008
    New York
    With all due respect, I see a lot of comments saying, "just practice" but without any real pedagogy or advice on what to actually do. That's akin to saying, "just swim," without any mention of leg kicking, arm wading, etc.

    The late David Z of Z rock and TSO taught me this trick:

    First, tap out the bassline with your fingers, slowly. When doing this, sing it ATONALLY. In other words, stop thinking about pitch. Think, "bum bum bummm bumm bum," for instance. DO NOT sing the pitch of the bassline.

    While tapping it, then start singing the lyrics. Go slow at first. Concentrate on the singing, and keep tapping the rhythm of the bassline. Again, DO NOT concentrate on the tonality of the bassline.

    Then, pick up your bass. Play the bassline slowly, but don't worry about fudging the notes, or the intonation, etc.; just get the rhythm and sing. Tap muted notes if you have to at first.

    Take a few minutes doing this, and you will be able to start playing the actual bass line and then synch the lyrics, and then get the left hand intonation and speed up gradually.

    I'm no Sting or Geddy, but this technique has helped me A LOT.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2021
  13. Marc61

    Marc61 Supporting Member

    Jul 29, 2007
    Greater NY Area
    I grew up in the same neighborhood with Pete Steele of Type O Negative. If anyone was a master of singing and playing the bass it was him. With Carnivore, one of the original thrash bands or Type O, his singing was in such counterpoint to his playing. When asked in an interview how he learned, he said Paul McCartney. Made sense because I remember when he was making his bones back in Brooklyn he did his share of Beatles covers in bars
  14. I enjoyed reading this, thanks for posting it.
  15. This is so true. When I learned the bass line for Crossroads I was amazed how much of the really difficult lines in the song were bass lines. The Jack Bruce/Cream/Strange Brew version of Crossroads is totally nuts and easily the most challenging song I have ever mastered on the bass. It never gets easy or old. And on this album they keep picking up speed throughout the song. They were flying (probably in more ways than one)!
    dangevans likes this.
  16. Actually, I've seen the clip which triggered my comment LOL
    SDC1-ClickClack likes this.
  17. dangevans


    Mar 26, 2014
    Yes! It is definitely on my "something to practice because you will never perfect it" list! I can see why EC sang that one instead of Jack.
    Rodney Fritz likes this.
  18. tothemax


    Nov 1, 2013
    Annapolis Area
    Even though it wasn't Jack Bruce playing, I never tire of listening to great bass parts on Let it rain... it seems there is still some discussion that Stephen Stills added some of the bass parts. That instrumental section reminds of my old stereo and why headphones were created...

    Quote from an article:
    "That would be the great Carl Radle, but also in a couple of places Stephen Stills added bass. I read in several articles over the years that Stephen was in a London studio with Eric and kept telling him that Carl missed a great opportunity of answering the piano and guitar in a few spots. Finally he grabbed a bass and added the small parts himself"


    Interesting cover: Just listened to it, really nice version.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
    nightchef likes this.
  19. nightchef


    Feb 4, 2005
    I know this bass part by heart and played/sang it several times with a cover band I was in, and if that performance isn't note-perfect, it's damn close. It's funny, I can even hear him struggling a little for vocal support in exactly the same places I did. You know what the hardest part of that whole song is? It's singing that extended G on "warm in the arms of the Mayor of Simpletuhhhhhhn" while you're going up the scale to C and back down, keeping the tone supported and warm and the pitch unwavering. I could never quite pull it off--he gets it right the first time, but runs out of steam in a very familiar way at 3:44.

    Kudos to him as well for playing this with fingers. I play most things with fingers these days, but I always reached for the pick for this one.

    I also find myself falling in love with this band's drummer as I listen. This song desperately needs a drummer with a relaxed, steady groove who can keep the pulse driving along without ever pushing it, and boy does this guy nail it.
    SDC1-ClickClack and Rodney Fritz like this.
  20. nightchef


    Feb 4, 2005
    One of the things that spurred me to take more interest in bass in high school was listening to Crossroads and realizing that it was the bass playing that was exciting me, not the guitar.
    tothemax and Rodney Fritz like this.
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