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Multitasking singing with Bass playing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Mobius_118, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. I've been playing for about three years now, and suddenly my band wants me to be the front man; I can sing decently enough, and I play bass well enough. However, I've always had difficulty doing both at the same time. Anyone out there have any tips or links for newcomers to playing and singing?
  2. Lots of practice. I know a few people that do the same and I have a long time ago. Sometimes you gotta simplify the bass lines but if you practice enough it will come
  3. Jeff Mills

    Jeff Mills

    May 12, 2011
    Interesting topic - My son can do both at the same time, but then again he also plays drums and sings. What I've noticed about bass players that also sing is their bass lines contain some of the same notes as what they are singing.

    Maybe start with something simple, like Grantchester Meadows where the bass line goes along with the words. I know it's being played on 6 string guitars but you can transpose to bass easy enough just let those open E and A's ring with your thumb. I guess what I'm trying to say is start with something straight forward to get the hang of it.

    I can sing and play at the same time but you don't want to hear me sing - talking about clearing a room in a hurry? put me behind a mic :)
  4. Armyof1


    Mar 25, 2010
    my brain just goes into a different mode. i can play and sing, then walk over to the stage edge and talk to someone then go back and adjust the pa system. all while singing thru my headset mic. its not magic but your halves of your mind just seem like they split and then you can do anything.....play in one time siggy and sing in another one, now thats fun and what gets me all my work!
  5. I've heard a lot of chords being played while singing, is that a good option?
  6. you could alternate singing and playing, or just let notes ring. i don't know what kind of music your band is, but all it really takes is practice, practice, practice!
  7. theduke1

    theduke1 Supporting Member

    Dec 22, 2010
    Manitowoc WI
  8. We're a trio that plays something between Motorhead and Black Sabbath. I like the idea of just sustaining the notes and then singing; I'll give that one a try @ our next practice. Thanks
  9. Practice, practice, and then practice some more. I started singing lead just a few years after I started playing bass, and the only thing that helped was to just keep working at it.

    One tip: if you do wear earplugs, get something like Hearos hi-fi's instead of regular foamies. Foam plugs block out so much sound it can be hard to hear anything but your own voice when you start singing.
  10. analogfreq


    Jan 23, 2012
    Slow slow slow. Go back to grade school when you're practicing. Take a particular verse ( 1 measure is plenty) and start slow (40bpm?) !

    Get your mind used to playing and singing, first with quarter notes ( ones where vocals and bass land on the same note - easy enough). Then, listen to where the vocals continue to land in reference to the bass line ( 1 e + a 2 e + a).

    Piece by piece, play out the notes and sing. Eventually your brain will get used to recognizing different patterns, and it will translate to other songs
  11. Jeff Mills

    Jeff Mills

    May 12, 2011
    Not a lot of chords being played, there are two guitars one on each channel (right and left). I'll transpose it for you later this evening and post it when I'm done. I always thought the rhythm guitar of the song would sound cool on the bass instead of a guitar - now I have a reason to find out :)
  12. Jeff Mills

    Jeff Mills

    May 12, 2011
    I didn't get as much time as I wanted to work on Grandchester Meadows before my Grand-daughters came over for a visit.

    Attached is what I had time to work out, if you like I could complete the bridge but I think you'll get the hang of it without my help.

    Verse is in E switches to A then back to E, the Chorus is A, G, F# and E repeated 4 times then back to the verse. There's is an alternate run that the lead guitar is sometimes playing in the verses. It's basically a quick succession of slide backs, hammers and pulls on ether the D or G string. I also included the alternate verse so you can jazz it up some if you like.

    To work out the plucking hand, just park your pinky on the body below the G string and alternate using your thumb and first finger over the E and D or A and G strings respectively. Nice simple easy going song and the lyrics pretty match the notes being played, you'll just be singing them an octave higher. Hope this helps you in your quest to sing and play at the same time.

    Oh I forgot to add - here is a link to the Lyrics - like almost all music posted on the internet there's some words wrong to not violate copyrights. ---> http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/pinkfloyd/grantchestermeadows.html


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  13. Basso54


    Jul 22, 2003
    Dalhart, TX
    I started out by learning songs that I loved to listen to and play. Granted that playing "covers" might be a step back, it's a good way to get into the groove with your band and start developing those multitasking skills. First song I played live and sang at the same time was Breakdown by Tom Petty. Not a taxing song, but hey, it broke the ice and got me into being able to sing and play simultaneously.
  14. I just meant chords being played by a lot of different bassists who sing, not in that particular song. Thanks for the tabs though.

    On another note, Arlo Guthrie had a pretty elaborate progression (playing acoustic, not bass) in Alice's Restaurant Massacre, top that he had the huge monologue over top of it. Anyways is he just singing in the pentatonic key of the guitar to simplify? If not, would that help?
  15. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    I have done a lot (relatively speaking( of singing and playing at the same time, both bass and guitar. And I find that to do it well, you have to do even more than just memorizing the parts. You have to know them both so well you don't even have to think about it anymore. This allows you to do one while focusing on the other, or devote a small amount of attention to each, or whatever it is. That's just what I've found playing prodigious amounts of Rush. you learn the bass part, you learn the vocal part, practice them a LOT, and then you learn the combined version, and practice THAT.

    That's just what I've found. And I'm a first-year college student with minimal experience gigging. But it works for me.
  16. rockscott


    Aug 28, 2010
    Lots and lots and lots of practice, it will come!
  17. Much easier for me to sing while playing guitar than sing while playing bass for some reason. Of course, most people would probably prefer I not sing at all :)

    I suppose it has something to do with trying to keep the groove going while singing a possibly different rhythm. Yes, I need to practice.
  18. Kmose


    Feb 17, 2007
    Lakland, Aguilar
    learn the bass part and the vocal part independant of each other. Once you become comfortable with each on their own, begin to combine them. Be sure to practice this with a metronome as doing both at the same time can challenge your timing.
  19. maxiegrant

    maxiegrant Bassist in Transition

    Nov 26, 2007
    Sellersburg, IN
    I've done this for . . . erm . . . several years now (25? I am afraid to count anymore)

    First hint: practice in front of a mirror. This gets your eyes off your neck, and on your posture. If your posture sucks, you will fight with your voice. If your eyes are on the neck, you are concentrating too hard on the bass line, and your hands won't develop any independence.

    It is not actually necessary to slow down. I don't know how that could help. What you're practicing is doing two things at the same time. You have to practice doing them . . . at the same time.

    You should have them rehearsed separately. I don't dumb down my bass lines for singing. Not in the slightest. There is no magic trick. You just DO it. You will sometimes encounter lines that don't make sense rhythmically with the vocal.

    One way to think of this is that people don't really multitask. Neither do computers. Instead, a computer executes how ever many instructions in a thread that it is allotted to, and then moves to the other thread. When you're multi-tasking as a singer, you play a note, you sing a note, you play another note.

    Most of the time I don't notice that I'm weaving two threads together, but every once in awhile I get stuck where I want to hit a note on the bass, and my vocal emphasis is in the wrong place. When I hit one of those, I just rewind, and rehearse just that bit over and over again.

    I do not use a metronome. Especially when learning the part, it would just be a major distraction. I try to get the bass line grooving, then I layer the vocal in. I tap my feet if I need a beat.

    Singing well is important. Breathing is super-important. That's why I always harp on the posture. You can't breathe right if you are slouched over.

    Use the mirror. Learn to play your part without looking at your bass. This will help you more than any other single thing. If you don't have to look at it, you don't have to concentrate on it. Your hand knows what to do and you don't have to think too hard about it. That's why the mirror.

    I never did anything special to figure out how to do this. I just played along with recordings, eventually learning to play by myself. If you have a recording use that --- far more useful for keeping track of where you are than a metronome.
    bmac314 likes this.
  20. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Think about how pianists coordinate the left and right hand parts for piano. Each is a separate part, but they are combined by figuring out where each note in each part falls within the bar, so they become coordinated into a unified whole. At each "frame," it's nothing, one hand, or both hands. So, similar to analogfreq's point, when you hit a difficult section, break down the timing of the vocal and bass line, and figure out how they relate to each other. Eventually, you'll be able to coordinate them.

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