Singing and playing at the same time?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Methodis, Jan 9, 2009.

  1. Methodis

    Methodis Guest

    Sep 22, 2008
    Concord, NH
    Anyone got any hints on developing this skill? I can't for the life of me do it. Anytime I start to sing I just lose track of where I am in my lines and mess it all up :(. Anyone got any good hints?
  2. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    Practice is the only way to get better. You might need to make your bass lines significantly simpler so you can focus on your singing. If you can't play the parts there is no other answer.
  3. Mudfuzz


    Apr 3, 2004

    Also try to think of the lyrics and what you are playing as one thing, i.e. how they fit together. Start simple and just get use to it. play all the time, and talk, read, sing while you are playing. At first it is kind of like patting your head and rubbing your tummy.....:bag:
  4. Methodis

    Methodis Guest

    Sep 22, 2008
    Concord, NH
    That's the thing though, i'm doing as simple as I can to even songs I know by heart haha. I'm afraid it might just be a mental thing with me :(
  5. Silver Hammer

    Silver Hammer Guest

    Aug 17, 2006
    I think it just takes practice. I can't sing but I used to have to stop playing if some one came to my room to ask me a question but after a lot of times of it happening now (if my amp isn't too loud) I can tell them the answer to whatever their asking while I keep playing. I think it'd be similar except with pitches for singing.
  6. mjpzx2

    mjpzx2 Guest

    Jan 11, 2009
    I'm a beginner and I can't do this yet but what I have learnt to do is count the timing which I also found hard to do whilst playing at first. Get some simple bass lines to start off with, even just one note and play it slowly. Count yourself in 1-2-3-4 and tap your foot to the counting then start playing but keep counting and tapping. Then try playing all eigth notes and count 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and but only tap your foot to the qaurter notes i.e. on the actual numbers. Then you can try mixing it up and playing some qaurter notes and some eigth notes. Always tap at qaurter notes but say the "and" for eighth notes.

    If you can do that it might help with singing too. Sorry if I explained it badly but good luck! :p
  7. bass player 48

    bass player 48 Guest

    Nov 17, 2008
    More practice. Start really, really slow. Not even at any kind of tempo. Just go through beat by beat and begin to associate each syllable of the lyrics with the bass note that should be played at that exact moment. Play very, very slowly, and practice. As you start to get it, then speed it up to the normal tempo. Also, depending on the type of bass line, it is sometimes helpful to start by just singing and playing only the root note and only when the chord changes, and then fill in from there.
  8. Thunderthumbs73

    Thunderthumbs73 Supporting Member

    May 5, 2008
    My shortest, quickest suggestion is to learn the bass part solid, to the point of being automatic, so that when you add in singing which has its own pitches and rhythms, the bass line is not thrown off so much. Start with relatively simple songs, even if you might find those songs boring. Master the easy ones, then progress.
  9. I'm the same way. It takes all my concentration to stay with the bassline, if I try to sing I screw up the bass part. A friend told me to sing the same notes (no words) you play on the bass for starters. This should get you used to singing while playing. Then after you master that, it should be easier to put words to the notes and sing more than just the bassline.
  10. Altitude

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

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    To sing as a bass player can be a real challenge. Very often, the bass lines in modern popular music are very contrapuntal to the melodies, so it's tough to do them both at the same time. I struggle with this all the time.

    I learned a trick once that has helped me. Take a piece of paper - graph paper is perfect if you can find some - and mark off each square horizontally as an eighth note or sixteenth note space, and do enough of them to amount to a measure or phrase within the music you are practicing.

    Then, write an X in the square if a bass note occurs in that space, and a Y if a vocal note occurs in that space.

    As you do this, you will see visual representation of the rhythyms of both the bass part and the vocal part together. Study that, and it helps you think of the bass and the vocals as one voice rather than two, and makes it a little easier to align where each note happens versus the others.

    Hope that makes sense, and that it helps.

    Now, go listen to a few bass players who sing and who are also significant writers of their music. It's interesting to note the ones who tend to write basslines that rhythmically match the vocal melodies (Geddy Lee is a great example) versus the really amazing cats who can sing against totally contrapuntal bass lines (Mark King).
  11. Try closing your eyes. It's not a joke. You shut down one sense so your brain can better focus on the rest.
  12. HashbrownCOBM

    HashbrownCOBM Guest

    May 6, 2008
    I can't even talk and play bass at the same time. That stuff is tough.
  13. CYDbass

    CYDbass Guest

    Jan 13, 2009
    Coventry, England
    ive been playing about a year and a half and luckily didnt find it too hard.
    i sing backing vocals normally, altho i do agree it gets harder when you sing lead vocals, if thats what your doing.

    the way i think of it agrees with Thunderthunmbs73 in the beginning, learn the bassline really well. get it spot on. when you get good at it, do small other things, like look around the room your in, think about what you can see out the window etc. looking away from your fretboard comes with this too, another good thing for singing.

    you should begin to find that the bass part comes naturally. you dont have to think about what your playing, it just flows. then hav a go at singing. it doesnt matter how out of tune you are, just try and do it.
    that was my way to start, practice practice practice and itll come =]

    hope i help
  14. ThunderLizard

    ThunderLizard Guest

    Aug 9, 2007
    Edwardsville, IL
    Method- No quick way to get there unless your brain is just 'wired' the right way. If not, you'll just have to spend the time woodsheding. You might try throwing in a background harmony to start....not try to carry the whole song.
    It took me 10 years to get to the 'pitiful' level. :)
  15. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    it is a strange skill, no doubt. I'm not very good at it, and I've been doing it for 30 years! It always amazes me when guys sing and play effortlessly. They must have bigger brains than me or something.

    Then again - I've never just forced myself to really WOODSHED this out - you know, take weeks to work on it, hours every day. That would make a difference, I'm sure (my voice doesn't really rate this kind of effort, however!)
  16. mikeswals

    mikeswals Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    I'm not the singer of my band, but still do a ton of harmonies throuout the songs (kinda like alice in chains), and it is really tough to do. When we write new songs, I slowly add in the vocal sections, sometimes it takes a month or two before I'm fluid with both, it takes lots and lots of practice.
  17. Just practice. Singing and playing simultaneously is just like a pianist learning to seperate the left and right hand from each other, or a drummer learning to make his limbs more independant.

    Perhaps a good motivation to practice is to think "if my drummer can do three different things at the same time, surely I can do two".

    The beauty about it is that it becomes easier the more you can do it, just like learning how to sing a 3rd or a 5th above the main vocal melody. I had real problems singing harmonies when I first started and needed much practice, now I can add the harmony on the fly without practice (not always perfectly, but sometimes I nail it first go) AND play the bass simultaneously.
  18. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    For me, it was crucial to realize that the essential problem with singing while playing bass is rhythmic in nature.

    Your hands are playing rhythm A, your voice is singing rhythm B. and your brain can't do both at once.

    In my small forays into backup vocals, , I always practiced singing while clapping the bass rhythm to be played. slowly at first, until I could execute A and B confidently. Then, secure in the knowledge that my brain could comfortably handle the two rhythms at once, or rather the single rhythm they became, I would reach for my bass. This cut down the time required to get used to doing two things at once.
  19. dbassman59

    dbassman59 Guest

    Dec 19, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    I used to have the same problem ... I can now sing and play OK. Often, if I'm singing lead, I may simplify the bassline a bit .. skip a run or two. Some songs I just can't sing and play at the same time. (well at least not without practice)

    how I got started was by taking a simple song that I filled with quarter notes or eighth notes like "Brown Sugar" during the vocals .. where you play the same note in each in each Chord. (don't worry if it's not exactly like the bassline on the album). The only climbs really take place when you are not singing ... You can also try to learn Rocking Me by Steve Millar ... it's very similar. Basically you strumming fingers are just keeping simple time to the song

    Once you've mastered something easy ... move on to walking basslines filled with quarter or eight notes ... You can sing and tap your feet at the same time right .. or play bass and tap your foot to the quarter note beat right? A good song to learn would be "All MyLoving" by the Beatles. Start slow ... You could also try "Smoking in the Boys Room" ... I just use walking quarter notes for the chorus ...

    Another good one to practice with is Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith. Learn the opening bass riff (look it up on youtube .. it's easy) and Just start singing Sweeeeeet Emmmoootioon ... all the accented parts of the word change with the repeat off the progression ... and you are only holding a single note while singing so you can concentrate on the bass line ...

    I hope this helps you a bit .. remember SLOW and EASY 'til you get it!