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singing and playing at the same time

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by hernameisrio, Nov 21, 2012.

  1. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    So it seems that as I evolve as a bassist, I will be expected to sing and play at the same time. I thiiink there's a sticky thread about this somewhere on TalkBass, which I'm hoping to find. But I wanted to ask something more specific...I understand that part of being able to sing and play at the same time, is being able to sort of split my brain up in such a way that I can concentrate on each of these things separately. To me, it "feels" like I'm paying proper attention to the notes/lyrics/timing, as it relates to the bass line/timing, and vice versa. But even though the "feel" seems right, it's almost like I can't really hear myself that well.

    I really don't know how else to explain it...it's just this sense that my ear can't separate my voice from my bass line enough to tell if I'm doing it right. But it's not a volume thing... it's more about being able to discern the relationship in timing and pitch between the two.

    Does that make sense? Has anyone else experienced this? Is there anything I can try when I practice, that would help me to get a better sense of things?
  2. Rockbassist4


    Oct 13, 2012
    When I first started I had a problem playing and singing at the same time. Then I read an article that said everytime you practice to just "mouth" the words without actually singing them. That way you are not focusing on singing in key. Start out with songs that you can play without thinking about what you are doing. As strange as it sounds, it worked for me. I can now sing while playing just about anything.
  3. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    At first I really just had to learn the bass line to death. I pretty much had to program myself to play so that I could think about singing. After a few tears of doing it, it just became second nature. These days I can learn a song doing both at the same time.
  4. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    I've kinda tried it from both ends...just plucking the rhythm on one or two strings/notes while singing...then switching to singing what I can keep up with and playing the bass line as I know it already. I've gotten into the routine of singing backing vocals with any song I play that has them in it. I had an audition last weekend for an 80's band which required me to sing backing vocals and it made me realize that's one of my weak points. It didn't help that I had a cold! :(
  5. I definitely think it's one the harder things to do musically. I don't have problems with certain types of songs. But, if it's playing something that's going COMPLETELY AGAINST what I'm singing, I'll admit it, it's not something that I've mastered, by any means. Hell, I used to have trouble singing simple harmonies back in the day. But, years of steady gigging (and playing with musicians who really push you to a higher standard) I've closed the gap a bit. The guys I play with really strive for perfection on all aspects of playing music. They really expect you to be just as good with your voice as you are you instrument.
  6. I can do it if the bassline closely follows the vocals, or has some points in common for reference. When the two are overly different, not so much. Something I am working to improve on as well.
  7. bodoger


    Feb 28, 2008
    Chapmanville, WV
    Do you mean we're supposed to sing to :(
  8. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    Apparently! How does Sting do it? I've been playing along to Police songs and observing how he "locks" the vocals to the bass line, or sometimes not.
  9. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I just started this, it's trouble. I think of it all as one big rhythm, just the way I do when I'm singing/beatboxing when I'm walking around. Basically I kick the bass rhythms when I'm not singing sustained tones and vice versa.

    But I always start out by just plucking notes when the chord is changing. Then I gradually move into plunking quarter notes or whatever basic rhythm is most appropriate.

    If someone wants you to sing/play "What's Going On?" then just tell 'em fuggedaboudit.
  10. VitalSigns


    May 8, 2011
    Central NY
    I'm currently trying a singer/songwriter thing but with just my bass. It's... Interesting.
  11. I've been working on this as well. I find it helpful to go through the song bar by bar and work out exactly what the vocal and bass do on each beat.

    For example, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. First column is the beat, second is the bass note, third is the lyric.

    1. D
    2. F#
    3. A
    4. B This

    1. D. thing
    2. F#
    3. A
    4. B called

    1. D. love
    2. F#
    3. A
    4. B I

    1. G. just
    2. B
    3. D
    4. E can't
    &. D

    1. C. Han-
    2. C. dle
    3. B. it.
    4. B This

    Etcetera. This is pretty tedious and only a small step short of writing out the song in proper musical notation. But having done it, I can practice the song as slowly as necessary, beat by beat. And strangely, having learned it this fairly mechanical way, it then becomes fairly easy to relax the vocal phrasing without screwing up the bass line.
  12. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Trinity, FL
    singing backing parts is a little bit different than singing a melody that you probably know .. !

    try some 50's stuff ... do-wap , with bass going ...

    or like other said pick some songs that you know either part very well for starters ...

    or look at some sheet music to get a visual of what's going on .. !?

    i've had a few parts over the decades where i really needed to slowly work on every note and rest and just ' work it out ' .
    it really is like any kind of muscle memory ...

    sometimes it helps to run thru some difficult parts right before you go to bed ... your brain will keep working on it .!

    good luck .. have fun with it .. ! Dave C.
  13. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    It seems to be more difficult for bass players to play and sing than it is for guitarists. I have several friends who play guitar but are also very good bass players. They have no problem singing while playing guitar but cannot sing and play bass.

    It can be learned. It just takes practice. Try singing along while playing something that you can play without thinking about it. I also mouth the words when practicing just to get used to playing and singing. It does help. I can do it very easily without even thinking about it but it took a lot of practice.
  14. I sorta feel bad that I can do this really well (I'm the lead singer of my band) and lots of the people who responded to this can't . I guess I'm gifted? that makes me seem snooty.
    I just think of the whole thing, the bass rythm, the drums' rythm, the guitars, as just one rythm. Thats what helps me sing easily.

    P.S. Thanks Max I love that song, now I know the bassline!

    P.S.S. I am writing some songs too with just my bass and its interesting because I cant help but build all of them around one of my bass riffs each of them has a bass riff lol
  15. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Well screw you and the horse you rode in on!! Does the horse sing? Sheesh.
    Haha, I'm happy to hear you say that you think of it as one big rhythm. When it's happening for me (for whatever reason), that's the feeling that I get. When I start thinking about it too much or the individual parts, it tends to fall apart. Maybe I can get hypnotized to do this. I would pay like $500 for that.
  16. - Tap bass rhythm with one hand (plucking hand best) and melody rhythm with other hand = rhythmic independence.
    - Play melody line and bass line on piano with each hand separately, then together (bass left, melody right) = visually see/hear their harmonic connection.
    - Strum guitar chords and sing at same time = independence but one working alongside the other.
    - Play easier bass lines eg. Ramones have simple repeated 8th note patterns.
    - slow it down, loop a few bars over and over, gradually add more bars as you feel more confident.
    - A Chorus of a song is often what you know best, and phrasing is usually easier, so start there.
    - Pick really easy songs, or repetitive songs.
    - Do 5-10 mins a day EVERY day for a week or two on the SAME SONG until the penny drops.
  17. Sometimes it's easier to use a pick and sing. Fingerstyle and singing can seem a bit harder.
  18. peledog


    Jul 9, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    I always marvel at Mark King and Geddy Lee.
  19. bumperbass

    bumperbass Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    Start out with some simpler songs where you don't have to think as much. Overthinking will screw you up. Relax. Keep doing it live. The interesting thing is, you can practice it a thousand times at your house, but it is NOT the same as doing it live! It's that time where....'it's showtime' and somehow you get through it. Keep doing it live and it will eventually become second nature. Don't try more than one or two songs a night so that you're not freeked out. It will happen, if you LIKE TO SING and you CAN sing. If you CAN sing, then you will be asked to sing more. It's a good feeling to be able to contribute vocally. You'll be sought after much more if you can sing.
    Glad you're trying to do more.
  20. bumperbass

    bumperbass Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    It's much easier to sing and play something that YOU have written. Not as easy when you're trying to do a cover.