1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
     
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Singing and playing...HELP!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Swampish, Jun 14, 2018.


  1. Swampish

    Swampish

    Dec 31, 2015
    Quebec, Canada
    OK, for years, I have sporadically been in positions where I've had to do backup vocals while playing. My voice is OK for backing, but unless the vocal lines match the structure of what I'm playing, I have a massive amount of trouble making it happen.

    It would really help our sound to have the additional backing vocals and we're not super-keen on bringing in a dedicated backing vocalist.

    Anyone have any tips, tricks or techniques to help with singing and playing at the same time? Is it just a case of practice, practice, practice or is it something you have or you don't have? Damn you, Sting, Paul and Geddy (amongst others)!
     
    Old Blastard and jamro217 like this.
  2. I do have some tips for you. Until you learn how to confidently sing harmonies by ear, you cannot count on your vocals to be right. Here’s how you can systematically learn to sing harmonies by ear:
    1. I presume you already sing along to songs in your car/shower/head. Now stop singing the melody, and start singing all the harmony and background parts instead. Do this for a few months.
    2. Now start trying to come up with harmonies that aren’t there. Turn every vocal solo into into a duet. Invent a fourth part. Sing the missing trio part to Simon & Garfunkel songs. Do this for a few months.
    You have to start training your ear to hear and generate those harmonies in real time.
     
    RobertUI, NOVAX, ERIC31 and 24 others like this.
  3. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    The other trick is to figure out how the vocal line and bass line play against each other. Figure out those rhythms and it will make it easier for you to sing while playing. And yes, practice and more practice!
     
  4. craigie

    craigie

    Nov 11, 2015
    calgary
    Here’s my approach:

    Figure out the vocal and harmony parts. Practice them separately. Put them together and find out where you stumble. Break things down into subdivisions and get the syncopations down. Simply the bass if necessary.
    Now take the smallest repeatable part. One bar, 6 beats, whatever. Loop it and practice things together slowly. Only do theirs when you can do it without mistakes so that you’re not “practicing them in”. Now you can increase tempo and expand the section. If it’s the chorus then loop just that. Once it’s comfortable loop it for say 5 minutes or if you can stand it 10 minutes. Now it’s programmed into you. Each time you practice just spend some time focussing on those parts. This is a general technique that works for everything.
     
  5. Swampish

    Swampish

    Dec 31, 2015
    Quebec, Canada
    Hey Dream, thanks for the pointers. So, by focusing on harmonies instead of melody that should help so that singing and playing don't conflict? A lot of the background vocals that I've done have been harmonies, but I still would run into issues trying to play and sing at the same time. Maybe the stopping singing the melody you mentioned is what I need to focus on first.
     
  6. Swampish

    Swampish

    Dec 31, 2015
    Quebec, Canada
    This is what I've really tried to do, but where I run into issues is, for example, let's say I'm holding a note on vocals, but maybe doing a run on the bass. Often my voice will tend to follow the bass line. Sort of like when you're driving a car and looking at something or someone on the sidewalk and sometimes the car veers in that direction.
     
    BaltoNealio and Loring like this.
  7. Swampish

    Swampish

    Dec 31, 2015
    Quebec, Canada
    Interesting approach. Haven't done it this way before, so will give it a try.
     
  8. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    That's the part that takes practice. Craigie's approach is a good one.
     
    Swampish likes this.
  9. EarnestTBass

    EarnestTBass

    Feb 3, 2015
    I know of no short cuts, but I have a suggestion-

    For more difficult rhythms, score out the bass line and the vocal lines, together, so that the smallest subdivision of time is no smaller than one beat. For example- sixteenths in 4/4 time become quarters, convert to 16 beats per measure instead of 4. It is easier to count, and easier to perform, when everything happens only on down beats.

    Start out stupid slow, and focus mechanically on the sequence of playing and singing. Initially, just accept that it is not very musical, or fun.

    Gradually increase tempo, let the groove happen later. When you have doubled the tempo, play and sing at same speed, but count half-time and you will then start feeling the syncopations.

    Keep your written notes, you may encounter the same patterns later.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
  10. craigie

    craigie

    Nov 11, 2015
    calgary
    I like dreamadream99’s method fo turning yourself into a natural harmony singer. I do that from time to time and I’m going to do it more!
     
    Swampish likes this.
  11. Swampish

    Swampish

    Dec 31, 2015
    Quebec, Canada
    Similar to craigie's approach and makes a lot of sense. Going to try this Gestalt approach (really just wanted to throw in the term Gestalt, but unlike my usual use of it, this time it actually makes sense!). Thanks!
     
  12. Swampish

    Swampish

    Dec 31, 2015
    Quebec, Canada
    Good harmonies can really make a song fuller and more interesting than several people singing the same melody.
     
  13. RustyAxe

    RustyAxe

    Jul 8, 2008
    Connecticut
    For me it's a matter of making the playing a background task ... ie; know the material so well that I don't have to think much about it, leaving me to focus on the vocals. As for harmonies, if you can hear (or imagine) the chord progression, try creating an alternate melody over those chords. If you're careful to avoid doubling the melody notes, you'll have your harmony part.
     
  14. bassdude51

    bassdude51 Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Singing and playing is very difficult and do not feel bad if you can't do it or will never be able to do it. Neither could these guys!

    BBKINGmain.

    zappa-frank-532b3747cadee.
     
  15. Swampish

    Swampish

    Dec 31, 2015
    Quebec, Canada
    Despite the excellent suggestions so far, I do think it will always be a challenge for me. Good to know I'm in good company!
     
  16. bass40hz

    bass40hz Cigar smoker, scotch drinker, American Patriot Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Sussex County, NJ
    no endorsements yet...Are you listening Spector, DR, GK?
    Like you, unless the vocals match what i am playing, I am limited to "yes" and "no" in what I can utter out while playing...
     
    Torrente Cro and Swampish like this.
  17. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    NJ Bayou Country
    I was not born a singer, but since singers were either too hard to find or reliable, I had no choice. For 15 years I could not sing and play, and the none day, I found a band that I could cover both on.

    I then discovered that if I could do both on a song, then I could usually do both on every song from that band. So, I just kept at it and as time went on, I became able to sing out of groove and more complex stuff.

    I don' know your genre, but find one song that you can sing and play, most times, the rest of the stuff from that band will be as easy for you to handle. Then, sing whenever you practice bass!!!!! I have a mic and mini PA setup next to my practice amp and always do both.

    BTW, for me it was the Misfits
     
    ObsessiveArcher, Loring and Swampish like this.
  18. Swampish

    Swampish

    Dec 31, 2015
    Quebec, Canada
    Lol!
     
  19. mmon77

    mmon77 Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2008
    Southern MN
    It's definitely not easy for most people, myself included.

    I've found that 1st off, I have to have the bass line and vocal parts down 100% separately. Once I have them down, I try to combine the two and find where I stumble. Then, as someone else said break down those sections where you have issues into smaller parts and try and find a way to get them nailed down through repetition.

    It's another one of those "there's no shortcut around practice" things.
     
    BluesOnBass, Engle, interp and 2 others like this.
  20. Swampish

    Swampish

    Dec 31, 2015
    Quebec, Canada
    I think the key is what you and a few others have pointed to and, of course, that's practice and repetition. The big mistake on my part is that I work on my bass parts, but if I'm not required to sing, I only use the vocals for cues and such. The idea of practicing them even when I'm not doing them in a song is not a bad idea.

    For a long time, I played hard rock and heavy metal that didn't require backing vocals, but we're doing a lot of heavier classic rock that requires it now.

    Misfits...nice!
     

Share This Page