Singing and playing.....

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by grumpyjfc, Aug 21, 2005.

  1. grumpyjfc

    grumpyjfc Supporting Member

    Sep 25, 2003
    Mount Pleasant SC
    Anyone have any tips for learing how to sing and play at the same time?? I find myself tripping over bass lines that I've played a million times when I try to add the words. How do you do this??
  2. Time Divider

    Time Divider Guest

    Apr 7, 2005
    Same way you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice.

    Seriously, it's the only way to overcome the pitfalls of dropping one (bass) or the other (vocals) - repetition.
  3. I strongly agree...practice! I played and did lead vocals for ten years. First, learn to play your song, perfectly and without looking at the neck every five seconds. After youve mastered that, then you can slowly work in the vocal parts. After awhile of doing this, youll find that the bass playing part of the process becomes second nature and everything from your neck down becomes mechanical. Believe me, its much harder to remember lyrics onstage in front of a crowd than you would think, atleast youll have the bass part down. But again...this takes PRACTICE!
  4. core


    Aug 4, 2005
    The above suggestions are definitely key, and it does take a while to be able to sing and play, especially if you're playing complicated lines. Personally, some thing that's always helped me is seeing the lyrics of the song written out along with the notes I'm playing. Just a quick write up, maybe just chord changes along with the words. It really helps me with the timing and that way you can practice thinking about both parts at the same time, if necessary. Another thing I like to do is to try to talk to someone while I learn lines, or just talk out loud, even if no one's there.

    Good luck!
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I sing and play and have never had a lick of trouble doing it in the past. Didn't matter if what I was singing was totally against what I was playing...I could always do it after playing it once or twice. I could never explain how I did it, I just did it. Lately though, I've been trying to get into jazz music, and there are some songs that I find very difficult to sing and play at the same time. Here's what I do to get them down:

    1. Learn each part independently and make sure you've got them down cold before proceeding.

    2. Practice slowly merging the two. And by slowly, I mean take the song as slow as you can stand it, painfully slow if necessary. Just make sure before you speed up that you can play and sing it in perfect time. Work on one line at a time. Always best to work on a line at a time instead of a bar at a time because sometimes a lyric can get interrupted between bars, and it won't do you any good to learn how to sing half a word. If you've done all that and still can't get it, then...

    3. Simplify the bassline. There is no shame in doing this. If you're playing a really difficult bass part and singing a really hard line at the same time, rare is the person who can pull it off. Most can't. Hell, even BB King can't sing and play guitar at the same time, and he's one of the greats. The reason I say simplify the bassline is because nobody cares as much if you simplify it as they would the vocal. Sorry, you bass gods out there, but it's true. The listener is much more fussy about a vocal being off than they are a bassline being off. Might not go over with the guys in the band, but at least you're trying, so tell them to **** ***.

    4. Start off easy. You didn't learn to walk before you could crawl. You didn't start playing Flea basslines until you could play Hives basslines. So don't make "Aeroplane" the first song you try. Instead, just try shouting out some Ramones lyrics or something similar. You don't even have to sing them at first. Just say them and play at the same time.

    BTW, if you just plain can't sing, then I would add "learn to sing" before you try any of this.
  6. grumpyjfc

    grumpyjfc Supporting Member

    Sep 25, 2003
    Mount Pleasant SC
    All great tips, thanks guys. I actually can sing, that has been the frustrating part all along; I can sing and I can play, just having a problem trying to mesh the two. I'll let you know how it goes!
  7. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    I think it's fair to say that whichever somes easier and more naturally to you won't demand (or recieve) your fullest attention. I tend to simplify my playing somewhat when singing as the singing is more difficult for me. I also play fretless a lot, so that really keeps me on my toes.
  8. seventhson

    seventhson Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2005
    Seattle, WA
    I posted this in a similar thread in General Instruction...

    I found the best way is to play along with a recording of a song that you're REALLY familiar with.

    After I have nailed the bass part, I sloppily play the notes with the bass volume all the way down while singing really loud with the song or through a PA. Singing really loud (or through a PA) helps gives strong feedback through your ears and helps you to phrase your singing independently of what your hands are doing.
  9. Tingly


    Jul 16, 2005
    Yonkers, NY
    JimmyM has got the right idea.

    Here are my tips:

    1) Before combining playing and singing, you must know the bass part, and the vocal part, really, really, really, really well. I mean really, really, really well. Most of us think we "know" a tune, and the accompanying lyrics, as we croon along with the CD player while driving down the interstate. No good. Shut the CD off and try to sing it "a cappella." Yeah, THAT well.

    2) Memorize the lyrics so you know them in your sleep. Then, get the TIMING of the words down, with the timing of the bass (as closely as you can). Many good singers have a way of pausing, drawing out a particular word or phrasing, or "forcing" the lyrics into the rhythm. It's often so subtle that you won't notice it, unless you pay close attention, but that's often the key to (a) covering the song so it's recognizable and (b) preventing your playing from being thrown off. If it's an original song, or you have a very original style, you can allow yourself more "poetic license" in this area.

    3) Breathing deep and vocalizing from the diaphragm instead of the throat will help. If you don't know what I mean by that, ask a singer and they should be able to tell you, or read up on it.

    4) I guess, here's the key concept: try to learn to divide your attention somewhat. When the hard bass part is coming up, concentrate on that more. If necessary, simplify your bass line or fingering. If you are covering a tune, try to get the "sense" of the bass line, instead of playing every note exactly like the original. When you have to sing that one high note, simplify your playing there.

    5) After practicing a piece about 22,438 times, by all means, try to relax and enjoy yourself as you perform it. It IS supposed to be fun, right?! Sing it with feeling. You might try closing your eyes and, where appropriate, attempt to match the pitch of your voice with the lead guitar or keys.

    Don't feel bad and don't be intimidated. For most people, it is hard to play and sing. There are so many variables. It's like patting your head, jumping up and spinning around while reciting poetry, all at the same time. But it's a worthwhile skill that does get easier.
  10. patrickj


    Aug 13, 2001
    Baltimore, MD

    I'm in the same boat. I can sing my parts, I can play my parts, and I can even fake-fret my parts while singing without any problem, but as soon as I add my picking hand (fingers, not a pick player) it all falls apart.

    I've never been much of a mechanical player (I'll play the same song differently every single time I play it - too much jazz and solo/improv background) and I think that's my problem. The bassline never becomes 2nd nature - to allow me to focus on singing - so I *have* to think about what I'm playing.


  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I think it would help if you duplicated your basslines, but to what degree is to be determined. You could certainly try it and see if it helps. I know unless you're playing in an improv band that your bandmates will be glad you stick to the same bassline every time.
  12. Its all a matter of timing. First times around it'll sound really mechanical, placing the words on the right bass note. Then when you can speak the lyrics with the right rythm, add in the lyrics' notes.

    Most people i know do it this way.

    Oh and, practice practice practice practice...
  13. Suckbird

    Suckbird Banned

    May 4, 2004
    Is it even worth learning if u cant sing ?
  14. modulus603


    Mar 17, 2006
    Start by playing and singing along to RHCP-Under the Bridge.
    Thats exactly i am practicing currently.
  15. patrickj


    Aug 13, 2001
    Baltimore, MD
    Weird - had a sort of ah-ha moment last night at a gig. It just clicked. Not sure what changed, but whatever mental hurdle I had my brain figured it out.
  16. bearfoot


    Jan 27, 2005
    schenectady, ny
    'Drive My Car' by the Beatles did the trick for me. It seems that, once your brain can process two rhythms at once, its easier from there on out. :bassist: