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Singing backups

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Milo Desmond, Jan 19, 2003.

  1. Milo Desmond

    Milo Desmond Guest

    Oct 13, 2002
    Salt Lake City
    Hey there all-

    I have an audition with a well known band in the next couple of weeks. Everything is going well as far as preparations go, except for one thing.

    This particular band uses 3 part harmonies in almost all of their songs. I don't have a problem singing the parts when I'm not playing, but put a bass in my hands, and I lose pitches quickly.

    My question is, do any of you play and sing harmonies at the same time, and if so, what are some of the ways you taught yourself how to do this.

    Also, if anyone has any general auditioning tips, they would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Hello, Milo.

    Interesting puzzle. I'm bassist and lead vocals. Did my first gig as such, New Years Eve.

    FWIW, I believe foldback is vital. Having said that, I don't use it cos we can't afford it.:eek: I'm not loosing pitch (according to audience reaction afterwards) but there are genuine difficulties playing bass and singing.

    It's taken me months of practice to get to the stage where I can carry it off. I think it's just down to practice. I've spent hours at home going over songs whilst playing the bass unplugged, working on bits of songs I found difficult.

    It does seem to come right in the end, and I think you'll find the same if you stick to it.

  3. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Sing along with the songs in the car. This helps, unless your singer needs the key changed.(440 A being the standard)

    When playing bass and harmonizing at the same time, it's kind of like drumming where you're multi-tasking.

    I sing into the mic at an angle and put the Bass neck up where I can see it so I can keep an eye on the Finger-Board.

    Don't shy away from it though. you'll be surprised how instinctive it gets.
  4. SCH


    May 3, 2002
    San Antonio, Texas
    I play bass and sing harmony in my band. We do a lot of thee part harmony, and when it's right it really sounds nice and sets us apart from a lot of other bands.

    The problem with harmony is that it's either perfect or it sounds like a train wreck. When I'm singing harmony I stay away from tricky bass runs. Keep it simple. If your harmony is tight no one at your gig is going notice your bass playing anyway. Keep the playing simple so you have a better chance of nailing the vocal part that everyone will be listening to.
  5. p0w3rman5ooo


    Aug 27, 2000
    I usually learn the vocals, then play it to the simplified bass line, and slowly work my way up the the complete bass line.
  6. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    As with anything in music, the answer is Practice Practice Practice.

    Playing simplified basslines also helps a great deal.
  7. i haven't really done much work with playing/singing harmonies. i used to have no chance in hell as playing bass and singing in general. then, i made a band where i play the geetar and am also lead vocals. then i picked up my bass and could sing no problemo. still cant go crazy bass lines while singing(Les Claypool is a bastard), but, like said before, practice, practice, and when you finally got it down perfect, PRACTICE some more.
  8. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks!

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    What I do when I have a hard tune to learn to sing and play at the same time is to break it down and learn each separately. I learn the bass part while "hearing" the vocal in my head. After that I sing the tune and "hear" the bass part along with it. After I'm comfortable with each part, then I put them together. As you play and sing more and more it does get easier. Right now I only have to work out tunes with this method if the vocals and bass parts are really not in sync. I used to say that Day Tripper was the hardest tune I've learn to sing and play, but a few years ago my old band started doing Alive by Pearl Jam. The slow licks and the syncopated vocals were really tough. I had to "displace" a few of the vocal lines to have them fall in line better.

    Hope this helps.

    Chris A.:rolleyes:
  9. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    What Im doing now that Im starting to do back up is just learn the songs well.

    I play the bass parts without even thinking baout them, and just focus on the singing. My bass parts arent hard but they arent just roots either.

    Here's an example of a song that I do alot of back for. Check out how the bass, guitars, drums, and vocals all lock in on each other in a way that makes losing eachother hard.


    I find that by making the bassline really lock in with the rest of the song and by minimizzing syncopation and other rhythmic difficulties, I can make it easier on myself.

    Really I think the best thing you can do is just not think about what you play, and focus on the vocals. Of course be sure you learn the song good enough that the bass practically plays itself first.