Singing what you're improvising?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Tupac, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    It looks like a simple thing to do, but it dawned on me how much musical maturity it much take to be able to do this. To be able to know exactly what sound is going to come out of the interval you play, that's pretty nuts. It's TM Stevens's signature thing, and Flea used to do it a lot. Anyone else amazed by this?
  2. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    That's George Benson's thing as well. He said he originally did it on a dare.
  3. Portphilia


    Jun 8, 2012
    I think jazz cats were the first to start doing this. I know Slam Stewart was famous for doing this while playing his double bass arco (with a bow).
  4. The guy I studied with for a while in high school (great jazz bassist) did that a lot. I'm much more modest with my voice, so I didn't really catch on with it at the time, but now sometimes when I'm coming up with a bassline, and it's not quite coming out how it does in my head, I'll hum it while I play ... usually helps.
  5. debris


    Oct 4, 2008
    Raleigh, NC
    Yeah, it's incredible to hear that from someone who's really trained their relative pitch. Not a terribly common occurrence.
  6. Vic W does this on a tune in Soul Circus, and it kind of blew me away, due to the complexity. I think we all "hear" the lines to some extent, some more than others. As a stinky amatuer non-player type, I still try and play what I sing, er hum. But then again, I learned the way most of did in the 70's, copping it all from others. So ear training was the starting point. I remember as a 10 yr old humming the lines and trying to find the notes on the fingerboard. Don't we all!?

    Check it out: ( y'all get some Divinity on the track - I absolutely fell in LOVE with her when Soul Circus toured. Love dammit. Love!!! :bassist:.)

  7. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Aug 22, 2011

    Arguably, any improvisor, irrespective of whether they have a decent singing voice and/or are capable of singing & playing simultaneously, should "know exactly what sound is going to come out of the interval [they] play". Otherwise you're just winging it, taking an unfocussed stab in the dark.

    ...however, having said that,
    ...I'm still amazed by musicians who do this.
  8. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Exactly- Improvisation starts with having good ideas and hearing what you want the solo to sound like. Playing what you hear in your head comes after that, in terms of importance.

  9. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    Hum Richard Bona ?

  10. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    True. Personally, when I improvise when noodling, I take it slow and play notes of the scale that I know will sound good based on fret patterns and experience. I'm not quit sure what sound will come out, so I take it as I hear it. Kind of a fun thing to do. I can transcribe a line in seconds because of how often I do this.
  11. Schecter32


    Nov 12, 2012
    Personally, I wouldn't be able to play it unless I could sing it. With that said, a lot of musicians, mostly lead guitarists, just hash out patterns and licks they have learned elsewhere. Eventually, they get used to the sound and know what will work.

    Am I impressed by people that can? Nope. Unless you know someone who can sing 2 part harmony over their line. One is all I can manage. ;)

  12. Gould always sang while he played. it was something he grew up with, and could not play without. almost every recording of his i've heard there will be moments where you hear him singing. a lot of classical musicians despise this, and all this other eccentricities. i personally love it. if glenn gould wants to sing while he plays, i'll accept the finished recording with the singing no problem.

    it's not much different when improvising or when playing something you've prepared. it's all ear training. any conservatory student spends many hours practice singing things at sight.. i find it harder to sing at sight than to sing along with an improvisation. both ain't easy, though.
  13. Jazzkuma

    Jazzkuma Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2008
    Its fairly natural and easy once you know what your instrument sounds like. I think it is important because it helps you realize that its YOU thats making music and not your hands moving around some shapes.

    Another reason it helps is because it makes you solo more melodically and lyrically (more space, more rest and more breathing to your lines). Because when you sing you eventually have to take a break to take a breath.... sort of the way a horn player would solo, instead of just playing endless notes with no rest.
  14. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    I have my students do this when their soloing becomes contrived or lick-based. Really brings the focus back to sound and melody
  15. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    That's been my take on it too. Playing what you're singing should be the goal, not singing what you're playing. There's a huge difference between the two IME.
  16. cire113


    Apr 25, 2008
    I dont understand what the difference is?

    Your still playing and its coming from you?

    I guess you saying in regards to licks and muscle memory? but doesnt even play licks?
  17. williamk


    Apr 2, 2008
    thank you, I can't believe no one had mentioned him yet!!!
  18. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    I'm not talking about playing licks... if you play a lick and sing along with it you're singing what you're playing. You already know how the lick goes.
    Try the opposite. Sing some random notes and play along at the same time. I think you might see the difference then. It'll help you to recognize the intervals that you're singing on your instrument.
  19. This is a great reason to sing, even quietly, while you solo. Lynn Seaton, who teaches jazz bass at the Univ. of North Texas, likes to point out that, unlike horn players, bassists don't have to stop to breath, which can lead to non-stop playing (or as he calls it: "diarrhea of the fingers)." Even if you're just singing the rhythm and phrasing of your solo, and maybe not nailing every pitch, it forces you to stop and leave some space in your solo.

    He even has his improv students record themselves singing a scat solo, then transcribing the solo and playing it on their instruments. The purpose is to try and get students to play the music that they hear in their head, regardless of whether they can execute it on their instruments, then when they have to transfer it to their instrument, it forces them to play something they may not have otherwise thought of.