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Singing while Playing

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by steve24/7, Nov 7, 2002.

  1. I am a former rhythm player switched to bass a few years ago. I really enjoy it and play in a trio with 2 other guitar players. (no drummer). Both guitar players sing, one of which is really good.
    We do older type stuff (soft rock, Sinatra tunes etc) and play steadily in a restaurant that has a busy bar trade after the dinner hour on Sat nites.
    I have a decent voice and have been asked to sing on numerous ocassions. My problem is I have a great deal of difficulty playing a bass line stedily and rhythmically and singing at the same time.
    Any tips on how to "split" my thinking so that I can sing or at least do some background vocals while not afffecting my bass playing? Thanks for the tips!
  2. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Practise and simple bass lines (or at least ones that have become very natural to you, through practise).

    You could also try to find an easy way into it - how about seeing if they'll give you a mike but leave it turned down low for the first few gigs.

    I'm pretty happy singing and playing now - but I don't think I'd ever have got there if some of the other guys at my church hadn't persuaded me to start contributing some vocals and then resisted the temptation to correct my (numerous) mistakes ;)

  3. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I would add practicing the rhythms slowly to what wulf said. I sing and play piano a lot (I've not mastered singing and playing bass though!) and occasionally there'll be something rhythmically tricky. I found this when I first tried to play & sing "What A Fool Believes" by the Doobie Brothers - the syncopation made singing the vocal line aswell as playing the piano line tricky - but practice the rhythm slowly, and work out exactly where the notes you're singing should fit in with what you're playing.
  4. I just started singing lead in my band. I've found it easiest to completely learn the bassline first, then forget about it. It also helps that I write most of the lyrics, so I can fit them in where I want them in the song. Its impossible for me to think about two things, especially on stage. Now, after months of practice, I can play & sing and think about neither - enter that zone and its really nice.

    The minute I start worrying about forgetting a lyric or if I'm screwing up the playing, I get all tied up and confused :)

    It helps that my band practices three times a week too. I also do scratch recordings of the songs (without lyrics) so I can sing around the house and at work when I cant physically play the bass. I still practice bass alone too, without singing. Then I bring them together at band practice.

    anyhow, i'm new to this too, so this is no expert advice, just what has helped me the past few months. I actually think its made me a better, less self-conscious bass player.

  5. Secksay

    Secksay Guest

    Sep 6, 2002
    New York, NY
    dont forget that as you are learning to sing and play a song, its ok if you dont nail the rhythms perfectly. think of it as artist interpretation. your audience will think you are just changing it around a little to mix it up ;)
  6. SCH


    May 3, 2002
    San Antonio, Texas
    No doubt about it, singing and playing bass at the same time is tough to do. As has been mentioned, practice is ultimately the key. I try to keep a couple things in mind when I'm learning to sing a new song:

    1. Have the lyrics down pat. It takes a lot of mental energy to play bass and desperately search your brain for the next verse.
    2. Keep the bass lines as simple as possible; especially at first.
    3. Remind myself that playing mistakes are no big deal because most people in the audience aren't listening to the bass anyway.
  7. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    What all the others have said. Ditto

    I am playing bass in a band and I NEVER sang in a band. I am now doing back-ups and harmonizing.

    It was clumsy at first. But now it's instinctive. I do not have a developed singing voice. That takes time.

    Since it sounds like you're reheasing enough, you'll develope the skill.

    We all had to start sometime. My voice is still lame though. I can't sing lead, but that's another challenge. We need more of them.
  8. Just sit in your room or whatever you practice in, play the riffs and sorta whisper or hum the song ur trying to play. then as you start getting the rythm, just sing it out loud so you can get the feel of it. thats what i do and when your playing live or with your band, u just remember the beat because you practiced it so many times alone. :D
  9. Thank you all for the tips! I've started slowly singing some back up parts on mostly I IV V's.

    Had fun with Mustang Sally (ride sally ride)
    Jump n' Jive
    Bring it on home to me, just to name a few. Now working on Under the Boardwalk which will be a little bit more of a challenge.
    Practice sessions now devoted entirely to incorporating some vocals in my playing.
    Thanks again to all who responded for the good advice.

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