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Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by M.D.S., Dec 11, 2004.

  1. M.D.S.


    Nov 8, 2004
    Should this really be here? I dunno. But it seemed the most appropriate place, so here goes.

    Recently, I have been having aspirations about starting a band, and I believe I have most of the components necessary to go. Except from one rather vital one unfortunately...

    So far I have been unable to find anyone who seems right, other than me. And I have a bit of a problem...

    I have been told in the past that I am a half-decent singer, so I thought one day, what the hell, I'll give it a go and I was fairly confident about it, until I picked up my bass and tried to sing while playing. It's not that I'm bad at it; I just can't seem to do it at all. I get horribly mixed up and end up trying to play what I'm singing and sing what I'm playing!

    So what I am basically asking is, is there some sort of special knack to this? Is it particularly hard to lay down a decent bass line and sing at the same time? Any other singer/bassists about here?
  2. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    If need be, I can do it. It takes practice. When I'm playing bass with friends, I can make up a silly song about one of them and mock them while playing, and it takes no effort. You just got to get the feel for the song. Another thing you can do is match words up with beats, so you can do it almost robotically.
  3. kearney


    Jul 5, 2004
    its weird, i can sing out loud, but its REAL hard to sing an play singin into a mic, if you turn your head the slightest bit, the mic doesnt pick it up, maybe i had the mic too high, i dunno,

    i find it easy to play and sing, just remember, its playin thats important, so its ok if you miss a few words while changing positions, try to think of singing as overdubbing vocals, dont try so hard, try to sing without actually trying to sing, like concentrate of your playing and let it flow, sometimes it just a mental block
  4. I agree with whafro. practice is the key for this skill. not that im competant singing and playing though.
  5. I'm gonna have to disagree on that one - the audience will notice poor singing way more than they'll notice a few missed notes here and there on bass.

    I too am having a hell of a time trying to learn how to sing harmonies and at the same time play bass... I can sing alright but once I'm playing bass as well everything goes to hell. I've found you really have to put the bass playing on autopilot while singing, or when it fits I'll sing a set interval to the bass line for the harmony - I guess that wouldn't work for lead vocal lines though.

    Actually, singing live and into a microphone is much harder than singing in studio or with just acoustics, getting used to the mic / monitor setup is half the battle I think.
  6. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    Becoming a singing bassist will make you a million times more valuable in almost any future musical situation. It will also improve your bass playing imeasurably as you will gain terrific insight on supporting a vocal line with your bass.

    The fundamental difficulty often comes down to a lot of bass lines being based around the one of the measure and a lot of vocal lines starting on an upbeat or other beat (I'm way oversimplifying, but you get the jist). It's a contradictory rythmic function.

    My practical advice to you is from someone who does this exclusively- I am a lead vocalist/ bassist. Learn and practice songs by some of the masters of this game. Regardless of your preferred style of music, you will benefit greatly from learning parts by Sting (with the Police), Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, and then work your way up to some Geddy Lee if you're so inclined. I haven't beena Rush fan in the last 15 years, but I'm sure that some of what I do is informed by how hard I worked on "Spirit Of The Radio" and "Freewill" when I was 15. I also played along with John Wetton's work in Kind Crimson, UK and Asia). Who am I foregetting here? It should be someone major, someone whose songs you already kind of know so that you'll hear when you're sucking.

    Anway, Sting and McCartney are absolute masters at this. Also, take some vocal lessons. Even a few will really help. Good luck, don't give up.
  7. Minger


    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Hm, kinda funny that this thought crossed my mind about singing today...although I'd have less to worry about, seeing as how I'd be doin praise and worship and my friend sings too (but shes been playin guitar for a while and is used to it...)

    I tried singin a few times to what i'm playin and sometimes i can ge tthe hang of it, sometimes i lose rhythem and then the vocals altogether.
  8. bluemonk


    Dec 17, 2002
    I played bass and sang harmony vocals for years with little problem, but recently I've been thinking about stepping into the lead vocal role in the band I'm in and I think I'll need to put the bass down (yikes!!) It is possible to put the bass playing on autopilot (if it's rock--no if it's jazz) and sing, but there is a price paid to the singing with this. If both the bass part and the singing are "scripted," played the same every time, then you can do it, but with a loss of spontanaeity (sp) and feel. Paul M. is somehow able to do it. His most soulful songs, however, (like "The Long a& winding Road") are studio works and he plays piano when he sings. I am able to play
    g%*tar chords and sing, but bass lines present a real challenge that I'm not sure I'm up to.
  9. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I was recently listening to a live version of a Bootsy song -- it's called, uh.. it's a long name with "psychotic" in it -- and I don't know HOW he can just TALK over the top of fast pop-playing like that! The bass playing is killer, bytheway!

    I can sing while playing pretty well (not TALK, though!), but don't have a very high voice, so that's the main thing that keeps my value down that way.

  10. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    Singing while playing is tough.

    I dislike simplifying a bass line in order to sing well, but I do it when I have to because I feel that singing is even more important than bass playing.

    For example, the bass line to Gimme Three Steps by Lynard Skynard is pretty cool (at least if you're into classic Southern rock).

    To sing it well, I'm forced to simplify two particular spots each verse. I really wish I had the skill to play it the "real way", but I don't, at least at the moment - maybe someday.

    Anyway, it's probably best to cheat on the bass line to keep the singing sounding as good as possible.

    People who can play and sing at the same time are really valuable in a band.
  11. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    I play bass in a Beatles tribute band so I do it every night. It has never been a problem for me but I have heard for years that it is for others. Our rythym guitarist is a great singer but did a stint as a bassist and could not sing and play.
  12. b3zsgirl


    Jun 16, 2004
    Houston, TX
    I do both, so let me point something out. I can sing and play my own stuff, because it was written together. There are many bassist/singers that say that it is difficult to do without carefully integrating the two. I started out a singer and took up the bass seriously much later. So, the singing is not something that I have difficultly with in particular. It is not a vocal training thing. I find if I want to play someone else's stuff then I can do one or the other if that person also did both. Something like the police is no problem, but if I want to play something that is complicated and counter intuitive to the way the vocal is...one or the other suffers. Listen to Geddy Lee play carefully. He plays complicated riffs inbetween his vocal spurts more than he lays down some sort of counter groove. I know play much better than the lines I write because of it. In fact there are times when I end up dropping things out if I am not concentrating enough on the singing. No one really notices.

    If I wanted to pat my head and rub my belly, I would have become a drummer. ;-) Realize you are not alone
  13. just practice talking while you're playing bass,and go from there...I cant sing at all ,especially while playing...good luck:)
  14. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I thought for a minute "That'd be cool to be in a B. tribute", but then I remembered from your picture that I'd have to play a Hoffner! Ick.

    Cool picture.

  15. Rich600


    Nov 22, 2004
    I play bass and sing in my band and i have the same kind of problem as some of the other guys who posted about havin to simplifying the basslines,im not a massive fan of being a 'root note' bassist. BUT....one thing i did notice that helps is if you have a really long warm up, i cant explain it but the constant playing must make the muscle memory in you finger work even better, i dont know, its hard to explain but all i know is that the longer you practice the bass part the easier it is to focus on the singing and letting you fingers do the bass on their own.
    You probably think im insane...or a robot but i find this works.
  16. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    Yes..I know. I don't like the Hofner either but the good side is that the early set with the Hofner is only 45 minutes, and then I get to play a Ric for the second set for over an hour. So there is an upside.
  17. I think so too, you really need to know your bassline.
  18. halfamind


    Aug 4, 2004
    Norfolk, VA
    Rich is absolutely right. I've been singing lead and playing for years, and this is the only way it works for me. PRACTICE!
  19. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Here's something I wrote a while back:

    If you want to get better at singing and playing, that's what you'll have to practice. Work out your weak part until you're comfortable with it, and then throw in the stronger part. The weak/strong part can be your singing or bass playing. Practice doing them simultaneously and take some mental notes so you can work out your mistakes.

    Also keep in mind that independence between your voice and bass playing is a goal worth striving for, but don't let that make you throw away the interdependence between your voice and bass. Use both to accomplish your goals.

    Now that the basic philosophy has been stated, here's some concrete tips you can use:

    1. While you are singing, try to stay in one position. Reduce the amount you go up and down the neck. Doing this will reduce the amount you will look down to see what fret you are hitting as well as the likelyhood of moving to the wrong note.

    2. Work on your plucking hand. The plucking hand is what locks in with the drummer, provides the pulse, and pumps the groove. Missing with your plucking hand is more noticable than missing with your fretting hand. Practice plucking eighth notes, quarter notes, syncopated plucks, etc. If you are a finger picker, while you are singing along with the song on the radio in the car, tap out the pulse of the song with the index and middle finger of your plucking hand on the steering wheel.

    3. Memorize some generic patterns with your fretting hand. Learn patterns for funk, rock, blues, etc. The patterns should be moveable, i.e. a pattern played on the E and A string can be moved to the A and D string, and a pattern played on the 3rd fret could also be played at the 5th fret. From there it's just a matter of learning the changes of a song and adjusting those patterns to them. The advantage of singing along is that you'll know when the changes are coming.

    4. Use your vocals to cue your bass playing. The other tips are to help with independence, this one is for interdependence. Use a note or word to trigger the note you are going to play on bass. For example, when the first word of the chorus is sung make a mental note to play 'X'. Practice this and let your vocals and bass work together. It's sort of like how the two hands of a pianist work together. It will also make remembering bass lines and lyrics easier because you'll have another thing to associate them with
  20. Hawkeye

    Hawkeye Canuck Amateur

    I've started singing on the choruses etc. in our praise / worship band to myself with the intent that I'll soon ask for a mic and then sing in the mix.

    Great advice so far. I have noticed that the simpler the bass line, the easier it is to sing (Duh). Also, I have sung lead / baritone / bass in quartets and ensembles for many years and find that it's a lot harder to sing harmony than it is to sing the melody and play the bass.

    One of our pianists is a wonderfully talented singer AND player but she just can't sing harmony if she's playing, only melody.

    I also play drums and find it easier to sing and play drums at the same time, than to sing and play bass at the same time. Go figure.