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The Joesick Guide to Multitasking

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Joesick, Jan 5, 2007.

  1. Joesick


    Jan 3, 2007
    The Joesick Guide to Multitasking

    OK, I've noticed there's a lot of threads saying "can you multitask?" but very few (in fact I don't think there is one) teaching or at least giving advice on multitasking.

    I have been playing bass in bands as long as I have been singing in them (I couldn't get the gig unless I could play bass, so I bluffed my way in). Because of this, I've had to learn to sing and play bass in ways that compliment each other. I've then evolved to do a series of exercises to help me so I don't have to compromise either my singing or my bass playing.

    As with all aspects of bass, practice makes purpose, and this is never truer than when you are trying to multitask. A concept that is common to musicians is that of muscle memory... But people having trouble multitasking seem to forget that the larynx (voicebox) itself is a series of muscles vibrating together. You need to teach those muscles to remember the correct frequencies to vibrate at. That means dedicating as much time to vocal practice as bass practice if you are serious about it. If you're writing in a band situation, write the lyrics and melody before touching a bass, or a long time after you have perfected your basslines (this will be very important later on in the "Coming together phase" of multitasking).

    Vocal practice is very important, because for one thing it's much more noticable to an audience if you cock up the vocals than if you cock up your bassline. Technical vocal practice is particularly important, you don't need to worry too much with learning lyrics, it's the melody you need to be mindful of. You need to sing your songs until you're sick of them, until it's as automatic to you as breathing. Only then should you pick up your bass, if you try to skip ahead then you'll regret it later on.

    When your vocals are as good as you can possibly get them, stop singing. You heard me! You now need to focus on the muscle memory in your hands. Even when you're not playing your bass, just go through the motions for both your hands, when you're walking, in the shower, in bed (actually if you do it in public you might seem a little odd :meh:). You need to create in your muscles a process as automatic as writing or typing on a keyboard. When you feel that you can play the song perfectly from beginning to end without even thinking about it, you're ready to see if your muscle memory in your larynx and hands combined is good enough!

    Remember to start out slow, it's easy to give up in this stage because it doesn't always go well. Play each section of the song individually, singing and playing at the same time. Start slowly and gradually build up speed. If you make a mistake, don't stop until you have finished that section, because it's more important to have fluidity early on. When you finished, try to recall where your mistake was, what your mistake was, and bear that in mind. This is where muscle memory becomes incredibly important, if you make as much of the song subconcious as possible, you have more room in your brain to avoid making mistakes. When you have got each section perfect at full speed, start playing the song the whole way through slowed down. Repeat the process for each individual section for the whole song until the song is at full speed. I've found this generally works best with the whole band, and is beneficial to everyone involved (especially the sloppy drummer and the cocky guitarist ;) ).

    You should now be able to play and sing your songs without too much stress, and there are a few other things you can do to make things easier for yourself:
    1. I think a lot of mental concentration is lost through sight. During particularly tough passages, close your eyes or let them drift out of focus, you don't need to see what you're doing (muscle memory remember!?).
    2. Tap your foot or thrust your crotch to keep in time, it might seem obvious, but it will keep your vocals sounding tight.
    3. Make sure everything to do with your gear is perfect before the song starts, because nothing puts you off more than when your treble knob is turned up too much or your distortion pedal isn't on quite the right settings.
    4. Ensure your microphone is at a comfortable position for you to be able to play your bass and breathe correctly

    Finally, I know it's a cliche, but don't give up, because everyone has it in them, it's just a case of practice and persistance.

    I hope to see plenty more Phil Lynotts and Lemmys out there really soon!

    Cheers, Joesick
  2. Excellent guide Joesick. When I started playing ukulele, I had a great deal of trouble singing and playing at the same time. It was actually unexpected - I mean who expects to have trouble singing?
    I built up slowly by memorizing the progression, so I didn't have to think about that, then introducing the singing by only singing the first syllable of each measure as I played. Now, it's second nature, and when I took up the bass I had no problems singing along with it.
    If you really want to earn your multitasking black belt, strap a harmonica around your neck.
  3. whats that i smell?

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