Friday, September 20, 2013

Singing While Playing Bass: How to Learn, How to Practice

Once you have mastered some basic singing skills (see previous post), it is time to learn to play your bass while singing lead.  This has been a tough for most bass players.  It is difficult to play bass lines while singing lead.  You can get confused very quickly.  We can't all be the bass genius that Paul McCartney is, who does this with ease.

My band was playing at a Beatles Tribute, and I made up my mind I wanted to finally start contributing to our vocal effort.  Listening to Beatles tunes, I found that "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" was well within my range, and there seemed to be no bass part.  I could sing this song and not have to worry about playing bass (or so I thought).  I sent my karaoke recording to the band and they agreed I could do the song.  At the next practice, I sang it live and the band was enthusiastic.  However, over the next week I learned that there was indeed a bass part to the song, and I found a couple of YouTube videos where the bass players demonstrate how to play the song.  I had to rethink my approach, but I knew one thing, I would not give up!  I was committed to singing and would do whatever it took.

I learned to play the bass while singing this song in four steps:

1.  I learned the bass part without singing, just playing along to the record.
2.  I learned the singing part without playing the bass.
3.  I started putting the two together. This was done by taking each lyric in the song, singing it slowly while playing the appropriate bass part.  In this way, the two different activities were cemented into one in my brain.  I slowly increased my speed until I could play and sing it at the same time, all the way through, and then I started recording it.
4.  I listened to the recording and learned where there were rough spots, then concentrated on smoothing those out.

There is nothing like playing and singing the song live, so I began doing that at band practice, developing more confidence with each try.  Finally, the Beatles Tribute event arrived, and I sang my song to a live audience.  I was nervous -- this was my first singing ever to an audience -- and the song was mostly good, with a smooth tone and on key.  There were a couple of rough spots, but they weren't disastrous.

And the bass part, that I played simultaneously with singing?  It was flawless.  I had proven to myself that I can sing and play at the same time.

My next step will be to identify several songs I want to sing with the band and begin learning them and the bass parts.  I can do this -- and so can you.  My first effort is below.

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