February 28

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How To Sing And Play Bass At The Same Time

By simon@simonhornmusic.com

February 28, 2023


The top 5 essential tips on how to thrive in the practice room so you can sing and play bass with confidence like the pros.

Have you ever wondered about how to sing and play bass like your heroes?  Being center stage with the audience captivated by your powerful voice and grooving bass lines? Maybe the singer in your band keeps nagging you to step up to the mic to sing backing vocals but you don’t feel confident enough to do so.

Singing while playing bass is a lot like learning to drive a car. You need to understand how all the different layers work together so you can get in the right gear and start moving forward.

It also takes time and patience so go easy on yourself.

The following tips come straight out of my own experiences of becoming a singing bassist. From being a backing vocalist, to becoming a lead singer, I want to share my tips to help you on your journey to become a Rock Star singing bassist!

The Top 5 Essential Tips On How to Sing and Play Bass

how to sing and play bass

Tip #1 – Start with backing Vocals

Backing vocals are a great way to get started as a singing bassist. You can check how it feels performing at the front of the stage, singing a little and getting a birds eye view of how the lead singer fronts the band.

Some songs to check out for backing vocals are:

Big Time by Peter Gabriel (simple)

Kids in America – Kim Wilde (simple)

Rocks – Primal Scream (intermediate)

All The Small Things – Blink 182 (more complicated)

And many more!

Here’s an example of a simple backing vocal part from ‘Kids in America’

Example of singing and playing 'Kids in America' by Kim Wilde

Tip #2 – Simplify the bass and vocal parts: rhythm first!

This is what trips us all up, trying to play and sing two contrasting rhythms! What blocks us even more is thinking we have to get it perfect from the get go without understanding how the two rhythms actually work together.

Starting with 1-2  bars of music, here are some questions to think about when practicing:

On which beats of the bar do the bass and vocal part occur in unison?

When does the bass line play on the beat or off the beat?

When does the vocal melody sing off the beat?

Is there a pattern between the above rhythms? (2 bar pattern for example)

In the example below from ‘Love Me Do’ you can see how the bass and vocal parts interact with each other. When you understand how the parts sync together or alternate, it’s a lot easier to learn and gives you the confidence to move forward even if only one bar at a time.

Side note – Love Me Do is played with a swing /skiffle feel,  possibly making it harder to play due to the swung 8th notes (triplets).

Example of singing and playing 'Love Me Do' by The Beatles

Tip #3 – Simplify the vocal part: lyrics first

Confident with the bass line and vocal melody but hit the wall when you put them together?

We need to give our brains a chance to learn by adding one layer of information at a time. Start playing the bass line and say the lyrics over the top to get used to how the two rhythms feel together. Another tip is to hum the melody with the bass line or sing an octave lower until the two parts glue together.

singing bassist

Tip #4 –  Trust Your Muscle Memory, it’s got your back!

By saying the lyrics while playing the bass line, you are actually committing the bass line to muscle memory as your brain now focuses on the lyrics, leaving you grooving in the background on your bass.

When you add pitches to the lyrics, you may feel your focus switching between the vocal and bass parts. This is your brain trying to decide which task to focus on! Don’t worry it’s completely normal!

To reduce your brain jumping between parts, now add a third action such as moving side to side or walking back and forth. Your brain will now focus on moving, committing the previous actions of singing and playing bass (kw) to muscle memory. Don’t forget to celebrate even the smallest wins at this stage as doing so helps build your confidence and accelerate your learning.

By now you are hopefully starting to sing and play bass!Consistent practice is key here. You can do it!

Here’s a deep dive on muscle memory and what happens in the brain when we learn a new skill

https://medium.com/oxford-university/the-amazing-phenomenon-of-muscle-memory-fb1cc4c4726

Tip #5 Get in the flow

When singing, your whole body resonates and becomes your instrument. When we are completely relaxed, our voice, body and mind are all at their best state for optimal sound production.

However when learning to sing and play bass, a lot of unwanted negative head noise can creep in. Things like,  ‘I can’t do this, this is too hard etc’. This can cause unwanted tension, affecting both the voice, your playing and the learning process. So the next time you are frustrated in the practice room take a deep breath and…

Picture a beach, your feet in the warm sand, the sound of waves coaxing the shore line whilst you soak up the sun and salt air…..relaxing, drifting away….

If you have time, doing a mindfulness meditation is a great way to reset, though if you are tight for time even 5-10 minutes of focused breathing will help you to get back in the flow of singing and playing bass.  And as James Allen once said:

‘As a Man Thinketh so is He’

So yes, it’s completely ok to think you are already like a Rock Star singing bassist! This really does help! Did you know that our brain can’t tell the difference between a present and future reality? Tell yourself ‘I am a Rock Star Singing Bassist’ and watch what happens!

Want to get started with mindfulness mediation? Here are some great tips from www.thedailymeditation.com

Mindfulness Meditation For Musicians: What You Need To Know

sing and play bass

Singing and Playing Bass Like Your Heroes !

Don’t forget that even the best singing bass players started at the beginning like you and me. 

Sting says he still practices singing and playing bass before he goes out on tour, slowing down the playing and the singing to see where the gaps are, to then fit them together again like a jigsaw. If Sting can do it, and I can do it, so can you!

Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going! 

Sign up to my newsletter for more tips and tricks on learning to become a rock star singing bassist! 

simon@simonhornmusic.com

About the author

My name is Simon and I love to play and teach bass guitar! I’ve been a professional bassist and educator for over 25 years. I have played bass with artists from all over the world. I have played 90's Rock, Country, Jazz, Blues, Gospel, and R&B, winning an Indy Music Awards for Best Soul/Jazz with Vimala (UK).

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