Lemmy, Paul McCartney, Geddy Lee – apart from being in some of the biggest bands ever, these three musicians have something else in common: they all pull double duty as bassists and frontmen.
But how did they learn how to sing and play bass at the same time? Just like any other skill, it takes time to perfect. But like other skills, there are also tips and tricks to make that process easier.
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Tips for Learning to Sing and Play Bass at the Same Time
Learning any new skill will always start the same, with something simple before working your way up.
Start with songs that have very simple bass and vocal melodies. Happy Birthday is perhaps the best starting point since the bass and vocal melodies are very similar. This will help you get used to focusing on two melodies at the same time.
Hum Before You Sing
You might find it a bit awkward to form syllables at first. If you’re struggling to form words while playing, try simply humming the vocal melody.
I have also found that substituting the words with Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti is a very good exercise. This should quickly make you comfortable enough to eventually sing words.
Distraction is Good
Because you need to focus on two different things at once and our brains aren’t very good at that, you need to learn how to do it.
A good exercise is to play bass while doing something else. I usually watch TV or read. It’s important that you don’t go into autopilot while playing. The point of the exercise is to focus on what you’re doing while thinking about what you’re playing.
Master One Before the Other
If you’re struggling with a song, try learning the bass part first. If you can play the bass part practically blindfolded, it should be fairly easy to then sing over it.
If a song is particularly difficult, I would suggest mastering the bass and the vocals separately before putting them together.
We have all heard this a thousand times, but only because it really is very important to be patient. Learning any skill takes time and getting frustrated doesn’t speed up the process.
Trying to find shortcuts or jumping straight to the songs you want to play is also not good. You need to master the basics and build a solid foundation, otherwise, you will be stuck with sloppy techniques forever.
Learning how to sing and play bass at the same time is also just naturally harder than singing and playing guitar. You have to focus on two separate melodies instead of just a chord progression and a melody.
Ultimately, the way you learn to play bass and sing is up to you. There is no real right or perfect way and everyone has a method that works for them.
But I think these are the best tips to start learning and build a solid foundation with, especially for beginners who want to learn how to sing and play bass at the same time.