Singing while playing

is there any way to make it easier without making my vocals follow my basslines and I don’t want to simplify them I’m thinking of just improving using scales also is there any good practice routine to help apart from just doing like sting and rush covers.


I’ve never been able to do it. but if I get to the point of wanting to try again, I would follow the advice that Mark Smith gave recently on one of the talking bass live hangs because it seems like a solid approach.

basically take the song you’re working on. obtain or write out the notes or tab for it, whichever you prefer. then above the notes line up the word or syllables with the notes. obviously some words or notes will not align. now start slow, take a small phrase and play note by note the phrase and sing the corresponding word. maybe just start with a few key words and notes, so you learn when I play this C, I sing “the”, and then next I play a B with no word sung, or whatever. work it up slowly. I’m pretty sure that once you get the hang of it, it just becomes more natural.


I do that when I write my bass scores, even though I have no intention of singing. The reason I do it is to keep me on track and in the groove with the vocalist while I’m playing. The lyrics provide handy cues as to where I am in the song.


I can’t sing anything until the bass part is second nature.
There can’t be a single part of your brain thinking about the bass line if you want to feel comfortable singing.
I’d say make sure you can play the part easily, comfortably 100% of the time without looking… and then try and add vocals.


Hey @Gnockylefty – Welcome!

So, the answer to your question is one you’ve probably already guessed – practice.

I have been singing for years, and singing along to a guitar I was playing for a good long while as well. Bass is different, and I find even as seasoned as I was at the other two things, singing with bass takes a slightly different discipline. The key is being able to do one thing without thinking about it. Most of the time, you will be thinking about singing as your hands play bass “on their own”, but it does sometimes change.

One of the first songs I learned to sing and play bass to was “Jet” by Paul McCartney. It’s not a hard bassline by any stretch (for the most part, you’re keeping time on A on the E string – 5th fret). There are tabs on Youtube and elsewhere, but if you have trouble finding one, let me know and I can show you the version I practiced.

You mentioned Sting, but I’ll caution that he’s trickier than a lot of people give him credit for when it comes to singing with his basslines. You can find “Roxanne” here in the 50 Songs that came with the B2B coursework, which is a pretty good one. One of the first ones I did, when I was ready for a bit more challenge, was “Fragile”. It’s the opposite of what most people would think to be hard for singing while playing bass – very slow tempo, only one or two notes that go down the fretboard in a pretty simple pattern… BUT, its those long pauses and the syncopation that will really force your brain to pay attention. I love it for that.

Another Sting song that’s on the easier end to play and sing along with is “Wrapped Around Your Finger”. It’s again, a bit tricky, but simple enough to get the hang of after a few practices. I really like to do this one when I want to get serious about my singing and try to forget I’m playing the bass. Same with Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”. Both are good songs to try out if you’re used to your voice being the thing that carries the tune more than the guitar.


Solid advice. Practice is key!


cool thx for that appreciate it :smile:


so “bassically” learn the bassline fully so i can play it without thinking and then start adding singing


That holds true regardless of whether or not you’re singing, but obviously more important if you ARE singing.


Doing anything while playing is impossible if you can’t turn the bass playing part over to autopilot.


I cannot even come close to singing while playing. This is another advantage of not really caring about playing live at the moment :slight_smile:


I was talking to the bass player of my favorite local band about the possibilities of him getting me hooked up with a band. He asked me if I could sing, and of course I told him no. He said that’s too bad because so many bands are streamlining and expect each musician to sing also.
Oh well…


The Holy Grail of my bass journey. I started singing with some guys I jam with then “inherited” bass duties when we couldn’t find a bass player!!! :slight_smile:

Agree with all of the above. I played the guitar and found it easier (?) to sing over strumming chords as it was a bit more forgiving if I was slightly off. I think the main reason for finding it easier though was that those chord progressions were so deep in my brain that I could focus on the singing.

As someone already mentioned the playing has to be on auto-pilot to focus on singing or it’s a song you could sing without thinking and you can focus on your fingers.

Sometimes I trade off complex bass lines to allow myself to get it locked down then introduce complexity if I feel able.

It’s always a trade off. I set high standards then have to guard against frustration. I have to remind myself that I’m not Sting and it’s supposed to be fun!!

Slowing down audio files with software or YouTube allows you to sync lyrics with notes.

Good luck and welcome.


You’re right, Pam. Everyone’s looking for that magical three-piece where everyone’s got at least one instrument and sings, these days. That’s how it feels, at least.

But I’ll also add that just as I believe anyone can learn bass (especially if they take the B2B course!), anyone can also learn to sing. It’s not what American Idol makes it out to be and is absolutely teachable. :smiley: That is of course, if you want to! Which is a pretty important part of a good singing foundation!


I’ve been working on this recently. My approach has been to start with a song that is:
1)Fairly simple chord progression/repetitive
2)Is a song I’ve sung along with in the car for years making it second nature for me to sing.
3)Has a basic bassline/rhythm that I can dumb down or fancy up as I progress with the skill of doing both at the same time.

Start by singing and just playing the root on the 1’s until you can feel the chord changes coming in your bones. Then step up to half notes, quarter notes, root/5th, and so on.

Going surprisingly well for me so far. This was just my method, your mileage may vary. Good luck!


@Gnockylefty I’ve got a little lesson to make it easier if you want. First off, what everyone said about practice, making it second nature is 100% spot on. Also, nothing wrong with making the bassline simpilar if it allows for it.

So, the way I was thought was to stick a magazine or book in front of me. I was asked to play the riff (it was guitar at the time but this still applies) and to read the paragraph/article etc… at the same time as playing it over and over. Once I’d finished reading the article, I was then asked by my tutor “what was it about?”. If I didn’t know then I hadn’t read it properlly and thus wasn’t playing it second nature.

Once you get the hang of playing and reading the article the bassline is second nature and singing over the top of it is much easier. It’s a fun one to try and I still do it from time to time in a way.


This is it! Great exercise – I also like carrying on conversations while playing. To add to what you said, @Ferengo, a tutor once told me that if I’m looking at my fingers, I’m thinking about them (and I won’t be singing into the mic, either!) so keeping it to a quick glance to check position every now and again should be your goal. Eyes forward when singing makes a huge difference.


@chordsykat 100%

That was the other advice my tutor gave me. He said imagine going to see Bon Jovi at a stadium gig and all the did was stare at their hands the whole time, you’d hate it. He said the goal was to also look at the audience and as he put it “grab a womans attention if you can”, lol.

I had totally forgot about that part until you mentioned it.


It’s definitely more difficult to play and sing when using 2 fingers on the right hand but when I use my thumb on the right hand it’s definitely easier. Same motion as strumming guitar almost.

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I believe others have said this already, but to sing and play you must know the bass line so well you dont have to think about it. I play sing most our songs but I only if I know them well enough. Many bass lines are like lead guitar rifs, so you either fake those or play the major chord. Also, when you are the singer and bass player of a band its basically your band.