Starting out with a bass-guitar (or several), your voice, and a song which you desire to perform as a Singing Bassist:
- Determine to which of the following categories your song’s bass-line corresponds. Each category is accompanied by an example of a pop-song featuring that category of bass-line, and this list is by no means exhaustive:
- simple root-notes of the guitar chords played as 1/8s (or 1/16s or 1/4s) – AC/DC
- walking bass-line – All My Loving, Beatles (Paul McCartney)
- repetitive bass-line with stationary fretboard-hand – Billie Jean, Michael Jackson (Louis Johnson on bass)
- sliding all over the neck requiring seemlingly constant optical supervision – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Beatles (Paul McCartney)
- Obtain the performance tempo in beats-per-minute (pbpm) at which you want to perform, calculate the minimum practice tempo 80% of the performance tempo (minbpm), and more importantly the maximum practice tempo 120% of the performance tempo (maxbpm).
- Which of the following exercises, and of any others which you can come up with, correspond to the category of bass-line and will help you become fluent in the song? Notice that I list them here in order of increasing difficulty. Playing without amplification is more strenuous than with because you have to play harder and louder to hear yourself. Playing the same bass-line on a fretless bass-guitar is more difficult than playing it on a fretted bass-guitar because the fretboard-hand must constantly fine-tune for pitch-correctness. The use of the fretless bass-guitar for practice offers strength training which the fretted bass simply does not provide.
- memorizing lyrics
- lyrics with acoustic guitar accompaniment
- singing with root-note accompaniment on the bass-guitar (finding and training on the “landmarks”)
- playing the bass-line on a fretted bass-guitar with amplification
- playing the bass-line on a fretted bass-guitar without amplification
- playing the bass-line blindfolded on a fretted bass-guitar without amplification
- playing the bass-line on a fretless bass-guitar without amplification
- playing the bass-line blindfolded on a fretless bass-guitar without amplification
- …onwards to the Shangri-la…..
- playing the full bass-line with lead vocals
- Juxtapose these feats against the time-honored tradition of practicing with a metronome, gradually speeding up the practice tempo from minbpm to maxbpm. I prefer to do this using a practice progress sheet, in which the “feats” or “tasks” are listed vs. tempo. SB-Subscribers can download this practice progress sheet in excel format.
|At the beginning of learning a new song for performance as a singing-bassist, you need to start things slow and take it easy, starting straightforward tasks such as memorizing lyrics and internalizing the rhythm of the vocals. In terms of our practice progress sheet, this means starting out from the top-left and working down towards the bottom-right.||As you progress from top-left to bottom-right, performing on the bass while singing becomes easier and easier. In fact, if you complete all of the tasks in the columns before the column entitled “Playing the full bass-line with lead-vocals”, then completing the last column is often already automatic.|
Each feat/bpm case in the practice-progress sheet requires practice and discipline. I find it useful to use a simple practice log to keep track of my progress at finishing one feat at a certain tempo. Occasionally I log in this table the number of minutes I repeat a certain task, and I always note the conditions under which I’m practicing, as well as a self-evaluation. Here is a sample practice-log:
As soon as I’m satisfied with my performance of that task at that tempo, I move along in the direction of south-east in the practice-progress sheet. The key is to divide and conquer.