Thank you Dennis Alstrand for this Interview!
Time to meet a singing bassist who has been living on the big island of Hawaii for over 30 years.
Roger Hawney does something that sometimes is even harder than being a lead singer/bass player.Â He is a harmonist.Â He’s clearly very good at keeping a clear train of thought going while trying to marshal both forces.Â I’ll let him take it from here.
Dennis Alstrand: Roger, can you start by telling us about your musical background?
Roger Hawley: I was banging on the family piano as a child, then started playing saxophone in grade school. I picked up guitar when I was 18 and did some sound mixing for live shows in the Seattle area. I started my recording studio about 15 years ago when digital recording equipment made the process more feasible and affordable.
DA: How long have you been playing bass?
RH: I didnâ€™t start playing bass until about 20 years ago.
DA: How long have you been singing and playing bass?
RH: I was able to sing and play guitar, so when I started playing bass I continued to try to sing and play, but I found it to be more difficult. Â
DA: What do you recall being difficult about playing bass and singing simultaneously when you first tried it?
RH: It was probably because of the newness of the instrument and having to give so much of my attention to learning it. As you know, playing a rhythm instrument and singing melody require two completely separate aspects of the brain.Â
DA: What are your thoughts about this?
RH: I have to practice both parts individually first, and then put them together after the muscle memory kicks in. Muscle memory is every bit as important in singing as it is in playing. I have to learn the words and the melody so that they just roll off the tongue without having to think about them. And very often when I put the two together I have to slow the song way down to make sure I get the word phrasing in the right place with the groove. I do more harmony singing now than lead singing, and it is the same thing but with additional challenges. First, I have to learn the harmony line as if it was the melody, so that my voice will go there automatically and without wavering. The hardest part is synchronizing with the lead singer, because very often he/she will add color or feeling to the song by playing with the beat a little bit. Holding a steady groove with the bass while singing a little off the beat is definitely the most challenging aspect.
DA: Is there any thought process you enter before singing while you have a bass in front of you?Â Do you have any advice for aspiring singing bassists?
RH: If I have done my homework, I shouldnâ€™t have to think too much about it. As the saying goes, itâ€™s all about practice, practice, practice.