Wow. It's nice to know that my inability to sing and play at the same time isn't an anomaly!
Hope not. I can't really - and I am the last
person in the world you'd consider unique!
(Actually, I find that *SOMETIMES* I can sing while I'm playing...but it's often that it's just a couple of vocal lines, then I have to go back to just playing)
I sorta can. Just not very well. Certainly not what I'd consider performance worthy. But that never stopped Paul McCartney. Listen to an isolated Beatles bass line and you'll hear him muffing the time and hitting technically wrong notes all over the place. But it didn't matter. What he played worked within the context of the song
. And he had that unique voice which never screwed up anything on the vocal tracks. Ever
There's a lesson there I think.
In my case it's a little more extreme than usual. I have almost no capacity for task switching, which essentially means I have to learn the vocals and bassline for a song as one single part, where some people can learn to simply (note that I call it simple rather than easy) switch from one to the other.
Ironically, if I could do that it would solve my problem of being able to be a front man. It's amazing the distance simply playing an instrument puts between me and the audience.
Even without the challenge you have I still can't very well. I can do harmonies just fine. And since I enjoy adding an occasional harmony part, as well as being able to come up with counter-melodies in my sleep, not being able to "take lead" doesn't bother me in the least. I have never
once wanted to be the frontman in a group. Not my thing, although I have also never felt distanced from the audience. There's always one attractive woman in the crowd who is really
into the bassline. I'll briefly make eye contact to say "hello," then spend the rest of the set playing for her. It's an approach to bass playing that has stood me in good stead over the years. Two guesses how much my guitarist GF is into the bassline...
I think my two biggest problems with playing bass and singing lead come down to (a) my early musical training; and, (b) a certain hangup I have...
When I was first taught an instrument, my instructor (an old school jazz man) had me sing everything I was going to play. His feeling was you needed to hear and feel in your innermost soul what you wanted to play on a bass. Once you could sing it, playing it became a "simple" matter of linking your hand to the voice you heard in your head. He described the process as "Linking your soul and heart and ears and hands with the mind of God." (He came out of a Gospel background so he used a good deal of religious imagery and metaphors when he taught.) When he was in a less divinely inspired frame of mind he'd say: "You gotta learn to sing
through your instrument, kid. Everything else is just showin' or jerkin' off."
Whatever and however - it worked for me. If I hear it and I can sing or hum it - even just in my head - I can almost immediately play it. At least in most cases. Or with a try or two. But now the problem is, whenever I vocalize something (especially with lyrics), my hands immediately try to follow it. And there's few times when anything sounds more bozo
than the bass suddenly playing the main melody in a song. Same goes for playing in parallel with the melody line (even for a bar or two) except (maybe) for emphasis. Or to create a special effect.
My previously mentioned hangup is I'm into tone. Almost to the point of mania. If I'm singing a lead line I want to primarily concentrate on vocal tone and expression. And
the words. I myself can't do that while playing bass. Not enough brainpower or rapid task switching capabilities I guess. And when playing bass - as the bassist
- I want to primarily concentrate on the bass tone. Doing a vocal harmony doesn't interfere (too much) with that. But I don't have to sing every song. Or sing all the way through it like the frontman or lead vocalist does. So I can put my hands on autopilot and do a harmony line for four or so bars without getting too antsy
about it. But I never offer to sing. And I'll only do it when it's truly needed for the song. Or I'm not playing bass.
But that's me. I have my own take on the role and function of the bassist in a group. (Don't even get me started on my theory of "strut & glide"when it comes to creating a bass part!
get out of here.)
Take all this with many grains of salt. A nice Margaritas in fact.