Learning bass in a way that brings out human, soulful qualities
By Jon Liebman
Week of March 9, 2020
Can you play that tune in one breath?
Kind of a pointless question, especially for bass players. After all, the bass is not a wind or a brass instrument, so we don’t have to worry about the rhythm of our breathing, right?
Well, maybe. But what about the benefits of singing along with your bass playing? Have you ever tried it?
The subject came up in my interview with Richard Bona, published this week on FBPO. Richard is a true musician, right down to the core. You can tell he loves everything about music by the way he is constantly exploring new avenues to express himself. And singing, he says, is a great way to bring it out that soulfulness that just can’t be expressed any other way.
Hearing Richard speak brought back memories of listening to George Benson in the ‘70s, when he popularized the guitar-and-voice unison technique, or better yet, the song “I Will” from the Beatles’ White Album, where Paul McCartney, rather than playing an actual bass, is singing the bass line! Give it a close listen. I’ve always gotten a kick out of it.
When you sing along with your bass playing, you can’t help but take an entirely new approach to the music. The phrasing is different, the lines come across less intense, and the music really breathes.
Richard says he’s been implementing this technique for so long that he doesn’t even need his bass in order to practice! “It makes it easier for you to find the notes,” he says. In other words, it’s a great way to improve your ear training.
“It’s a different articulation when you start singing too,” he adds. “It makes you play less. You’re no longer busy, busy!”
Regardless of what your fingers can do, Richard says, singing brings out a human aspect that can’t be replicated by any instrument. “It is more soulful,” he says. “You can hear it. Everybody can hear it.”
How about you? Have you ever tried singing along with your bass playing? If so, how did it impact your playing? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know your results. In the meantime, check out my interview with Richard here.