I had the honor and privilege to study with the AMAZING musician Billy Bauer. He tells a story of when at a performance, Miles Davis asked another horn player to sing his part. The horn player hesitated and Miles exclaimed, “If you can’t sing your part, you can’t play it!!!
Now, I am not expecting every musician to be a vocalist. Believe me, my sight singing teacher in college was a VERY patient man…lol. But I have to say that the more I progress as a player, teacher and a student, the more I realize the voice is the origin of ALL things musical. It provides melody, breath, phrasing, dynamics and continuity to everything that is played. It is also a way to effectively get your musical ideas to the fingerboard. One of the most common issues I have heard from students.
Understand, in order for your music to be vocally driven, you need not be singing “out loud”. Training you inner voice is more the goal. I like to think of little person in my head singing and directing me musically.
OK…how do I do this…
The first thing to do is get used to melding your voice with what you play. Play known patterns on the bass and sing them…single notes…roots and 5ths…arpeggios, etc. The goal is ACCURACY. You want to match each tone as perfectly as possible. Take the time to get the feeling “the dude in your head” is singing along with you…he/she will eventually be your driving force. As you feel comfortable, play the above patterns and have the “dude” sing the last note without you playing it. You can then check yourself by playing the note. Keep removing played notes until you can ACCURATELY sing any of the patterns by playing just the root note.
Now it is time to try to play what you sing. Sing a bass line, melody line or improvised solo…then try to sing and play it. Start simple and gradually get more complex. Be patient, this will take time and work. My experience with my playing and from students is that you will notice a difference in your lines. What you will find is that EVERYTHING will go through that little dude. Even off instrument. I have walked into malls and suddenly the dude is dissecting the background music!!!
This approach is not new…it is actually OLD school…many musicians from back in the day (one of my teachers (in his 80’s) from New Zealand and my grandfather’s cousin from Italy) were not allowed to even TOUCH an instrument until they went through somewhat rigorous vocal training. They learned the value of vocally driven music before beginning instrumental instruction.
Take this slow and really try to be accurate. Feel free to message me with questions.
Lots of luck and keep playing!!!!