View Full Version : Why is it so impossible to sing while playing?

09-01-2008, 12:06 AM
I've been trying forever, and I just can't nail it. I either screw up the way I'm picking or throw everything way out of timing.

Anyone have any tips on how to do this?

09-01-2008, 12:44 AM
I've only done my singing with Al Jarreau when I've got him turned up very loud so I'm merely performing my aerobic lung exercising. :) But I imagine singing while guitar playing is a lot like the keeping a beat and doing that rhythm thing. First time my guitar instructor tried to get me to understand the beat thing it pretty much destroyed any ability or confidence I had going by then. It ends up being a Zen thing for me, I can follow the beat after listening to it and only when I stop trying to keep the beat, if that makes any sense. Then it's in there, in the brain or the fingers or whatnot and I can progress from there. Perhaps singing is similar in that respect. You can probably play and you can probably sing but maybe you're thinking too hard about it when you try to do both.

09-01-2008, 08:57 AM
Agree with gad... at some point you have to "let go" as it were. It also helps, of course, when you don't have to think about two things... so, if you are trying to remember chord changes, you're signing is going to suffer... if you're trying to remember the words, your playing will suffer.

Personally, I'm not much of a finger picker to begin with, so I'd never try that whilst playing (and the music I play doesn't much call for it, so I'm lucky there, I guess).... but if I did, it would be a song that my fingers do whether I'm thinking them through it or not. And that's true with flatpicking as well... if you can play a tune while you're thinking about what you've got going on at work and what you're going to have for lunch, you are probably ready to sing it.

09-01-2008, 09:11 AM
so, if you are trying to remember chord changes, you're signing is going to suffer... if you're trying to remember the words, your playing will suffer.

Now that's what really throws me off....playing and signing at the same time takes years of practice to perfect. :D

09-08-2008, 08:41 PM
1 person doing more than one job, multi-tasking... yes singing and play at the same time means you are dividing your focus on more than one thing. try simplifying your playing while singing so it requires less focus. After yrs of this I find myself now trying to do it in reverse! Simplify the singing and focus more on my guitar. There has to be a point of automation where you just do it without much focus, that's when it all becomes so natural you find yourself focusing on the audience instead. :cool:

Josh Gibson
09-08-2008, 09:10 PM
It's a challenge for sure. I've been working on this pretty hard for the last few months. With my band only taking select gigs, I've been scaring up a bunch of solo work.

Like most things worth doing, there doesn't seem to be an easy answer...hard work is the only way I know of to make any improvements. The good thing is, I always carry my vocal instrument with me, so there's lots of time to practice!

09-09-2008, 03:07 AM
Its one of those things that takes practice. If you do it lots it will get easier quicker. Due to doing a lot of singing and playing in my church its something I can do without really thinking at all. The challenge for me is when I try and play some lead stuff and sing. As others have said its a matter of practice, I don't think there are any secrets other then perseverance.

12-31-2008, 11:35 PM
I've found the best way to practice singing and playing is to dissect each part into digestible bits. Make sure you you have the chord progression down cold. Play thru the song several times with the strumming pattern you'd like to play behind the singing until you can do it without thinking. Practice singing the melody without words. I find it helps to play the melody on the guitar and sing along, to make sure you're hitting the pitches; this does not have to be done in time. I have a hard time remembering lyrics, no matter how many times I've heard the song or sung along with the recording, so I always write the words in a notebook. I think it's better to write them down while listening to the song, rather than copying them from print. Use the lyric sheet when you first start to sing and play, but wean yourself off (maybe put it to the side, instead of in front of you). Once you feel comfortable with the chords and singing separately, start to put them together. Don't be afraid to simplify either part until you get more comfortable. Try strumming only on downbeats (or just playing roots) if the rhythm aspect is holding you up, then build on it (quarter notes, etc.). Sometimes I need to alter the rhythm of the strumming or singing a little from what I think is ideal, in order to play without hiccups. As always, slowing things down will help. If there's a part that always trips you up, isolate it and practice it separately. It's much more efficient to practice two bars ten times, than start from the beginning every time you screw up. Ideally, I think the goal is to make playing guitar and singing into one process that creates the sound of the song (if that makes sense). It's like when you're driving, you don't think of each action separately (press gas pedal, turn wheel, let up on gas, straighten wheel, more gas, etc.), you just think of it as getting from point A to point B. Whenever you hit a snag that frustrates you, find a way to break it down into smaller parts, then put the pieces together.

12-31-2008, 11:46 PM
I like generaladm's approach best. I started to do this in college, with an easy song like let's say Amazing Grace. I took each line and practiced singing it while I played a very simple quater note rhythm in 3/4. Something like pick-strum-strum, 1-2-3 etc...over time I got to where I could play more complicated songs and today I really enjoy singing and playing at the same time. I practice guitar about 3-5 hours a day everyday (except Sunday) so my wife really appreciates it when I'm not practicing scales, arpeggios, and picking exercises with the metronome. I also sing songs that are totally different than what I practice, perform, or record. Stuff like Elton John, Paul McCartney, Beatles, George Michael, etc...that may sound corny but it's a lot of fun for me and again my wife loves that kind of music. :thrasher: