How To Sing And Play Guitar Simultaneously
Playing the guitar while singing along to what you’re playing is very hard – until you get the knack. But once you get the knack, you’ll be able to sing and play a whole host of different songs. It’s just practice you need.
I’ve been playing the guitar on and off for many years. In the past I’d always avoided singing along to what I was playing, mainly because I couldn’t sing but also because I couldn’t do anything else while I was playing my guitar. I had to focus exclusively on what I was playing on the guitar, so I couldn’t even talk to someone else at the same time, let alone keep time by tapping my foot.
Things are different now, because after only a couple of months I can play my guitar and sing along at the same time. It has taken consistent practice – practice that has driven my girlfriend round the bend, I might add! If she hears another rendition of “Layla – Unplugged”, she’s going to snap, I’m sure.
Start Singing While You’re Playing Guitar
There are three components to singing and playing at the same time:
- being able to sing
- being able to play the guitar
- being able to do both at the same time
It’s number 3 that foxes most people, and number 3 is the focus of this lesson. The key is to start – right now. If you’ve never done this before, then you will be rubbish. Don’t kid yourself – you will be rubbish. If you’re not, then you don’t need to read any further. Most people won’t have the coordination to do at the same time two things that require skills in different areas. How to start though? Follow me.
- pick an easy song. One that you know well, has only a few chords and is easy to strum will be ideal.
- practise playing it on your guitar (no singing yet). Get to the point where you are familiar with it and really comfortable playing it.
- bring in the singing: strum a chord and sing while it rings out. Don’t worry about strumming patterns, just strum the chord once when it changes. The hard part is where the chord changes. In the beginning you will probably have stop singing, think about the next chord, fret it, strum it and then carry on singing. Don’t worry about that, you have to break this complicated task down into its basic components. The more you practise, the more seamless it will become.
- Keep practising the above. Only when you are getting better at the “strum once – sing – change chord – strum once – sing” routine, then start trying to use the correct strumming pattern. And you thought strumming once for each chord change and singing at the same time was tricky!
- Keep practising that one song and when you feel confident enough, pick another easy song. Don’t neglect the first, but split your time between practising both of them.
- Don’t be disheartened. This is a worthwhile skill that takes a lot of consistent practice to get.
When I started learning how to sing at the same time as playing, I picked a hard song – “Layla – Unplugged”. I found the guitar part and the singing very hard to do in isolation, so doing them together was ludicrously difficult (for me). Duh. Don’t do what I did. Pick an easy song. The idea isn’t to improve your singing or improve your guitar playing; it’s to improve your ability to coordinate singing and playing at the same time.
If it helps, here are the songs I’ve been practising singing an playing along to, in what I think is order of difficulty:
- Wicked Game (or, as my girlfriend has renamed it, “Music To Die By”)- Chris Isaak
- Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Green Day
- Because The Night – Patti Smith
- Gold Dust Woman – Fleetwood Mac
- Save A Prayer – Duran Duran
- Wild Horses – Rolling Stones
- Layla – Unplugged
What you’ll find is that with practice, you don’t just get better at singing your current practice song. Your general aptitude for singing and playing increases. Obviously some songs are harder than others, but I can generalise to say that the second song I practised was easier to nail than the first and the third was easier than the second. The key, as always, is practice.
How often should you practise? How long is a piece of string? I tend to practise playing the guitar at least an hour a day. It’s usually between an hour and a half and two hours. At the moment I’m dedicating about half an hour of that to singing and playing.