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Singing while playing

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by xtelesquirex, Oct 21, 2020.

  1. Fiesta Red

    Fiesta Red Poster Extraordinaire

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    I can’t give you any tips or advice.

    It came natural to me...I was singing and playing together when I learned my first song (that old southern spiritual “Sympathy for the Devil”). The only challenge was switching from E to D without losing the rhythm, and I conquered that pretty quickly.

    Three or four songs in, it was just as easy as singing or playing the song...of course, I was just playing chords and simple melodies, but it was there from the start.

    There are certain rhythms that make it harder to play and sing at the same time, especially when the cadence of the lyrics doesn’t match the rhythm of the song...
     
  2. Ronzo

    Ronzo Tele-Holic

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    Travelocity must absolutely destroy you!
     
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  3. Edgar Allan Presley

    Edgar Allan Presley Friend of Leo's

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    This is from a Premier Guitar interview of David Rawlings, one of the masters of playing and singing together:

    Most guitarists think of vocals as their weak card, but you and Gillian seem to harmonize effortlessly while doing some complex, intertwined picking. How did you arrive at that place?
    “Practice” is the easy answer. The earliest part of learning to sing harmony is singing along with records. When I was a kid in the car listening to music, I would always add a tenor or baritone part.

    There was a time when, if a song was complicated vocally, like “Long Black Veil,” one of the first songs we sang together, I didn’t play guitar. Gill played guitar and sang lead and I concentrated on a good harmony part. The key is to not do more than you can until you can. The fact that we think of the notes we’re both playing on guitar and the notes she’s singing and I’m singing as one thing has really helped us find the harmony that sounds natural.
     
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  4. Axegrinder77

    Axegrinder77 Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    Yeah you just get better with repetitions. It's hard at first, maybe left brain right brain thing. It gets easier.

    I now have no trouble singing and playing. Sounding good on the other hand...
     
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  5. Toast

    Toast Tele-Afflicted

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    My tips:

    1. Find a song you've been singing along with for years.
    2. Learn to play the guitar parts so well that you can hear the words in your head while you're playing your guitar. Once you reach that point, it's time to start singing the words. The words and guitar parts will begin to blend together into a whole. It will almost feel like you can't play the song properly without singing the words.
    3. Pick a song where the singing occurs over simple chords that you can play in your sleep. "Proud Mary" worked well for me.

    Lately I've been playing "Melt With You" because it seems like a good song to seduce someone with. It's got an arpeggio in it that's really hard for me to sing and play simultaneously, but when I slow it down I can pull it off. It's just a matter of time before I add it to my repertoire and get invited up to some British lass's flat for tea.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
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  6. 39martind18

    39martind18 Tele-Afflicted

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    Benn olaying and singing for 55 years, 52+ of them professional. I still fluff guitar parts, singing and/or lyrics from time to time. I've noticed I've been doing it more as of late, with the enforced reduction in playing. It's much easier to maintain when you're doing it constantly. So, learning, reps are most important. I've heard it said, and it is so true: An amateur practices till he gets it right, a pro practices until he can't get it wrong.
     
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  7. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Here’s another take. If you are talking about rock/pop music:

    Drunk, stoned, teenage idiots have succeeded at this in their garage with minimal practice since at least the 60s.

    There is a trick to this at first. But it is not as overwhelming or laborious as many here make it (sometime, seemingly everything) out to be.
     
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  8. adjason

    adjason Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    no help here- I don't understand how the two don't go together-I find singing helps me keep the guitar sounding right and in time and the two go together like peanut butter and jelly. I've never played songs and not sung them
     
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  9. xtelesquirex

    xtelesquirex Tele-Holic

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    The more I try to sing the more I'm beginning to think like this also. Plus ca change. :)

    You are correct. I can't even talk when I play. I have to stop to answer one word questions. My mind is blown when I see hard rock guys singing while doing the weedly-wee or playing crazy rhythm parts.
     
  10. Toast

    Toast Tele-Afflicted

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    Can you hum the tune you're playing on guitar while you're playing it? For example, pluck "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on your guitar and hum it in unison with your guitar. I'd try starting with that and see how it goes.
     
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  11. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Having a conversation while playing is way harder than singing and playing.

    Pick a simple song you know. Make sure you actually know the lyrics and melody. Make sure you know the changes. You’ll get there easy.
     
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  12. gimmeatele

    gimmeatele Tele-Holic

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    I have never been able to sing and play tried all the above over the years and never worked. During lockdown I took to playing acoustic a lot and suddenly whilst playing 'whiskey in the jar' there it was, sang all the song, started on others and could more or less get a whole song out, dont know what changed or why, but it just came.
     
  13. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I'd say first work on which ever is weaker, the singing or the guitar playing.
    AFAIK there should be no thinking involved in either of those things, can't be thinking about remembering lyrics or thinking about where your fingers go. Any conscious thought about the hands should be a thought of the sound of the chord AFAIK, not the name of the chord and certainly not where the fingers go. Could be wrong on that though!

    If it's really for some reason hard to strum and sing, maybe strum and hum.
    Maybe even just strum the first chord and hum the first lyric notes that go with that chord.
    IDK what exactly the problem is, as I recall it just took repeated practice, but with material I already knew well, usually songs I'd been singing for some time, maybe for years.
    Singing is most natural and usually comes to us first as kids, then if we have an urge to be musicians we probably sang songs all our lives until picking up guitar.

    If that's not the case, how long have you been singing?
    How long playing guitar?
    It's pretty much like riding a bike, no trick to it just keep at it until you can, then work on harder stuff.

    If I'm funbling some forgotten or harder guitar bit I just focus on that and let the vocal go autopilot.
    Singing and talking can be done with little or no thought, even if poorly in order to fix a guitar problem while also continuing to sing.
     
  14. Matthias

    Matthias Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    Do you lack confidence in your singing? A trick is to practice both on a song so they're pretty instinctive and to think of your guitar part as your metronome. It's much harder to play riffs and lead than chords when singing, but it's possible if your timing is locked in, like both hands on a piano. However, most singer/players fit riffing and lead around their vocals and play simple parts underneath.
     
  15. Mjea80

    Mjea80 TDPRI Member

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    Keep on practicing with easier 3 or 4 chords songs. If you get frustrated, come back to it another day, you will see it will just click.

    I found it was all about the rhythm and being able to turn your brain off and just play. So as others have said know the lyrics and changes/rhythm of the song... with your eyes closed. :)
     
  16. Toast

    Toast Tele-Afflicted

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    I would add that it's worth working on the skill and attaining it. I think it has improved my playing and musicianship a lot, especially my timing. There are also moments when I'm more into singing a song than plucking it--combining both provides a musician with a unique emotional catharsis.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020
  17. OlRedNeckHippy

    OlRedNeckHippy Friend of Leo's

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    Our bass player can grab an acoustic guitar and entertain! He's actually quite good. Play and sing.
    But while playing bass, he can not sing. When he tries, his playing suffers greatly.
     
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  18. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire

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    X, I feel your pain. I mostly sing backup harmony. If I sing the lead, my guitar playing has to be stripped down a bit. The latest challenge is "Jenny 867-5309". I'm totally struggling with singing the phone number while playing that busy little riff, yeesh.
     
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  19. Grandy

    Grandy Tele-Meister

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    A singer shouldn't need to play any difficult parts while singing. Strumming along or little fills (like BB) should be enough. And it's ok to cheat too. Let a chord ring out for a little longer while singing the toughest tongue twisters. It just ads to the drama.

    When I write songs I create the words, the singing and my guitar parts at the same time. If do those separately and put them together later it is just too much work. And might only then realise that a fancy guitar thing doesn't work rhythmically with the word I'm supposed to be singing.
     
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  20. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I could never even imagine singing while playing bass, but I could also never imagine just playing root, fifth, root, fifth on bass because I'm a pretty busy bass player!
    I haven't tried but I'd bet those simpler really basic bass lines are more suited to singing.

    I originally wanted to "be" Rick Danko before actually learning to play, bought a bass with no amp and didn't bond with it.
    Later it was Jim Croce that I wanted to be like, I guess, as I recall the thoughts of me as a kid.

    My singing as it turned out was less remarkable than my, as Zappa said, guitar gymnastics.
    By today's standards I'm not awesome but in early '80s Maine I looked pretty impressive with my flying fingers.
    Too durn excited to calm down and play something simple enough to sing along with, but singers liked my weaving in and out of lyrics with riffs & fills etc. More importantly there were more solid singing strummers around, than players who could do the guitar gymnastics I was doing. Today seems to have plenty of guitar gymnasts, what with more available advanced lesson sources.
    Or maybe just because of EVH?

    I'm not sure really what exactly the OP has for honed skills on guitar or vocals, or what the OP expects to be able to play on guitar while singing well, but AFAIK the basics are KISS.
    I've noticed a very few guitar players playing really hard stuff while singing at the same time, but unless it's a solo act fingerstyle walking bass lines & chord melody guitar player who is also singing, my sense is why the hell try to play complicated guitar during vocals?

    I remember as a beginner trying to figure out Layla where (I thought) he was singing over the lead guitar, but looking at some live footage he doesn't play the lead parts while singing. Sometimes he plays more complicated bits at the beginning of a vocal, but mostly not. Albums got overdubs.
    Even after years he regularly hired second guitar players (or Duane) to cover some of the guitar duties while he sang.
    Point being even old masters separate the harder guitar parts from the vocals.
    Same with Gilmour, often brought a second guitar player, I'd assume to make performing more relaxed and comfortable.

    Plus there's stuff on albums that you simply cannot do by yourself.
    So if trying to play classic cuts just like the record, some is literally impossible for one guitar playing singer.
     
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