Singing while playing guitar, piano or any other instrument is no easy feat. In fact, some of the most talented players can start making mistakes when singing is involved.
You might have spent your music career looking at your instrument, either for confidence or out of habit. Because of this, taking your eye off it can result in missed notes or stumbling over words if you’re not practiced at playing and singing together.
Being able to sing while playing can be an extremely useful skill to master. It can add more depth to your band’s performance, make socializing with friends more fun and improve your playing. So how can you do it?
Become One With Your Guitar
It might sound obvious or a piece of advice Yoda would give, but unless you are comfortable with the instrument you play, you are complicating things by starting to sing. If getting through a song on your guitar is difficult enough without singing, you are probably better off finding a tutor or taking online lessons to improve your skillset before starting to sing.
Being comfortable playing the guitar doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be a master of your instrument. You just need to be aware of the most essential skills, like being able to play the chords of your chosen song without thinking too much. If you do play an elaborate solo during a song, you’re not going to be singing anyway, so you shouldn’t need to worry about this.
Indeed, singing while playing a musical instrument like the piano or the guitar can be useful when you are practicing notes, chords and the like, but you should definitely learn the basics of both separately before you take it all a step further.
Don’t Be Too Ambitious When Singing And Playing Piano Or Guitar
If you are new to singing, don’t start with the most challenging songs. While you might be able to play Wuthering Heights very well, singing this particular song won’t be a walk in the park.
Just as you started to play your instrument with simple songs, you should pick easier songs to sing to at the start. You most likely have plenty of songs you know the lyrics to inside out, so see if they are also easy to sing and to play. You can also find some great song suggestions in our guide on singing better.
You definitely want to find the songs you are familiar with – either singing them or playing them with your instrument. You do not want to end up in a situation where you are both learning to play the song and memorizing the lyrics and tune at the same time.
Master The Basics Of The Instrument You’ll Be Singing With
When you begin practicing the song, it might be a good idea to simply play the basic chords of the song while singing. So, if you are playing the piano and you want to sing All About That Bass, don’t play the whole melody of the song. Just play the essential chords of A, B minor, E and A, and sing. Once the singing starts to sound good and you can play the notes without constantly checking the keys, you can try playing the whole thing.
The same goes for other instruments, such as the guitar. Just strum the basic chords first and move on to adding licks later on.
Utilize Your Metronome While Singing And Playing
One of the problems many beginners encounter is staying in the right beat. It’s easy to start singing a lot faster or slow down the pace as you play and sing at the same time.
Using a metronome can help ensure you stay on the right beat. Check the beat of the song you want to play and set your metronome to this pace. First, only play the song with your instrument, especially if you are not a seasoned professional of your instrument.
Once you stay on the beat, slowly start counting the beat along while you play. This helps you get used to the idea that you’ll be singing to the beat. Once you can count without many problems, you can start adding actual words to your playing. These don’t necessarily have to be the specific lyrics of the song; you just want to be vocalizing words while you play. Eventually, you’ll get so good, you can easily sing the actual song while playing.
Maintain Your Focus
If you are looking to sing and play while also performing for an audience, it’s essential to learn to keep your eyes on the audience. While there are some musicians who are known for keeping their eyes closed while playing, this is rarely a great stage trick, especially if you’re starting to gig and looking to build a connection with those watching.
Even if you are just going to sing and play for your own pleasure, learning to keep your eyes away from the instrument can actually result in fewer mistakes. You can easily become too distracted if you stare at what your fingers are doing and so, it’s good to maintain your focus elsewhere.
When you start adding singing to your playing, make sure you keep your eyes away from the instrument right from the get-go. This might mean you make a few mistakes and you might need to play slower at first, but do not look down!
Furthermore, if you are getting on stage at some point, it’s a good idea to practice with your friends and family first. It might seem strange, but it’ll help!
Practice With The Song In The Background
Finally, it is a good idea to practice while listening to the actual song as well. You can put the song you are practicing on YouTube or find online backing tracks, and just play and sing along. If you have friends that play music or sing, you can ask them to practice with you as well.
Don’t worry if you make a mistake, just pick up wherever you can and continue. Having the song playing in the background can release the pressure and make it easier to follow the right tone and rhythm of your chosen song.
Above all, don’t give up. With enough practice you will be able to sing while you play fluently and charm your audiences with this new skill – whether it’s your mum, 20 people in the pub, or in front of thousands at Wembley Arena!