Despite how at ease legendary guitar-playing frontmen like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Gary Moore seem to be while rocking the stage, singing while playing the guitar is fairly challenging.
The level of difficulty that you’re going to face as a guitarist trying to sing with your hands on the fretboard depends on your experience with the guitar as well as your singing technique.
It all boils down to instrument familiarity. Put differently, you need to be able to play the guitar on autopilot without focusing too much on your playing so that you can pay attention to your vocals.
If the idea of a one-man band seems fun to you, this brief article will help point out some useful tips to achieve it.
Pick a Song That’s Easy to Play and Sing
When you’re in the beginning stages of trying to coordinate your singing and guitar playing, you want to avoid starting out with challenging songs, whether vocally or instrumentally.
You want to pick a song that has a few chord changes. Three or four chords at most, to be more specific. If you’re having a hard time finding an easy song to play, check out Fender’s song list.
The primary goal here is to develop muscle memory and enhance your multitasking abilities, so you want to forget about all the shredding you’re capable of for a moment. Save it for last.
Even if you perceive yourself as the next John Petrucci or Yngwie Malmsteen, just forget about the shredding, as the goal here is to build muscle memory and develop your multitasking skills.
You also want to make sure that the song’s vocals are well within your vocal range. Avoid songs that have higher notes or vocal runs, at least until you’re able to sing and play at the same time.
Start by Practicing the Guitar Part First
Before introducing vocals into your practice, you need to learn the guitar part and ingrain it into your muscle memory, assuming you’re already experienced with chord changes and strumming.
If you’re a complete beginner who hasn’t yet mastered major chord changes and strumming, it’s advised that you work these skills out before thinking about playing and singing simultaneously.
There are many ways you can go about practicing a guitar song, so figure out which way works for you and learn at your own pace. Play the song over and over again till you know it by heart.
After learning the guitar part, challenge yourself to play it while not engrossed in your playing at all. You can do so by chatting with someone as you’re playing the song on your guitar.
Another way you can go about checking your mastery of the song you’ve chosen is to play it as you’re reading a book or watching your favorite TV show. Not as easy as you thought, huh?
Hum the Vocal Melody as You’re Playing
Assuming you’ve played the song enough times to memorize the vocal melody, the next step is to hum the vocal melodies while playing the guitar. No actual lyrics are required as of yet.
Humming the vocal melodies as you’re playing will help easily take your attention off the guitar aspect and focus it more on the vocals. Again, no need to sing or memorize the lyrics yet.
When to Start Memorizing the Lyrics to the Song?
Now that you’re somewhat familiar with the song’s vocal melodies, it’s time to take a brief rest from your guitar so that you can memorize the song’s lyrics before you start singing them.
Tempted to skip this step thinking that you can simply read the lyrics off of a sheet of paper as you play, huh? Do you really want to divide your attention on playing, reading, and singing?
Singing and playing guitar at the same time is hard enough, so make sure you’re very familiar with the lyrics of the song so that you can focus your attention solely on singing.
One of the best ways to memorize a song’s lyrics is to sing along the song in your car or your room. You can visit Genius or AZLyrics to find the lyrics to the song you’ve selected.
As you’re singing along, trying to memorize the lyrics, try to pay extra attention to the syllables in the words. This will help you stretch out the words and play with the accompanying cords.
You should also note that some vowels are pretty hard to sing, the closed ones in particular. If you’re having difficulty singing certain vowels, morph them into open vowels like the AH vowel.
Time to Sing and Play at the Same Time
Okay, so you’ve learned the guitar part and memorized the vocal melodies and the lyrics. It’s time to combine all three aspects very slowly. Play the guitar, hum, and then start singing.
When you first start playing and singing at the same time, you shouldn’t expect to sound like your favorite singer and you shouldn’t expect to nail the song the first time around.
Take your time as you’re singing and playing guitar simultaneously. Try to play each chord at a time while singing the lyrics that go along with the chord. Don’t just play the entire song at once.
Are the Notes Hard to Hit? Alter the Key
Not all voices are created the same. Some of us are tenors and baritones, others are sopranos and altos. If you’re struggling to hit higher or lower notes in your song, try changing the key.
However, keep in mind that if you change the song’s key, you’ll need to go back and learn new chord changes. This is why we’ve stressed picking a song that’s well within your vocal range.
Alternatively, you can invest a little bit of money in a guitar capo, which is a device that clamps down across the fretboard, raising the strings by halftones without changing the fingerings.
Another thing you can do is learn how to sing in falsetto. It’s that airy, heady voice we hit when we can’t sing any higher. Picture the heady part in the song Wicked Game by Chris Isaak.
After working on your falsetto/head register for quite some time, you’ll start developing the right type of cord coordination that allows you to sing higher, enabling you to sing original keys.
If your voice sits higher than the original key, you’ll have a hard time singing the lower notes. In that case, your only option is to change the song’s key to a higher key that suits your voice.
Keep Practicing Till You Master the Song
Be it how to sing and play guitar at the same time or how to do any other challenging feat, you’ll have to put in a lot of time and effort to reach a level of mastery. Practice makes perfect!
All of the above-mentioned steps are applicable no matter which song you choose. It’s all about ingraining the guitar aspect so that you don’t have to think about it, so learn the guitar parts first.
While you’re playing the guitar, start humming along with the vocal melodies. Thereafter, start to sing along the recording with actual lyrics. And lastly, start singing and playing the song for real.
As you keep practicing this routine on a regular basis, you’ll find yourself being able to play and sing simultaneously with ease. Practice at your own pace and don’t rush into rock stardom.
What if I Want to Step It Up a Notch?
Before we put a period on this article, we thought we’d share a couple of extra pro tips that can boost your progress significantly when learning how to play guitar and sing at the same time.
The first pro tip is to use a metronome, as it’ll help provide a constant beat that you can refer to when you’re not in time with the song. Try metronome apps such as Tempo or Pro Metronome.
Don’t like using a metronome? You can simply tap your foot to the rhythm as you’re playing it. It might be challenging to tap your foot to the beat at first, but it’ll become easier with practice.
The second pro tip is to play muted strums on each beat. This will come in handy if you’d like to focus on practicing the vocals first with a simple rhythm without focusing on the chords.
With the aid of the tips shared in this post, your journey towards mastering how to sing and play guitar simultaneously will be a lot smoother and you’ll be able to play harder songs with ease.
Just make sure you master each skill individually before attempting to combine them together. It might take you a lot of time, but it’ll be totally worth it once you’re on stage rocking the audience.