HOW TO: sing and play at the same time

Every month, Guitar Techniques attempts to answer guitarists' playing posers and technical teasers with expert and practical advice. This one's a classic conundrum that's plagued many a potential singer/songwriter…

The question:

Dear GT

Is there a knack to learning to sing and play at the same time? There are songs that I know how to play really well on the guitar, but the minute I open my mouth to sing, everything falls apart almost immediately. I find myself so concerned about remembering lyrics and so on that my guitar playing just goes to pot and I start making silly mistakes. Any tips?


The answer:

We've heard of various methods for learning to sing and play simultaneously, one being to learn the two parts independently and thoroughly, guitar and vocal, before trying to combine them, the other being simply try, try and try some more!

"We're firm believers in the adage 'practice solves everything in the end'".

It sounds like it's your singing/memory that's letting you down, if you can play the songs well enough without vocals.

Try to employ as many safety nets as you can - write out the lyrics with the chords underneath, put them on a music stand in front of you and start playing through each slowly. When you think you feel a little more confident, try not looking at the crib sheets - the fact that you know they are there if you need them is a powerful psychological tool.

Then, when you can play and sing without needing to refer to your notes, try flying solo. If the material you're trying to learn is available on CD or MP3 meanwhile, try singing along without your guitar to ensure that your knowledge of melody and lyrics gets a chance to become more profound.

It might just be a longer process than you think, but we're firm believers in the adage 'practice solves everything in the end' and so put some of the manoeuvres we've outlined into your daily practice schedule and we're sure you'll notice an improvement before too long.