3 Crucial Tips for Singing and Playing At The Same Time

By Tracy Laslop

North Vancouver Guitar School
Plenty of great instrumental musicians have no idea how to sing and play their instrument at the same time… that’s fine if you never ever want to sing and play at the same time. But why wouldn’t you? Being able to do both really shows off your skills… you’re playing TWO instruments at the same time this way! And who doesn’t want to show off a little sometimes?

Not only that… but singing is an incredibly emotional and personal method of performance. Adding your own voice to your music brings a different kind of vulnerability and honesty to your music. It will definitely open new worlds of composition for you, too.

If you don’t think you can sing – it’s a lie! Someone told you a total lie once if you believe you can’t sing. If you have a voice, you can sing – or learn to sing. I promise! If you don’t believe me, take vocal lessons. You’ll be amazed at the improvement you can make in your singing, AND transfer those skills to your instrument, when you learn to sing!

No matter if you’re playing piano, guitar, ukulele, mandolin, or Merlin, or anything else (that isn’t a wind instrument…) it’s worth it to learn how to sing while playing your instrument. This is a versatile skill that can be transferred from instrument to instrument!

Here are 3 important tips to help you when you start to learn to sing and play:

1. Breathe
The most important thing to do is to practice breathing while you play your instrument. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, musicians tend to hold their breath while concentrating on their instrument. I don’t know why we do this… Maybe to keep still, or because we’re nervous!
Yet, holding your breath just reduces muscle and brain function.

Why? Because of the lack of oxygen… a loss of brain function won’t make your playing better at all!

The best way to practice this step is to concentrate on your breathing while you play an easy passage, or the chords that you want to sing over.

This can take time, but the more time you spend here, the easier the next steps will be.

No matter what instrument you are playing, do not expect yourself to sing the melody on top of the chords at full speed right away.

The best way to sync the hands and the voice is to slow down both to a very slow speed, and try to sing slowly over the slow chords.

Don’t worry about making your pitch accurate, or making everything perfect. Just focus on the rhythm of the words, and the rhythm of the chords – nothing else matters when you’re learning to sync these two things together.
Slowing things down will make everything easier to layer together.

3. Try speaking the words first
If the above step is still too tricky, try to just SAY the words, or mouth them – this helps because if you’re just mouthing the words, you’re still starting to match the movements of your mouth with the movements of your hands… but you’re taking the voice/vocal pitches away from the task, which makes the task a little easier, to start.

I wish you the best of luck! Take your time and GO SLOW… and have fun!

Tracy Laslop of North Vancouver Guitar School is the only guitar teacher on the North Shore specializing in teaching children and youth. Her philosophy is to help her students grow throughout their lives, through the power of music.