How To Sing While Playing Guitar
Learning how to sing while playing guitar takes time, practice and perseverance, but fortunately can be achieved with a few easy steps. Can you imagine playing the harmonica while also riding a bicycle? To your brain, this is just as confusing and taxing as playing guitar and singing at the same time – many of the same mental resources are shared between the acts of singing and speaking, so how do you sing while playing guitar without tripping over your fingers or totally missing the pitch? It’s been shown scientifically that guitarists often shut down the portion of the brain that switches between conscious and unconscious thought – while singing is specifically linked to a number of conscious but involuntary processes such as vocal fold closure and diaphragmatic breathing. This means that often the process of playing guitar and the process of singing are at odds with each other and need to be synchronised and prioritised so that you can play guitar like a boss while also singing with ease.
This tutorial will show you how to sing while playing guitar in an easy and practical manner. Are you ready to learn how to sing while playing guitar?
Timing is key
One of the best methods for developing the coordination required to sing while playing guitar at the same time is to count out loud while you are playing guitar, and to count in your head while you are singing out loud. If you memorise the chords to your favourite song and speak out loud “one and two and three and two and” in time with the song, you will gradually develop synchronicity between the parts of your brain that use while playing guitar, and the neurons that fire while you are singing. If you then sing the same song (without playing guitar) but count “one and two and” in your mind while singing out loud, you will find that it IS possible to conduct both activities at the same time. Now, all you need to do is alternate between;
- Playing guitar and counting
- Singing while counting in your head
- Playing guitar and singing
And eventually, you will develop the balance and mental communication required to play guitar and sing at the same time. To learn how sing while playing guitar, timing is key. If you can count while singing, and you can count while playing guitar, you can play guitar and sing at the same time with a little bit of practice.
Distraction is actually a good thing
I personally learned how to play the guitar without looking at the fretboard by watching TV and shredding at the same time. This requires two different focus points for your brain and allows you to treat the guitar as a ‘background’ process while also taking in all the delightful information that Sunday morning cartoons are no doubt providing you with. Next, you need to do the same thing with singing – do a Rubix Cube while singing your favourite song, or juggle a ball – anything that takes your ‘focus’ away from singing, but still allows you to sing efficiently and with proper technique. By training your brain to treat singing and guitar playing as a secondary process, you can then switch your focus between singing and guitar so that you can perform both tasks at the same time.
If you’re playing a particular difficult guitar passage, perhaps simplifying the vocal line is a good idea, and if you’re heading for a particular difficult vocal phrase, perhaps the guitar should take a back seat – you can’t be all things to all people, and remember, people really only have one aural focus at a time – if you can sing great, they don’t care if you left out that complicated fill, and if you can play guitar like a madman, they aren’t going to care if you simplified that R’nB vocal run and sang a fairly basic melody instead. Prioritise the importance of singing and guitar in a dynamic way and you will “wow” many more people than if you agonise over both at the same time and it all comes crashing down.
Syncronise instead of separating
Stop thinking of singing and guitar playing as two different activities and think about performing a song as “one” action. If you sing and play guitar for the song instead of overthinking either act, then you will learn how to sing and play guitar at the same time much sooner than if you’re constantly separating your voice and your guitar.
Learning to sing and play guitar at the same time DOES take time, practice, perseverance and some training, so make sure you’re not trying to run before you can walk. A great place to start is the free foundations short courses here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up a strong base for your voice so that you can keep your vocal health in the background while jamming out your favourite songs on the guitar. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional vocal training you can book a Skype Session and we’ll start working towards extending your vocal range, building consistency and control in your voice every time you sing while learning how to play guitar and sing at the same time.
If you have any questions about how to sing and play guitar at the same time, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.