You’re sitting around a campfire with good company, your guitar, and a handful of sing-a-along tunes prepared. Everything goes great until it comes to actually singing while playing the guitar. You didn’t realize it was going to be so tough to multi-task. Instead, you just continue on the guitar while everyone else steals the singing spotlight.
This scenario doesn’t only happen while camping but maybe at church, a family gathering, or even when you’re having a solo concert in your bedroom. Playing guitar and singing at the same time is a challenging feat that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. So it’s okay, you’re not alone in this!
Ayla Tesler-Mabe also faced this struggle when she first began to play and sing. So who better than herself, an accomplished guitar player (and singer) and Lisa Witt, an accomplished singer (and pianist) to provide a few tips and tricks to help you through the process of playing an instrument and singing at the same time!
Tip #1 – Master your song first
Before you decide to jump headfirst into playing and singing, it’s best to have the song mastered first on either the guitar or your vocals. You want to have a solid grasp on the song and be comfortable with one of the two first before you try to do both together.
Tip #2 – Simplify the guitar part
Once you have your song figured out, the next step is to uncomplicate the guitar part. You don’t need to start shredding right away! This helps you focus on the singing and how it applies to the guitar chords. This doesn’t mean you need to eliminate all groove of the song, just don’t force yourself to do too much all at once. Start by singing the melody, even if it’s not in English, and play single down strums.
Tip #3 – Adding Lyrics
Now, replace singing gibberish with the real lyrics of the song. The sooner you start getting the lyrics down, the sooner you’ll internalize the song on a deeper level. You may notice it’s easier to sing along with the song than it is when you try to do it by yourself. A good practice would be to play the instrumental part on the guitar, record it, and then sing along with your recording. You’re not singing and playing at the same time per se, but you’re still responsible for playing both parts and will help you get comfortable with the song’s lyrics and groove.
Tip #4 – Spruce up the guitar
Listening to the song you want to play counts as practice! You must know the song well because the next step is making the guitar part “fancier.” It helps to imagine the drum groove of the song in your head and implementing that into your guitar rhythm. Keep in mind that just because you can play the guitar part in isolation, it doesn’t always mean the rhythm accompanies your singing well. Try different guitar grooves and see what works best with the song and supports your vocals better!
Tip #5 – Adding a capo
Lastly, it’s okay to take advantage of the capo. If the song you choose requires bar chords, it’s a lot simpler to use a capo and play open chord shapes. The capo also allows you to play around with different keys that work with your vocal range. You don’t want to be singing too high or too low, so it’s a win-win for both your playing and singing.
The most important aspect to keep in mind is that it isn’t a rush. Try these tips and tricks at a pace that’s comfortable for you and remember that it isn’t a natural task – it takes practice. And in the end, you’ll be playing and singing around a campfire (or anywhere else) like a pro!