Singing is an incredible and impressive skill on its own. But when you can also accompany yourself on guitar or piano, you are a one-person band! Playing and singing at the same time is an incredibly complex skill, as you are, essentially, performing on two instruments simultaneously. But, as with anything else, a bit of practice each day can go a long way in playing and singing even the more complex pieces in no time. So, if you’re looking to master singing and playing guitar or piano, follow these simple tips and incorporate them into your rehearsals!
Start with Simple Rhythms and Structures
If you’re new to singing and playing guitar or piano, start with a simple song where the instrumental follows the melody rhythm or, even better, doesn’t overlap. A great example of this is ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ by Bill Withers. The chord progression is played in-between the vocal sections, which makes this an easy song to accompany yourself on.
Another great option would be songs where the vocals fall on the beat of the song, which makes strumming or playing piano chord progressions much easier, aligning them with your vocals. ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen is the perfect representation of this. Again, it can be easily simplified to help you match the rhythm of the instrumental with the vocals.
The bottom line is, start somewhere simple – don’t go straight for the more complicated pieces with off-beat rhythms and complex backing melodies. Slowly, over time, you’ll get used to performing like this and feel ready to take on a more significant challenge. Trying to master something too complex right off the bat might overwhelm you and knock your confidence before you’ve even started performing.
Practice Instrument and Vocals Separately
Just like a great band is made up of well-rehearsed individual musicians, you need to practice guitar or piano and vocals separately before putting them together. Firstly, having a good foundation of vocal and instrumental training will allow you to pick up a greater variety of songs with much more ease. Secondly, you need to know both parts of the song well before putting them together.
Learn the song structure inside and out on your instrument. Make sure you can play it effortlessly, almost like it’s second nature. Then, do the same with your vocals. Learn the lyrics off by heart and get comfortable singing the song with a backing track. Once both sections seem solid, try putting them together. Which brings us to our next point…
Slow Down and Simplify
Even if you know both the instrumental and vocal parts of the song, putting them together may still feel tricky and difficult to navigate. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Slow down the tempo of the song to give yourself time to figure it all out and align your vocals with the music. There are also many ways you can simplify a piece of music.
You could stick to basic chords such as major and minor, without additional voicings like 7ths, 6ths etc. Try changing the rhythm to match the lyrics or simply playing static chords. Take out any melodies or riffs that may be distracting you for the time being. This is one of our most important tips for playing and singing guitar or piano. Break down and simplify the song as much as possible, then gradually increase its complexity as you gain more confidence.
Practice with a Metronome
Timing is so important with any piece of music, but mainly when you are playing and singing simultaneously! Having a well-timed accompaniment to your song is crucial for putting vocals over it, so make sure that timing is solid and you can keep up the rhythm as you are singing.
If you have struggled to practice with a metronome in the past, another method you could try is to find a drumbeat that matches your bpm. This will help keep you in time, without the repetitive and monotonous click of the metronome. Plus, it feels like having a drummer with you! If you have basic music production skills, you can even create your own backing tracks to practice along to.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change Up The Song
The great thing about covering songs by other artists or performing your own material on guitar or piano is that you have full control of the arrangement, tempo and more! So don’t be afraid to add your own flair and make the songs work for you. You can change up the arrangement, the key of the song and play with a variety of rhythms to bring out the best qualities in your singing and playing.
This doesn’t mean you are necessarily taking shortcuts – we all have our unique style as performers, and it distinguishes us from the rest, so use the freedom of being able to sing and play at the same time to your advantage! In fact, your unique covers and the style of your original songs will be the reason your audience recognises you and tunes into to your performances. For inspiration, you could seek out different versions of popular songs by other performers and take in the techniques they’ve used to keep putting a fresh spin on a classic.
Adult Singing Lessons in London for Any Level!
Being comfortable with your voice is one of the essential tips for singing and playing guitar or piano. Our expert vocal coaches specialise in teaching adults of all levels by providing them with a non-judgmental environment to explore their voices. We can teach you techniques used by world-class singers that will improve all aspects of your voice while preventing vocal strain or damage. Our courses are designed to suit the needs of different students, and we offer one to one, intensive courses and group classes. London Singing Institute tutors are well-versed in all popular styles, including pop, jazz, blues, rock, classical and musical theatre.
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