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Advice on singing AND playing guitar...

Timbeaux

Supporting Member
Messages
163
Hi guys...I'm usually just a designated lead guitarist, but the new band I'm in is asking me to sing, which I can do...BUT...I've always just been the lead guitarist in bands, and sang back-up. Any tips on being able to sing AND play guitar at the same time ...effectively?
 

EL 34 X2

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,307
Sorry to say, for me it just takes a lot of practice. Things like finding and just singing the words that occur on every down beat can help get things flowing sometimes. But it varies from song to song. I usually get the guitar part down cold, so I don't have to think about that part. That makes singing over it easier. Singing and playing at the same time doesn't come naturally to me. I really have to work at it.
 

stevel

Member
Messages
15,132
1. Sometimes you have to simplify a guitar part. The vocal is the primary focus of a song. Given a choice between the two, guitar has to take the hit.

2. Sometimes you have to change the vocal either rhythmically, or in range, etc. to fit your voice. Don't be afraid to do so, but do it well and make it your own. You've got to own it, and sell it.

3. Pick songs that fit your voice well and are easy for you to do.

4. Learn the lyrics away from the guitar. DO NOT READ THEM! Memorize them!!! (same is true of the guitar, reading chords from a sheet - especially if you're reading lyrics from the same sheet is horrible - 2 people in a band I'm in do this and they can't do anything correctly).

5. LOTS and LOTS of practice. Honestly, if it doesn't come natural for you, your band should be really looking at another member who can take the lead singer duties. If it's going to be a huge learning curve for you, they need to understand it's going to be a huge learning curve for you! Make a deal with them - you'll sing 1/3 of the set if they'll each sing a 1/3. Just because you *can* sing maybe a little better than them, doesn't mean your "lead vocal carry the band" material. Or tell them, hire another member to sing, or pay you double for both singing and playing! Or name the band after you...


Good Luck,
Steve
 

Timbeaux

Supporting Member
Messages
163
All of the points you guys made, have been great ones! I sorta figured I would have to pick songs that fit my voice, that come natural to me vocally, then MEMORIZE the words so I don't have to look at a lyric sheet, THEN make sure I know the guitar part so well that it's second nature......piece o cake!!! lol....At least it's causing me to challenge and stretch my abilities as a musician. Any other advice is definitely welcome....
 

mtperry85

Member
Messages
758
I like to cheat and do what many blues musicians (like BB King) do... sing and play guitar separately. It solves a lot of problems, but sounds pretty thin without keys!
 

DivineTones

Member
Messages
1,421
I like to cheat and do what many blues musicians (like BB King) do... sing and play guitar separately. It solves a lot of problems, but sounds pretty thin without keys!
This. One of the most difficult things I've found is when you're singing the lead vocal part, and yet you have a lead line you'd normally be playing in harmony with the vocals, possibly moving in the opposite direction pitch-wise. The only times I've been able to get those is by practicing the part to the point where it's so rote I can temporarily disengage my mind and just focus on the vocal line while letting the fingers do their work. If you ever start getting the lead line in your head while you're singing, the potential to have your vocals waver while your mind is considering the guitar line, can be a big problem.
 

huw

Member
Messages
1,361
Make sure that you can do both parts individually first - learn the vocals, then learn the guitar part, then when you're sure that you know them, you can try to combine them (and as already been suggested, if you absolutely have to simplify the guitar part to preserve the vocals, so be it).

When you begin to combine them, try doing it one line at a time. Did you really nail it, or was it only just there? Get it right, then try the next line.

That sounds like it would be a long process, but you should actually accelerate - by the time you have the first half of the song down, the rest will most likely flow a lot easier (there'll probably be some repetition for a start).
 

Lolaviola

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,556
I was going to suggest having a lead sheet in front of you when practicing with the band. It always seems to help with timing, breathing and chord changes. I'm not saying Don't memorize the lyrics, that is separate skill.

When you practice you are combining the skills. Make notes, notice timing of entrances on weak or strong beats. When to breathe. It helps me to have a stand with a paper on it.
 

Hotspur

Member
Messages
375
Practice, practice, practice.

I don't think there's a substitute for it. I remember when I first started trying to do this, it was really hard. But now it's pretty much second nature.

But be aware that very few songs feature complex lead parts being played by the singer who is playing while he's singing. A lot of singer/guitarists do fills between vocal lines on the guitar, but few are doing much complicated while they're singing in rock contexts.
 

Axis29

Member
Messages
3,580
I'm a guy who's played guitar for 30 years... And been singing into a mic seriously for the last three or four, and for a large majority for the last one or two now. I still can't sing and play anything beyond simple one strum chords on much.

Granted, I don't have the opportunity to do it for a living, so I don't practice as much as I should. It's also difficult singing and playing by your self.... It's easy to be lazy. So, I've been working on it with other folks in the room playing, at open mics, etc. any time I get the chance to sing, I sing... And try to play along.

One thing I've tried to do with new songs is try to do both from the very beginning. Sing as much as I can while learning the chords and such. For some reason, it sits within my brain better and makes both parts one... Instead of separating them and making one distract me from the other.

If I had it to do over again, I'd have learned how to sing and play from the very beginning.

Easy way out? Find a rhythm guitar player! LOL
 

monty

Member
Messages
23,377
One thing I've tried to do with new songs is try to do both from the very beginning. Sing as much as I can while learning the chords and such. For some reason, it sits within my brain better and makes both parts one... Instead of separating them and making one distract me from the other.
This is what works best for me too.
 

ModdersAnon

Member
Messages
1,398
This is pretty much what My vocal teacher has told me. I took it upon myself to take up singing when our vocalist left the band......and it hasn't been easy.

1. Sometimes you have to simplify a guitar part. The vocal is the primary focus of a song. Given a choice between the two, guitar has to take the hit.

2. Sometimes you have to change the vocal either rhythmically, or in range, etc. to fit your voice. Don't be afraid to do so, but do it well and make it your own. You've got to own it, and sell it.

3. Pick songs that fit your voice well and are easy for you to do.

4. Learn the lyrics away from the guitar. DO NOT READ THEM! Memorize them!!! (same is true of the guitar, reading chords from a sheet - especially if you're reading lyrics from the same sheet is horrible - 2 people in a band I'm in do this and they can't do anything correctly).

5. LOTS and LOTS of practice. Honestly, if it doesn't come natural for you, your band should be really looking at another member who can take the lead singer duties. If it's going to be a huge learning curve for you, they need to understand it's going to be a huge learning curve for you!

Good Luck,
Steve
 






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