I’ve already had a couple of people ask me about it this year, so I thought I’d post a blog about it. I’m talking of course about learning to play an instrument while you sing (thanks Don 😉 ). I think most singers want to learn how to do this, honestly. And the thought of it can be really intimidating even if you do know how do both- let alone the thought of having to actually learn how to play an instrument.
I’ll say off the bat that I’m not an expert at accompanying myself on the piano while I sing. I have, for years, been emphatically insisting that people who wanted me to play and sing choose one or the other. I’ll sing for you or play for you, I’d say, but I can’t do both.
However, through a series of events I wrote about in another blog about the word “Can’t”, I have recently started doing the very thing I’ve been saying for years I couldn’t do. Again I’m far from an expert and still learning. But I’m doing it enough now that I’ve been set up with my own microphone and stand at the keyboard so I can sing along with the Praise Team as I play. So, while I don’t consider myself to have “arrived” when it comes to the subject of accompanying yourself while you sing, I have a couple of tips that I think will get you started on your own path to doing it pretty quickly.
1. Just Try It!
If you’re anything like me you’ve probably been saying for years you can’t sing and play at the same time, but you’ve never actually made a real attempt. Once I finally did I was really surprised at how easy it actually was.
2. Choose Songs That Are Easy To Play And Sing
Let’s face it. We all know what really scares us about playing and singing at the same time. it’s coordinating it all! Getting your hands to do some kind of rhythm that is different than what you’re singing can be tough to master.
I knew this going in, so what I did was choose songs where the cadence of the chords kinda matched up with the cadence of the words I had to sing. For example, songs where every time I sing a word I’m also playing a chord, so my hands and singing are in sync.
I found that choosing songs like this for my first attempts made it really easy; much easier than I thought, actually. But I realized that doing those easy songs gave me a lot more confidence and motivation to do more singing and playing.
3. Graduate Gradually
I’m at this stage now, actually. I’m starting to think about songs that will be more challenging to sing and play because they’ll simply require more coordination of me. These are songs where I don’t have the luxury of having the chords locked in with the cadence of the words.
Even in cases like these though, it’s really as simple as building muscle memory- just like everything else we learn. Simple sitting down with a challenging song to sing and play, then slowly and methodically playing and singing through those awkward phrases where your hands and mouth have to execute two different cadences, over and over until the awkwardness starts to fade and it starts to feel more natural.
For the Gospel singer especially, learning to sing and play at the same time could really take your music ministry to the next level. It’s simply a matter of getting over “I can’t do it” and deciding to start.