How to Practice Singing and Playing the Guitar at the Same Time

I recently wrote a few songs at home and recorded them on my laptop. I sent them to a friend who wanted to get together and play them. It was all very exciting until I realized I had never sung them while playing the guitar parts. The tracks were recorded separately and now I had to figure out a way to juggle the vocals and the guitar at the same time. A Google search shows that there are many tips on how to do this online, but here is one trick I found helps.

One particular song was a nightmare. The guitar part was an arpeggio with passing notes that followed the melody. However, it was played in a very loose manner, had a few more notes than the melody and used a few triplets for effect. Basically, I had to do a solo while singing the verse. The melody on top was a more straightforward 4/4 affair, but combining it with the guitar part seemed impossible at first. It seemed like I would have to play way too many notes, I kept messing up the guitar part and singing was extremely difficult because I had to think too much about what I was doing to concentrate on the lyrics. You have to put some thought into practicing this kind of thing.

First, you obviously have to know the guitar parts, song melody and lyrics very well. The objective is to find a pattern between them that makes them click. In the beginning, it is important to focus on the first beat of each bar so it will be easier to chop up the verse and its phrases into smaller parts you can analyze and work on while you practice. In the case of the song here, I noticed that there was a pull-off that appeared at the middle of a phrase that was giving me trouble. And here comes the trick. I took a pen and circled each syllable on my lyrics sheet where this pull-off occurred. In my mind I was stressing the pull-off and the syllable, but of course listeners would not hear it. It simply anchored my attention so I could orientate myself between the triplets and sung phrases. Because I knew the lyrics and the guitar part so well to begin with, everything else clicked into place around this one pull-off and its corresponding syllable.

I have never had to map every single syllable like this and I do not think it would be a practical way of approaching a song unless the song is a complicated Zappa tune or something. But taking a pen and making a few notes can help a lot. The brain looks for patterns and giving it something to grasp onto can nudge everything into place.

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