How To Sing and Play: A Strategy

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 by Jake Hahn | artist development

Singing and playing at the same time is no easy task - it remains a challenge even after you've grown to a point where you can do it fairly well.

Even though there are no real "shortcuts" to making it happen, there are certain ways you can structure your practice to make progress during every practice session.

Picking up (or sitting down to) your instrument and simply chugging away at it bit-by-bit CAN actually help you, however - if you have an understanding of WHY it's difficult on a physiological level - then you can take a strategic approach that will significantly cut down on the time it takes to improve.


(choose now whether or not you can and/or will exercise these two psychologically challenging things)

If no - that's cool.

If yes - here's your strategy.

Step 1: choose one area of a song. Verse, chorus, bridge, etc...

Step 2: play that section 6 times while looking at your hands.

Step 3: play that same section 6 times while looking AWAY from your hands. Yeah you'll make some mistakes - keep  going.

Step 4: play that same section 6 times while watching TV or some other distraction.

Step 5: play that same section 6 times while reciting the alphabet out loud.

Step 6: play that section 6 times while speaking the lyrics out loud.

Step 7: play that section 6 times while now attempting to add the actual vocal melody line(s).

The chances of you getting it down the first time are typically slim to none. But what you've done at this point is hammered that song into your subconscious mind 36 times in 6 different ways.

Neurologically you've begun to create a whole new nuero-pathway in your brain - as well as (the most important part) begun to solidify that pathway with myelin.

Myelin is a substance in the white matter of your brain that literally coats and insulates that newly created nuero-pathway you just created.

Now - the next time you practice these steps you will be strengthening that pathway and literally increasing the thickness of the myelin coating - allowing the information to travel easier and easier - faster and faster. Ultimately making it "effortless"/"second nature".

Overall it takes lots and lots of repetition. But when you aim to perform those repetitions in a very specific way, you can rest assured you're making deliberate progress and not just spinning your wheels and wasting your time and efforts.

By the way:

These steps can be condensed down to 3.

• play the song section 6 times w/ no vocals

• play the song section 6 times with a distraction (don't look)

• (attempt to) play and sing the song section at the same time.

Remember this - your goal is to create a new physical connection in your brain that will allow you to play and sing simultaneously.

Again - This takes work. This takes repetition. This takes time. But now you have a particular strategy that you can trust will get you there faster and more efficiently based on the specific way your brain and body work as opposed to just taking someones word for it.

I believe it's important to know exactly why you're doing a particular exercise. That way you know why it works, and how it will help you progress.

- jake