The Answer To: How To Sing And Play Guitar At The Same Time

Friday, August 26, 2016 by Jake Hahn | artist development

The Scenario...

 You grab your guitar (or whatever instrument you choose) and sit down on your couch. You choose a song and decide to give it a shot. 

Have a little fun, right?

As you start to play, everything is going just fine, but then, right as you start to add in (or even THINK of) the vocal part...it all falls apart!

(okay...this is a bit extreme, but it's not too far from the truth of how it feels, am I right?)

So you gather your composure and give it another try! (because you're on a mission - and you just like playing music of course.)

You start strumming away. Everything is fine again - then boom!!...adding the vocal line brings it all to a disjointed, rhythmically messy hault.

Now, when all you really want is to express yourself and simply enjoy playing a song - this can be a real drag.

I can appreciate that, because I've been there. Hell...I STILL struggle with it at times!

So what's the deal?! 

Why is playing and singing so hard to do??

The Issue...


Multitasking has been proven to be a myth, and what you're doing while playing and singing sure seems to be a lot like "multi-tasking", doesn't it?


So if multi-tasking is a myth, then how do you do multiple things at once??

Enter...the Reticular Activating System -or- R.A.S.

The R.A.S allows you to rapidly "flutter" from one thing to another. The issue is that you can only "flutter" between so many things at once. 

Here's a quick example: right now - think about your pinky toe on your left foot. 

I'm willing to bet - unless you're currently clipping that nail or getting a pedicure - that toe was one of the last things on your mind.


It's unimportant at the moment so your R.A.S puts your focus on what IS important to you in the moment.

So when you're playing guitar your R.A.S is predominantly focused on the things that allow you to play that guitar.

Strumming. Chords. Rhythm. Notes. Tempo. Feel. Etc...

Add to that remembering the lyrics, melody, vocal tone, vocal technique, "sounding good", etc...and at this point your brain is totally confused.

 It doesn't know what aspect to focus on, and/or the level of importance for each of those aspects.

Here's a mind-map I made showing you this process/issue:

(this mind-map is a part of a course I've made to really dig into all of the details and answer your questions to this whole "sing & play" thing once and for all)

Sooooo....what can you do?

The Solution...

Divide and conquer!!

You'll need to drill the instrumental portion of the song down deep passed conscious thought and into your sub-conscious behavior. 

This will free up space for the R.A.S to focus on other aspects of the song!

The brain is just awesome.

For example: Drill in a G C D chord change. It's crucial to play it the way you'd like it to sound between 12 to 16 times.

That amount of repetition is the least of what is required to make this happen. 

Remember! You have to play it THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO SOUND.

You can't half heartedly play through a dozen times with a bunch of mistakes and expect the result to be anything other than messy.

This doesn't mean "perfection" (perfection is an illusion)

Simply play it as well as you can!

After 12 to 16 repetitions - pause and recite a portion of the lyric at least 6 times.

After you've done this - it's time to put them together.

Don't be too put off if it doesn't happen on this first attempt. Just take a quick break and repeat this cycle.

I promise ya it'll take hold ;)

- jake 

Please feel free to send me an email or contact me via Facebook. Be sure to sign up for my mailing list if you're interested in my full "Sing & Play" course and would like to receive updates.