Lots of singers are just that: singers. But many, many singers also play an instrument of some kind when they sing, and still others consider themselves instrumentalists that also sing. Here are some tips to help those of you who do both—in either order 🙂
Get Vocal Training
Most all of you, even if you started out self-taught, got at least some training on your instrument. In fact, many of you have studied your instrument for years. However, it seems that when it comes to singing many musicians just give it a whirl and fly by the seat of their pants! This idea really downplays the importance of singing well. Moreover, it leaves singers open to many unhealthy vocal practices that can invariably cut short a singer’s vocal “life”. Your vocal cords were designed to last you a lifetime and they will if properly taken care of. Without proper training and acquired skills, many singers end up suffering from avoidable vocal maladies that can cause temporary or even permanent damage. So make sure that you get some voice lessons. At a minimum make sure you understand how to use proper breath support and how to keep tension out of your throat. A primary understanding of overall vocal health will go a long way to help you stay on top of your game.
Put Your Guitar Down!
Just for a bit… When you were learning to play your instrument, you did not typically try to do something else while you were learning. You stopped all other activity to focus for a while. You need to do that with your voice. Most musicians tend to only practice singing while they are playing at the same time. Although ultimately you need to do both at the same time, while learning and practicing specific techniques try to focus completely on singing for a specified period of time each week. This will help you to learn the techniques properly and develop good habits that will hopefully remain in place once you do start playing and singing at the same time. Singing is worthy of your attention and there are details you will undoubtedly miss if you have a split focus.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…
Get yourself in front of a mirror and practice singing – just singing, not playing. As you watch, you will tend to fix things. The more you learn, the more you’ll likely fix. I’m very interested in you getting used to the feel of correct singing. The more you sing correctly, the more your body will get used to it, and when you add playing back into the mix you will hopefully realize the things you need to do to maintain proper vocal technique.
Once you’ve practiced for a while only singing, then add your instrument back in but continue watching yourself in the mirror (to the best of your ability). This is tricky with some instruments, but very important. You need to see what happens to your body when you play and sing at the same time – in real time – so you can fix it while you are doing it.
I’m sure you’re in the habit of recording yourself for review on your instrument. Make sure you do so with your vocals as well. Get a good quality recording on a regular basis and don’t be too hard on yourself! Listen for the basics and make notes of things you would like to change in the future. Then set to work on them during your practice times.
Make sure to make a video recording of yourself regularly as well so you can not just hear, but also see how you are doing. You will notice that once you go live on stage you will naturally tend to fall into old habits. Make a note of them and purpose to change them through practice.
Good singing starts with good posture. We have a tendency to do all kinds of crazy things with regard to our stance when we play and sing.
Set Your Mic
Good singing starts with good posture. We have a tendency to do all kinds of crazy things with regard to our stance when we play and sing. One of the easiest fixes for this is to pre-set your microphone to a place that makes you have to stand up straight in order to reach it. You will then have to continually pull yourself up to a proper posture throughout your set. Don’t change the mic one you’ve started (unless absolutely necessary), adjust your posture to reach it.
With practice, you can become as comfortable with your voice as you are with your instrument, and the advantage you have over your non playing brothers and sisters is that you have a built in accompanist! God bless you as you seek to serve Him through singing.