Singing and Playing Guitar – How Do They Do That?

When you see someone singing and playing a guitar at the same time, you may wonder how they do it. For many people, combining the two can be relatively easy. But for others, it can be quite a daunting task. After all, singing and playing are physical acts each demanding a different type of attention at the same time. If you are not wired to multitask in this fashion, you are certainly not alone.

The good news is that with practice and patience you can overcome this obstacle, and will eventually wonder how you could have felt so challenged. This article explains an effective way to rewire your mind and be able to play and sing simultaneously with ease.

Background: The Four Steps of Learning

When it comes to learning anything, there are four basic levels

  • Unconscious Incompetence: This is the step where you simply don’t know what you don’t know. A concept is about to be introduced, or has just been introduced to you.
  • Conscious Incompetence: You become aware that you don’t know something. In this case, how to play and sing at the same time.
  • Conscious Competence: This is the level where, through practice, you become able to do the task, though only while still focusing on the task.
  • Unconscious Competence: This is the desired level where you can do the task subconsciously, meaning you can sing and play without really thinking about it.

The goal here is Unconscious Competence; in other words to be able to sing and play at the same time, be aware of it, but not to have to concentrate hard on it.

The Method

  • Step 1: Find a chord progression you like and play the chords until you have them down pretty good.
  • Step 2: Play the chord progressions while watching TV. It is very important that you continue to play while you are watching the show. This will start developing the habit of multitasking.
  • Step 3: Once you have mastered that, take it to the next level. Prop up a book, a Kindle, or a computer and read something while you play.
  • Step 4: Read the words out loud while playing.
  • Step 5: Start to sing aloud the words you are reading. It doesn’t have to be tuneful at first; it can even be a drone of sorts to begin with.
  • Step 6: Find another chord progression and repeat the process.

Please understand that this process takes time, and please be patient with yourself.

Why It Works

Your brain uses alpha waves and beta waves (conscious/sub-conscious). You use alpha waves when you concentrate and focus on something and you use beta waves when you can just do it without thinking about it (concentrating). Eventually, the alpha waves “transfer” to beta as you’re learning something. This is a natural process; you don’t have to do anything about it. You don’t even have to completely understand it, just know that it works.

Alternate Methods

There are many other methods to learn multitasking; this is but one. A good music instructor can help you come up with an alternate method that may work better for you. No matter what method you use, you can play and sing at the same time with practice and patience.