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Guitar + Singing

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SilentMind
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Hi folks,

Been on quite a journey the past four months. I've managed to shift out of my old baritone grunt (think Beefheart, Tom Waits etc.) into a new world of high, light and resonant singing that I would sworn a year ago was way out of reach. Straight up, TMV with a side-serving of the kind-hearted donations of folks like Rob Lunte & Jaime Vendera on youtube has helped me discover a whole new palette of sounds to work with. That's my intro and thanks rolled into one ;)

Anyhow, back to business. Does the added pressure of strapping on a guitar interfere with breath support in any way ?

Without a guitar I feel like I can anchor my breath deep within my gut, with good posture, bent knees and a mental picture of throwing the sound into the back of the room and this helps me sustain higher pitched notes with 'gas' to spare for dynamic peaks and tonal variation. However, with an electric guitar resting on my navel it really throws this dynamic out of whack. Another problem is the sit-down acoustic stance which presses quite deeply on the fleshy part just below the point where my ribs meet at the front (I know there's a term for this but it escapes me).

Out of curiosity I did some shirtless singing just to see what my stomach was doing. There seemed to be a lot of split-second shifts and changes that adapted to changes in breath pressure related to pitch so I can imagine how constriction of these areas could interfere. Its worth pointing out that these changes are quite subtle and fleeting, a curious mix of tension and release.

I had occasion to sing live without my comfort blanket (the guitar) the other day and it was quite liberating. Almost immediately I found myself making richer tones for less apparent effort.

Any advice on this matter is most welcome, as I've a hunch this is psychological rather than physical and I'd like to get the matter sorted before I start training to a higher level.

Cheers,

Chris

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I come from the other direction. Other than as a child, like my parents, singing along with the radio, I started in structured music playing guitar in 1974. Added singing back to it. But I didn't get serious about my voice until 1988. So, I have always sung while playing guitar and vice versa. In fact, it is more comfortable for me than singing against a playback (the cues are auditory against playback and hand-driven when playing the guitar.) I end up slightly re-arranging vocal melody and chord changes from the original, as it's just me playing on guitar. But, it seems, I am less conscious of my breathing if I am singing while playing guitar. When just singing against playback, I "overthink" it.

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I think it's a matter of how comfortable you are. Some recording engineers have to record singers playing guitar or they won't sound as good singing. Ymmv. I try to be able to sing both ways. I have better pitch and timing when singing without playing an instrument, but I deliver a more passionate and inspired performance when singing while playing an instrument.

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as i am a guitarist/singer, i can tell you that if you play guitar and sing at the same time, practice the same way... With your guitar. It takes a lot of work to sing and play at the same time, you have to forget what you're doing on the guitar and be focused on the singing. But man it takes time lol.

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I write some of the songs in my hard rock band, but I do not play guitar on stage. For one, the lead guitarist is kind of a glory hog (only slightly kidding) but playing and singing while trying to entertain a crowd and hit crazy head tones is freakin tough! Im working on it though, I think I may try how Cornell does it on some of Soundgardens songs, he will just play when he is not singing. :lol:

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Not only that but Chris Cornell is not singing as loud as you might think. He is about the tone more than the volume. And yes, there is the struggle between the guitar player's ego and the singer's ego. That was the biggest problem in Van Halen. Eddie was never all that interested in having a singer. He prefers instrumental and he would just has soon have songs that any singer could sing so that he doesn't have to deal with personalities. That's why the time with Gary Cherone didn't last long. He had Gary's vocals mixed to sound like Hagar. And all three singers for that band have distinct personalities that clashed with his. Eddie used to play with his back to the audience. Not because he was shy but because he didn't want people to see how he played what he played. He has patented the process by which he created "Frankenstein," his signature red Strat and has never been truthful in revealing how he modified it.

Juxtapose that with David Lee Roth, who totally understands individuality but understands the training needed to achieve a particular sound. And, of course, his personality.

It's not uncommon for a singer to play and compose on an instrument that they might not play in concert. Axl Rose plays piano and some guitar. In concert, however, almost all the keyboard duties are given to Dizzy Reed.

David Bowie plays piano and guitar, but almost never in concert. Brett Michaels plays guitar, sometimes in concert.

And I have noticed that the performers who play guitar and sing in concert tend to sing lower. Except for Geddy Lee and Sting but then, again, they are playing bass, which may involve different coordination.

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I asked a pal to watch me in full flight today noting the difference in 'appearance' as time rolled on by -

My need to watch the fretboard at various points seems to drag my chin down a notch, slightly to the side with a lowered rib cage, throw in some neck and shoulder tension (gibson guitars are heavy) and at least I've begun to find some tangible causes for the problems. Most of these run against the new-found wisdom I've picked up for good singing posture. Like many things I guess the trick is to strike a balance, practice til good habits are formed and then cast worries aside to focus on the message.

The importance of pose, relaxation and efficient use of energy in singing has got me chewing the subject over in regard to my other instruments (guitar, bass, drums). Funny how easy it is to hear tension in the voice over other instruments and yet its just as vital. The tone of my guitar doesnt change if my hands are tense. Sure you can hear it in the 'flow' of rhythm but thats another thing entirely.

Love all the stuff on band psychology, where there's sparks there be fire! What does that mean for me tho, split personality ? Hehe, truth often spoken in jest. A pal once called me 'the most confident shy person' he'd ever met. I've not had an egotistical falling out with myself yet, but there's time :P

Cheers all.

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It depends. Once I found my high range in 1988, I found myself gravitating towards singing more than guitar playing. And when I auditioned for bands in the 90's, I auditioned as a singer. I felt I had something more to offer as a singer than as a guitar player. I was totally astounded when I worked with a band called XLR8. The guitar player was missing the ring finger on both hands. But he could shred as fast as Eddie Van Halen. Sadly, they replaced me with someone who had recording equipment. Even though I was technically a better singer. Such is life.

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I started off a guitar player (still am) and then I started singing. I don't feel that singing is much harder when playing guitar than without. Ofcourse, it is always easier to focus on one thing at a time than do both, but that's common sense. If you are playing simple guitar parts/chords that are simple and you can do in your sleep, it shouldn't be too hard.

It could have something to do with the way you hold you guitar. Try strapping it on a different way, experiment and see. Try singing without a guitar, then put the guitar on and try not to disturb the feeling you have while singing without a guitar. Bring the instrument to you.

that's all i got :D

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Well seeing as having a guitar around your neck adds extra weight that your back and shoulders must carry you will probably have less energy to use on your support. Hitting the gym could help with this.

Personally I record guitar and singing separately. ;)

I'm a studio wizard though and have no intentions of leaving it for a stage anytime soon.

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How do people think about support while playing the guitar ?

A guitar and the 'noble' posture don't work for me

There's no universal solution, you've got to find your own. ;-). Bend the kness, put the guitar on your side a little etc... and yes going to the gym can be helpfull lol

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have worked out a helpful system for a number of singer-guitarists - you have to go at this step by step.

1. Put the guitar to one side, and work on the voice first.

2. While standing, establish good tone production; then do the melody on a vowel, or on the sequence of vowel sounds required by the words; practise words without melody to get them smoothly connected and resonant. And make sure all of this is done with good vocal technique.

3. Bring the guitar into the frame. Just hold the guitar in place, no playing. Do some of #2 again.

4. Synchronise playing one chord simultaneously with a well produced vocal tone. Monitor to see whether you maintain good vocal production, and if not, what muscular patterns have you comprised now you have the guitar in your hands. Adjust accordingly and try again.

5. Do more of #2 again, playing just an occasional accompanying chord. Don't try to play the whole guitar part at this stage, or your vocal technique may get compromised again. What you are aiming to do is discover by self-analysis what you compromise vocally when you bring the guitar even minimally into play.

6. If you normally sing/play seated, now try #3-5 seated.

7. Put more of the singing and playing together BUT don't be afraid to return to #1 again. You need to keep going back to first principles, giving your body-mind a strong reference point and memory of good vocal habits established in #1-3.

If you are unsure what you compromise in #4 and beyond, video yourself and watch it back, slow motion if necessary, to see what physical tics you introduce when you play the guitar that compromise your singing body.

Alexander

http://www.OxfordSingingLessons.co.uk

http://www.YouTube.com/voicewisdom

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Sounds to complicated to me. I follow the advice of Roger Daltrey.

"I pick up my guitar and play.

Just like yesterday.

Then, I get on my knees and pray....

We don't get fooled again."

I've been doing it so long that separating it is harder than just learning the song. Plus, playing and singing together, I am used to mixing with live instruments, which is probably 180 degrees from recording in a studio. I may be one of those hard cases who always has to record live in the studio. The whole band has to be there or it's going to take me a while.

To me, music is an organic process of people resonating from each other. My bad.

As God is my witness, I have been playing guitar and singing since 1974, with special attention to my voice since 1988. Which does not mean I am the best, not by a long shot. But it does mean that it is easier for me to sing live than against playback.

I know it's asking too much for people to consider that I know what I am talking about when I say that my singing cues come easily from my hand motions on the guitar and harder from auditory cues on playback. I just had a birthday and I am ten years younger than Bob (videohere) so, since I am an old fart, I can't possibly know anything.

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What I posted may sound too complicated for someone who already has found a way to make things work for them.

The advice was worked out while working with singer guitarists who clearly were not able just to pick up a guitar and sing without compromising their voice considerably. Those singer-guitarists who struggle to sing easily and effectively need a different approach to teaching and learning. That's why teachers don't give the same advice (I hope!) to every student.

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I'd love to run with your approach Ron! Its similar to a good friend of mine who I constantly envy for his organic in the moment intuition. You might be alike as he claims to know nothing as well ;)

Alas, I'm the introverted shaman type who needs time to cook up a ritual or three just to hang a few notes in the air :rolleyes: With that in mind, I'll give Voicewisdoms' ideas a go as they've reminded me to re-assess the basics. I think what is making things tougher is that I'm re-learning to sing with guitar so I'm fighting habits nearly a decade old. Perhaps the step by step will help.

Not there but getting closer...

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