Sing along w/ playing

by Rasko
(Rijeka, Croatia)


I have a little unusual problem I'd say...or at least seems that way to me...I taught myself to play the piano and I can play some songs fairly well, but every time someone starts to sing while I am playing I mess all up and am not able to do it you have any idea how to solve that problem? And why is that happening at all to me?

thank you, kind regards, Rasko

Maria’s reply:


I don’t think your problem is at all unusual. Most of my students experience this the first time they play together in ensembles.

There are at least two reasons:

The first is that you are simply unused to the situation and become a bit nervous.

The other is that when you first start playing together with other instruments, or with people singing, it can be very hard to focus on your own playing, because you are listening so much to the other music. So you lose track of where you are, and «mess up».

This is easily overcome with a plan in two phases:

1. Learn to zone out anything but yourself.

First of all you need to learn to listen only to yourself, and not letting yourself being disturbed by anyone else.

You could practice playing your songs together with a radio playing some other music, a TV with the news on loud, or a friend (or kids!) doing their best to disturb you while you play.

You have to practice to tune everything out and just keep on playing. Once you can do this it is time to:

2. Learn to “open your ears” and listen to others while playing.

This could be practiced as you play along with a recording (or youtube) of your song and imagine yourself as part of the band or the group. Nod to the bass player, joke with the drummer; but keep on playing.

You could also simply practice singing along yourself as you play. (It doesn’t matter if you sing well or not!)

What you have to learn is a kind of “polyphonic” listening (my own expression), to be able to both focus on your own playing, at the same time listen to others, and finally improving it all by following the other, cooperating.

Like dancing, really.

I’ll throw in another little sneaky tip:

When accompanying, make sure to simplify. No one will really care if you make loads of snazzy fill-ins, keep it simple and help the singer to shine!

Have fun!

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