Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Sing and play banjo at the same time

Hi guys,

Any advice or exercises on how to play banjo and sing at the same time?

I can only do it on some rolls and while vamping. The only advice I was able to get so far was very vague (as in keep practicing), but no real exercises/techniques.

Has anyone managed to breakthrough this? how? please share

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This is a great question and, as you suspect, no easy answer. I’ve lost much of my skill to do this b/c I haven’t practiced it much the last few years. For me the key was to do some nitty gritty, slow, frustrating practice where I literally had to learn a measure at a time. But you know what? It got easier and easier to where I could begin to play/sing songs that I had never practiced before. I’m sorry I don’t have a magic answer!

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What Ben said is what has worked for me. Slow it down as slow as you have to in order to sing and play at the same time, and then just practice that.

In my mind, adding vocals is like adding a third hand to the banjo. Your two hands have to be trained to work with each other to produce specific notes, and that takes time. Now you’re adding another note to the mix with your voice, and the timing of that has to be in sync with your hands, which is why I think of it as a third hand.

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Can’t pick the Banjer much… not carry a tune… let alone puttin’ 'em together. Fergetabottit!

Don’t know how y’all do it… and so I say, good luck and to even think to try it means yer supper talented!

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I would suggest that you have one (either playing or singing the song) down pat where you can do it almost by habit. Then you could put a little more concentration on the other as you are doing both together.

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Hello @frankb_be!
I don’t play banjo, but… My son started singing & playing banjo by 1st being able to play the tune, then only singing the chorus while playing. When he got decent with that, he’d add on more & more until he could do the whole song. The more he practiced the better he got & was able to move on to different songs till it became a reliable skill. (As for me? I can’t talk and pick mandolin at the same time :confounded:!) Dont know if that helps or not, but it was my 2 cents worth :grin:!

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Basically get your right hand to play the same roll for the whole song if possible. Then just add the chord changes with your left hand and then also sing. Once you can do that you can try branching out a little bit with picking patterns and licks

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Interesting approach… @Dragonslayer.

As singing is something I really don’t feel comfortable with, intuitively, I think a large percentage would strive to learn the song completely first - which is exactly why I like this alternate approach.

Unconventional = Opportunity (for some)

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There were a couple songs our family band used to do where I would sing and play banjo, and now I often sing and play Dobro, which is a similar concept. They key is to get the song “into your hand,” so it takes less thought to play it. Without a lot of practice, like @BanjoBen said, either the singing or the picking will suffer. Or both :neutral_face:

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@Dragonslayer & @Luke_L this all sounds so simple but it’s something I fail to grasp. I just can’t do both together. I can vamp & sing but I can’t play roll patterns & sing…mic banjo

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To twin, or layer those two skills together one of them needs to be on auto-pilot. Both your vocal instrument and the one you are holding require timing, taste and tone. That’s asking a lot of yourself. I would imagine doing one roll in open G on banjo while just holding the root note with voice then moving voice to the other two notes that make the chord while keeping the chosen roll steady. Then do the same with C and D and create your own drills. Then teach us, please.

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Agree with you all. Learn song first and then just play chords. Then you can incorporate rolls. It has worked pretty well with me that way. Bless you all!!

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I could never play and sing at the same time either. (still can do neither one separate haha). But anyway, taking some of the above advice and working on it with this easy song, it’s kinda working.

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Are you in the garage? That’s awesome. That may be my favorite place to pick.

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Thanks Brent. Yes, in the garage. I need a “special pass” of some kind to get in the house…:slightly_smiling_face:

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Love the recliner in the garage!!

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That’s great Butch and love the pickup

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Ha. My $35.00 lazy boy. Ugly as all get out but so comfy!

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Thanks for the compliment Lee.

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