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Oct 12, 2020 - 9:56:49 AM
2087 posts since 10/22/2007

Maybe sing and play mandolin, or pianer, or somethjng i didn't mention?
Do you remember learning the concept?
You probably learned to sing first?
Is this when you found out about keys?
Do you find this helps with new tunes/songs?

I'll elaborate on my experience later. I'm having a tuff time remembering specifics.

Edited by - farmerjones on 10/12/2020 09:57:16

Oct 12, 2020 - 12:01:04 PM



70 posts since 2/10/2020

In a jamming context, when it comes to taking your turn to lead a tune, being able to 1) play, 2) sing and 3) direct the group with regards to who takes a lead and when they take a lead, is a skill that takes quite a bit of practice. The folks I love to jam with the most are not necessarily the best players or singers, but they have mastered the ability to lead a group through a song. I personally can do this well enough when I play the banjo, but I'm new at the fiddle and it takes all my concentration just to barely play the darn thing, so when it's my turn to lead a song, I put down the fiddle and pick up the banjo.

I also can't sing while playing the fiddle, if I'm going to sing I have to stop fiddling.

Oct 12, 2020 - 12:12:46 PM
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9828 posts since 12/2/2007

I thought this was an invitation to come to town to make records for the Victor Talking Machine. I guess not.
Carry on.

Oct 12, 2020 - 12:15:46 PM

17 posts since 11/7/2019

I can sing and play the banjo/guitar/octave mandolin/mandolin and SLIGHTLY while playing fiddle.
I find that I can't sing or play a tune unless I can whistle it without thinking about it. The melody has to be ingrained in my head.

If I recall this was not something I could always do. I first learned to sing and play at the same time i was learning to play mandolin. I couldn't keep the rhythm of the song or tune without singing the notes. Then I started to sing the melodies with words and such and it was easy on the other instruments after that. Playing along with another strong singer who also played their instrument was crucial too.
This is when I learned the most about changing keys since my companion was a female and had a much different range than I did. I taught her how to change the key on the instrument and she taught me how to sing better in more difficult keys for me.

Oct 12, 2020 - 12:42:13 PM
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Old Scratch


646 posts since 6/22/2016

I took piano lessons for years as a kid, but didn't catch on to chord structures till I started teaching myself guitar, at age ... 14 maybe? Never sang much with piano, not least because it was hard to imagine that you were singing to an audience when you were staring at a wooden board about a foot from your face. I started singing with guitar as soon as I learned three chords - that, in retrospect, was unfortunate because from then on, I concentrated entirely on learning songs; I just wanted to be able to accompany myself, so I never became a good enough guitarist to be of any use to anyone else, or to play the guitar-part "just like the record!" I just strummed away in time, and that was good enough for me.

I learned about keys and key signatures from piano; chord structure from guitar. For what I play on fiddle, knowing chord structure doesn't make a lot of difference, except when you shout at your accompanist; I use my knowledge of keys all the time, without consciously thinking about it necessarily.

Oct 12, 2020 - 1:05:11 PM

1683 posts since 12/11/2008

I can sing while playing the guitar just fine. I can sing while playing the banjo slightly less fine. Singing while playing the piano can be iffy. Singing while fiddling would probably cause the fiddle to fall to the floor.

Oct 12, 2020 - 2:45:28 PM

3059 posts since 6/21/2007

Originally posted by farmerjones

Maybe sing and play mandolin, or pianer, or somethjng i didn't mention?

    Yep, if you call caterwailing singing.

Do you remember learning the concept?


You probably learned to sing first?

   Yep, at a very young age.  I was singing before I started school.

Is this when you found out about keys

   I didn't even know about "notes" then, just that you tried to make your voice higher or lower.

Do you find this helps with new tunes/songs?

   Just from years of doing it.

I'll elaborate on my experience later. I'm having a tuff time remembering specifics.

Edited by - BanjoBrad on 10/12/2020 14:47:41

Oct 12, 2020 - 2:55:21 PM

2087 posts since 10/22/2007

It's like going over the hill and never coming back. I can remember so much else from 40 years ago. It's like i've always done it, but i had to learn somehow? I remember being alowed to listen to some girl playing and singing folksongs at camp. I remember getting a banjer first, before i ever got a guitar. Y'know, i can't play and sing with that bass guitar. I don't know it well enough. There ya go. I guess you have to . . . I dunno?

Doryman has some good advise. It wasn't until i started jamming, that i decided to "polish" up each song, and make each one a package/unit. Know the key. Know the arrangment. Know where you want the breaks. Actually remember all the words. Etc.
I've seen many drag along big songbooks. I don't hold it against anybody. I saw Billy Joel had one. I may start. (If it ever comes back)

Oct 12, 2020 - 4:05:46 PM

2289 posts since 10/1/2008

Learned as a teen playing guitar and singing the hits of the "folk" era. Once done it was easy to transfer to mandolin. It seems fiddling happens in a different part of my brain though than singing so doing both at once only works sometimes. I have to be very familiar with the song to even attempt it and still crash and burn at times.

Oct 14, 2020 - 7:24:23 PM

221 posts since 6/11/2019

Learned to sing first.  Always knew about keys.  Choose a key for vocal sweet spot.

I use guitar to "pitch" a song to fit my voice.  I always play a "picking" instrument (mando/guitar) when I sing, due to ease of rhythm while singing.  I quit using banjer while singing cause vamping the whole thing sounded silly to me.  I just about always sing with a buddy that's good with guitar filler, so if it's in church, I'm on mandolin.

Singing with the group, I "play" fiddle, but only with a chopping/rhythm, and sparsely.  Long bow chords seem silly if you're singing.  Sounds good backing up George Strait but that boy is not singing. 

Oct 16, 2020 - 4:40:40 PM

2643 posts since 9/13/2009

Originally posted by farmerjones

Maybe sing and play mandolin, or pianer, or somethjng i didn't mention?

Not sure I quite get your questions.  I do sing and play other instruments to accompany singing.

Do you remember learning the concept?

?? the concept of singing, or playing... or both?? Or meaning music theory?  - In the realm of singing and playing an instrument... meaning accompanying chords,  figuring out what chords and progressions?

You probably learned to sing first?
Is this when you found out about keys?

Singing was quite common where I grew up. Just by ear... didn't seem like anyone needed lessons to sing, nor know much anything about keys or even the note names (nor most other formal music theory stuff). Still today, if I'm just singing... I don't think of key or note names.

Later I learned to play instruments (guitar and bass; mostly as accompaniment); in "by ear" way, without much knowing about keys or theory... other than learning note names and chord names. Initially was combination of either the notes/chords were worked out by someone else.... or using hunt and peck... listening if sounded right. Probably heard the term"key of "... didn't know how that worked.

Over time I did notice, pick up gradual accumulation recognition of some intuitive, and/or noticeable correlations; what chords are typically in a family and common transposable progressions. that is I could fairly well hear and recognize certain chord changes, progressions (such as I-IV-V and other common; or if it went to a VII). Though I sure I knew the term "key" or "key of". .. was still probably not really thinking in terms of "key" in any proper sense, would have guessed wrong on many songs (often used the first chord for "it's in x").

Gradually picked up actual concepts of theory, like how chords are formed, basic ideas of notes in a keys, scale, mode... and things like chord numbers... this related to understanding melodies more. Probably related to starting to play melodies on an instrument; and visualizing the fingering layout in sense of key/scale/mode. But that wasn't just learning abstract rules... was built on a lot of direct concrete ear/playing experience.


Do you find this helps with new tunes/songs?

Can't easily separate experience into an either/or; erase things I learned or know.

I can certainly figure out chords (and melody) on an instrument much quicker than 45 years ago; less hunting and pecking, or need of someone else telling me... can use logical likely prediction. But probably combination of ear, intuitive and abstract concept.

On an instrument, I pretty automatically think of the fingering layout, chords, changes and progressions with related sense of key. Likely one of the first things I would do is put it into sense of key/mode if working on a new tune/song. 

However, if just singing, acapella or with others providing chords... I don't really think in terms of abstract; key, scale, mode.  If I'm working on the melody of a tune I often will start with sing/diddle melody (again not concerned  with key)... then transfer it to an instrument.


It also likely works inversely (for me)... understanding  the key/mode chords and progressions,  helps with quickly figuring out the melodies on an instrument.

Oct 17, 2020 - 4:21:40 AM



17 posts since 7/22/2020

Do you remember learning the concept?
I started rudimental drum lessons at age 8 and then was able to audition and audition for a small town drum and marching corp with a platoon of baton twirlers out in front of us.

You probably learned to sing first?
Is this when you found out about keys?

When I started singing I was probably very very young, and I doubt I had any concept of keys whatsoever.

Do you find this helps with new tunes/songs?
I grew up a military brat we moved around a lot so I tried piano... I hated playing it... still do, even though I've had one in my house since I was a kid. After drums came fourth grade and instrumental band which I thought might be fun. I wanted to play the trumpet but Dad didn't have the money for a trumpet so I got a cheap trombone from a friend of his for $25. You can't sing and play Trombone same time. And around that same time I received a tenor banjo and a little later I got a guitar, actually I played Dad's guitar first and then I got a sized guitar for myself.

As for singing, I sound like a choir boy and I don't really like to sound like a choir boy. I wish I had more of a growly voice. So I never sang, so much so that I don't think I could actually sing in entire song because I have no desire to learn lyrics. I don't play brass instrument anymore, but I do play string instruments tuned in fourths or fifths.

After I shattered my wrist a year ago, I had a great deal of trouble in occupational therapy because of locked fingers coming out of that cast. It's still hampers my playing to the point where I pretty much I have given up on guitar, but I do play Electric Bass, and I can play smaller necked instrument such as baritone ukulele, Chicago tuning for tenor banjo, and mandolin, and I picked up five string banjo not too long ago and I am learning that now which is kind of easy because I used to play open tunings on guitar occasionally so I'm not completely foreign to the concept. But the picking hand it's so much different on a 5-string banjo with the re-entrant 5th string I have a challenge getting banjo rolls and other picking minutiae committed to muscle memory, but I still plug away at it. Viola and violin suffers from shattered wrist, as I cannot bend the wrist enough to finger the neck.

Oct 17, 2020 - 4:22:59 AM
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30 posts since 1/28/2018

I grew up instilled with the idea that the instruments were only there to back up the singing so...yeah I sang.

Oct 17, 2020 - 4:56:59 AM

2087 posts since 10/22/2007

I'm interested in the simultanious-ness, if that's a word. I've heard it's a right brain, left brain, affair. But it's so strange, once the breakthrough is achieved, it's like what happened just before the breakthrough never existed. I've talked to many. While it's not scientific data, the stories are very similar: "It seems like i've always sung and played." Not that i'm writing a book, or going to teach a class. But again, it's like something one can't teach. Or is it?

Oct 17, 2020 - 6:41:12 PM

2643 posts since 9/13/2009

Oh. I don't think has to do with music theory though,  just developing the ability to do two different things at once; mentally keeping track of two music concepts?

Reminds me of playing left and right hands on piano...I can do simple alternating L/R, and/or some basic synchronous movement... or something simple I can have left hand go on  autopilot....  but having my left do a complex syncopated line and right trying play melody I find difficult. I know supposed to think of them as one thing rather than two separate, but I just tend to need to focus on one or the other. indecision

For singing, I did have that issue at first. For just playing basic country alternating bass rhythm was not too difficult... as the beat lines up pretty simple. Similar basic strum patterns. But when I got in to playing riff based lines... esp if syncopated, it was quite difficult. Some are still difficult for me.

But as far as singing first... it's probably the opposite... it's the instrument (bass, guitar, uke, mando...) that I mostly have to not need to think about, auto pilot... so I can focus on singing. Of course doing so sometimes makes less tight rhythmic groove, maybe loose the beat... compounding this is addition of trying to remember the words. laugh Words are hard.

Related, I do sing and play fiddle (sometimes fiddle and harmonica). Mostly limited to the fiddle has to play long drone/DS; or simple straight rhythmic bowing... or straight unison with singing/harmonica. (sometimes can play parallel harmony). 

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