Monday, November 3, 2014

Why all singer/songwriters should play an instrument + tips for aspiring guitarists

If you have been following my blog for awhile you probably know that I am a songwriter. Singing and songwriting is a huge part of my life. It's something that I will do always and forever. But unlike songwriting playing an instrument while singing has not come easy to me.

Learning an instrument when you are used to being a Soprano 1 can be really irritating to say the least. Although I have sang in choirs and musicals in the past, it was very hard for me to pick up an instrument. At first I was unable to make it play the sounds that I wanted to convey. I had no idea how to make those sounds and I had a hard time singing in time while playing an instrument. I was just a mess.

This frustration kept me from committing to instruments in the past. I got disappointed because whatever instrument I was trying out at the time sounded too twangy, too silly or too country. I was not patient enough with them so I would just sing.

Finally my husband convinced me to get over it. I decided to start with the keyboard and eventually I was able to pick up the guitar. It is much easier for us to collaborate now that I can play too. He is still leagues ahead of me in that department but he also has much more experience. I am finally seeing the benefits of continued practice and I don't feel like a newbie anymore. It is still such a process but I can finally, actually say that I know what my style is. I am working towards making it come to life a little more every day.

So singer/songwriters, the moral of the story is that if you really want your songs to be heard, learn an instrument even if it feels impossible to do so. Playing an instrument allows you to collaborate with others more effectively which is key to finishing a track or being part of a band. It also gives you the ability to perform all by yourself which can be empowering and lucrative.

Your music may evolve into something different than you ever expected, which happened to me, but that's a good thing. I still occasionally miss the days of being able to focus on singing alone as I can do more complicated vocals that way, but I actually feel more comfortable playing as I sing now. In the future I would love to have my songs professionally recorded. I probably won't play anywhere on the track, but I will be able to guide the process by establishing the chords and those steps are critical.

Earlier this year I became more serious about finishing my songs and sharing them so with my primitive guitar skills I decided to start posting videos on Youtube as it was the most manageable outlet. Now I have become motivated to perfect my sound so I am going to work on creating more professional recording of my songs so I can share them on Soundcloud instead. I'd like to work on making better audio files and forget about any form of video until I can make something really neat.

If you would like to play the guitar, but feel as if it is nearly impossible, here are a few tricks:
  • If the guitar seems too overwhelming try the keyboard first. 
    • This may give you the confidence to go ahead and try something different. 
    • Ask a friend for a few mini lessons or search for a good video
  • Try before you buy
    • Some brands of guitar are easier to play than others
    • Nylon strings are not as painful as metal strings
    • Certain types are easier for smaller hands/ larger hands
  • Take your time
    • Just play until your fingers hurt, then play a little longer the next day...
    • It gets better over time - trust me! 
    • If you get frustrated put it down and try again later just don't wait too long
  • Print a chord chart
  • Follow tutorials of your favorite songs
    • There are so many on Youtube
    • If you are really new it helps to have your chord chart with you
  • Don't give up! 
    • The earlier you start the better you will become so just keep on going
    • Even a few minutes every day really adds up in the long run
<3 KM

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