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Author Topic: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously  (Read 5373 times)

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Offline Annabel

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2014, 09:13:48 AM »
I would suggest Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotten and You've Got to Walk that Lonesome Valley by John Hurt. I haven't been fingerpicking for that long but I can manage the vocals on those. I haven't tried it yet myself because I'm still working on the guitar part, but I suspect Rev. Gary Davis's Candyman shouldn't be too hard, and maybe also Charlie Patton's Poor Me.

I've been strumming and singing for a long time, though, and I've found that it's helpful to learn the guitar part so well you can play it in your sleep before adding the vocals. The same goes for the vocal part?make sure you know it really well on its own. Then when you're putting them together, if it's a tricky rhythm that doesn't track the vocal, slow it way down and work on it in bits.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2014, 09:22:40 AM by Annabel »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2014, 09:39:01 AM »
Hi all,
I agree that "Spike Driver's Blues" is a tricky one.  The way the vocal is displaced from the accompaniment is kind of tough to catch, I think, and takes a while to become comfortable.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Mark Miller

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #17 on: September 07, 2014, 06:56:50 AM »
Thanks for this thread!  I'm working a lot on this now--trying to sing with feeling and attention while I play without losing the playing--as opposed to having the singing just be an afterthought.  Among the songs mentioned, Creole Belle works really well for me, as does Freight Train.  Here's a thought though:  at least for me, the danger in having the timing of the sung and played melodies match too closely is that it can be an invitation to robotic singing.  I find it easier to get some expressiveness into the singing if there's just a little anticipation or lag here and there.  So Spike Driver actually works well for me, but Louis Collins doesn't.  Even though I love the song, I haven't yet found a way to sing it with any real feeling, but those little syncopations between voice and guitar in Spike Driver make that easier.  Oh Babe it Ain't No Lie also worked well for me for a similar reason:  there's just enough added spice in the playing that the playing and singing work in synergy.  But too much difference and it all falls apart.  I (kind of) learned Blind Boy Fuller's Meat Shakin' Woman, but can't even start to sing it without it falling apart.  There's just too much funkiness in the playing, it takes all my concentration even to pretend to be playing it.

Maybe the first song in this style that I could sing well while I played was Frank Stokes' It Won't Be Long.  Nothing but thumb under the sung verses, so you can pretty much just focus on the singing and then really tune into the playing during the fills and breaks.  MJH's Pallet on Your Floor is a good in-betweener:  relatively simple under the vocals, with most of the harder, notier stuff in between.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #18 on: September 08, 2014, 08:55:53 AM »
I (kind of) learned Blind Boy Fuller's Meat Shakin' Woman, but can't even start to sing it without it falling apart.  There's just too much funkiness in the playing, it takes all my concentration even to pretend to be playing it.

Don't feel bad about that -- that song (and the Blind Lemon song it's based on, "Bad Luck Blues") takes a LOT of concentration to sing and play. The way it's constructed there's really no room for a mistake.

Offline Zoharbareket

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2014, 05:48:49 AM »
Yet another great thread Johnm! thank you.

Elisabeth Cotten's Freight Train could be one.

Another possible way to look at this issue is to simplfy songs you want to play down to their bare strummed chords and then, gradually, introduce the guitar-intricacies into the blend. For me this approach worked well with RGD's Lo I'll be with you. I started with just strumming the chords in order to concentrate on the singing and now I can do a half decent take of the song, fingerpicking an' all.

Z

Offline Johnm

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2016, 06:43:26 AM »
Hi all,
I was going over some songs at a lesson the other day and was reminded of a group of songs that fit well in this category, I think:  Robert Wilkins' raggy pre-blues numbers in C--"Police Sergeant Blues", "Alabama Blues" and "Long Train Blues".  In each of them the vocal melody is pretty much right on top of the melody as it is phrased on the guitar, and each of them has at least one place where the the melody takes the bass for a ride.  That little bit of extra concentration required to do that while singing is really good practice.  Plus, they're just great songs, and fun to play and sing.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Mark Miller

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #21 on: February 22, 2016, 05:18:48 AM »
Thanks John. I have to admit I've been scared to tackle Wilkins. I was not familiar with him until I bought your Country Blues book and CD. His songs are amazing, but seem more complicated or, to use a fiddle tune term, crooked than I'm used to, not to mention how far it strays from MJH / Stokes / Cotten alternating bass structure. Maybe I just need to jump in?  Is it more that the style is unfamiliar than that it's difficult?  I love Blind Blake too but I bought Woody Mann's DVD lesson and after spending a week learning three bars of the first song I figured I'd better wait til I'm a better player. Do you think your Wilkins DVD would be easier to get going on?

Offline Johnm

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2016, 06:07:44 AM »
Hi mole,
Robert Wilikins' material is not all of a piece.  Some of it is pretty hard blues, in terms of sentiment and rhythmic feel, but a portion of his repertoire, those songs I mentioned in the post preceding yours, are more along the lines of John Hurt or Frank Stokes in their use of alternating bass and more raggy feel.  All of his stuff is great, though, and if it appeals to you musically, you won't be bothered learning to cope with his different way of doing things, it will just be fun.  Best of luck with working on his songs.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Mark Miller

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #23 on: March 01, 2016, 09:52:57 AM »
Thank you John.  I just ordered your Robert Wilkins video.  Always helps me a lot to be able to see the hand positions and techniques.  With any luck, after working through some of those, I'll be able to tackle the ones in your Country Blues book.  What fun!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #24 on: March 02, 2016, 08:57:38 AM »
I think you'll enjoy working on the Robert Wilkins songs, Mark.  He was a wonderful musician and I think the pieces are very accessible to play and sing, with work.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #25 on: March 30, 2017, 08:24:51 AM »
Hi all,
This thread has not been posted to for a while and I think it is actually an important one in terms of building the skills that will enable playing all the music and not just the guitar parts.  I was listening to Bob Campbell's "Dices Blues" yesterday and today and realized that it is a good candidate for this thread, because apart from the V7 chord in the 9th bar, his vocal is exactly mirrored in his guitar accompaniment--they're right on top of each other.  The song is not easy to play, but it is not super daunting, either, and there is a lot of repetition, which is always helpful, in terms of picking a song up relatively quickly.  Here is Bob Campbell's performance of "Dices Blues":



All best,
Johnm

Offline obrigadotony

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #26 on: April 12, 2017, 08:37:05 PM »
I think you need to dial it way down on the complexity of playing in order to sing and play at same time.  Even creole belle would be a challenge if you're a beginning singer.

I would start with "sweet home chicago" and other blues shuffles where the playing would/should be rote (assuming you aren't attempting the open string work on the G and E that RJ is doing).  Once you get comfortable singing and playing 'anything' then move on to Creole Belle etc. 

I would recommend even starting with "this land is your land" - I really the beginning singer is overcoming emotional/confidence challenges much more than 'vocal' challenges so you want to sing anything, even a cappella.  If this wasn't the case, I would have started singing at 13 rather than 33  ;)

Offline banjochris

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #27 on: April 13, 2017, 10:50:11 AM »
Good point on "This Land is Your Land." I'll add that if you're just learning to integrate guitar and vocal, you couldn't do much better than playing Carter Family tunes. They're not fingerpicking blues (at least most of them aren't!) but you're playing the melody right along with the voice without a lot of rhythmic complexity. The thumb-lead style is always a good place to start. A lot of Lead Belly's numbers would be good candidates as well for the same reason.
Chris

Offline Johnm

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #28 on: July 25, 2017, 08:34:07 AM »
Hi all,
I recently thought of a repertoire of tunes that I think would be great one for beginning to sing and play at the same time--the songs of Henry Thomas.  On many or most of his songs, Henry Thomas utilized pretty much of a boom-chang approach in the right hand, and it is a great and relatively simple way to accompany singing.  I intend to try some of these out in music camps this summer.  The fact that so many of his songs have great melodies doesn't hurt either.
All best,
Johnm

Offline DerZauberer

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Re: Songs for Beginning to Sing and Play Simultaneously
« Reply #29 on: July 26, 2017, 06:28:24 AM »
I've always liked Son House's "John The Revelator" or "Grinnin' In Your Face", no problem keeping guitar playing and singing in synch  ;)

Fun aside, this is a real problem I have, but admittedly since I consider myself no singer at all I've really done nothing to work against it. I find, however, that the songs I play the longest, songs that are so deeply committed in subconscious muscle memory, I can do a lot of things to and not lose a beat.

Overall, I see the following categories where I find it easier to sing to:
1) Classic Blues progression with "basic" chords and a few things thrown in, or shuffle rhythm - e.g. Sweet Home Chicago, Before You Accuse Me. Rollin' & Tumblin'
2) One-Chord Drone - e.g. Going Down South by RL Burnside
3) Free-Form with sparse playing - e.g. Hobo Blues by John Lee Hooker

The things that are "impossible" for me have things alike a steady alternating bass with the treble playing something differently, "ideally" a slide line that goes with (or against) whatever the voice is doing.
"The blues is not a plaything like some people think they are." - Son House

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