I am learning both guitar and harmonica. I would like to be able to play blues guitar and harmonica and sing decently at some point in my life. But honestly I have a lot of things going on and don’t really have enough time to properly practice even one instrument. Justin suggests practicing 30 min to an hour a day just on guitar and I normally have maybe about 4 hours a week for all 3 things.
I know my question may sound silly and I just want too much. But probably someone here was in similar situation and can give some advice. Does it make sense to focus on just one thing for a time and than pick up others after I reach some level on it? Or if working on several things at a time, should I try to work on each for just a little bit each practice session or I should bunch it: like several days of guitar, then several days of harmonica etc.?
I started learning piano and harmonica when an injury meant I couldn’t play guitar. Having recovered from said injury, I’ve started playing guitar again, and I’ve found three instruments too much. I won’t say I’ve given up harmonica, I’m saying it’s on hiatus until I’m sufficiently advanced with the other two instruments to be able to put the time in again.
Now, I’m retired, divorced, and my children are all grown up, so I don’t have work and family commitments and it’s all I can do to find the time and motivation for two instruments, and that’s only because I’m more advanced on guitar (grade 3) than I am on piano, so the guitar learning curve isn’t quite as steep as the piano learning curve, therefore the strain on my brain (cognitive workload seems a good phrase for it) isn’t as great as it would be if I was an absolute beginner at both
Based on my experience I would suggest concentrating on one instrument in the limited time you have until you’ve reached a level of skill and confidence that you consider sufficient to bring in a second instrument. If, by the time you bring in the second instrument, you’ve already learned some music theory that helps to reduce the cognitive workload. When you do bring in the second instrument, I’d make it a habit to practice both every day, even if it’s only 5 minutes to maintain the habit. I break my practice sessions in two, with a break in between when I’m doing something else, so when I’m playing guitar I’m focussed solely on guitar, and when I’m playing piano I’m focussed solely on piano
That’s something that varies from person to person.
For me, I’d have to focus more on just one thing than trying to learn multiple instruments at the same time.
When I was first learning, everyone said it’s a lot harder to play guitar and sing at the same time as compared to just playing guitar. So I didn’t even thing about singing.
When I learned my first song, my wife would have sung it probably 50 or more times and quite by accident I started singing along to it. That was a real eye opener for me and I’ve been singing ever since.
I tell people to try to make their playing of music part of their life, just something that happens every day. I’ve heard other teachers say as long as you do at least 10 minutes a day, you are moving forward.
The biggest motivator for me was learning complete songs. Wow! it changed my life and I encourage anyone to pick a simple song, learn it, and then play it all the time.
I reckon it’s harder to build skill than maintain it. So I would focus on one until you’ve built it “enough”.
Hello Ivan, your question is very interesting to me, as I would also love to play guitar while accompanying myself with harmonica and vocals. I love Bruce Springsteen songs, and also some Bob Dylan and Neil Young songs would sound better with a harmonica.
So far, I’ve just concentrated on guitar (I’m a beginner and started just 1,5 ys ago), while my singing has simply improved by doing it and some input from a vocal coach. I don’t dedicate practice time to singing. (But of course, I sing e.g. while driving, cooking, or whenever it is no additional effort .)
Harmonica will have to wait. Maybe until I hit a plateau with my guitar playing. That might be a good moment to start with an additional instrument. I guess, this would also help to keep the motivation for the guitar alive .
Hey Ivan, Another consideration may be the benefit of learning through spaced repetition. Small repeated efforts can be shown to have ore impact that larger ‘binge’ efforts. So instead of thinking of the total amount of time practising over a week where you might put in heavy efforts a few days - think of incremental effort each day. If you make a commitment to do 10 mins practice on guitar, it can be funny how once you start you’ll not want to stop! The commitment to starting each and every day, may in itself give you momentum? Good luck with whatever you decide.
Great to hear that, Nicole.
I really enjoy the harmonica courses by David Barrett on BluesHarmonica.
Dylan’s Blowin in the Wind is the only song so far I’ve managed to learn to play through on guitar and harmonica in a rack simultaneously. But now it needs some refreshing.
Thanks a lot for this tip, Ivan . I’ll give it a try, when I feel ready .
That’s awesome !
You just said in one sentence what it took me three paragraphs to say!
I can be concise at times But I’d never sell any books.
Oh I don’t know. JK’s one lines, sounds like it might sell.
The first one: “Buy this book, it’s good”. But I’m afraid it would be more a pamphlet than a book.
I’ve found that learning to play guitar has really helped my singing. And being able to sing better has in turn helped my guitar playing.
It was very difficult to do both at the same time at first…I had to take turns stripping one activity down to the bare minimum while focusing on the other. But this has paid big dividends in the long run.
So I think there’s a lot of merit in learning to play and sing at the same time, after achieving some minimal competence in doing both things separately.
Absolutely. What’s amazed me is how much better my voice has gotten with regular practice (exercise). I’ll never make big dollars with my voice, that boat sailed a long time ago, yet I’m enjoying it and it’s good enough I’m not at all embarrassed to sing publicly.
Just a suggestion; can you think of a situation, where you can have your harp with you but not the guitar? A harmonica is something you could cary around all day and pull out if you have five minutes to spare.
What harmonica do you have?
I would recommend to practice guitar every day, even if you just take it from the rack and strum through one song…
Yes, this is a great advantage of harmonica. I am actually better at harmonica than guitar now because I had to move from country to country a couple of times lately and did not have my guitar with me for several months.
However I don’t have many situations like this currently.
I have diatonic harmonicas in 7 different keys as well as a 12-hole C chromatic.
Same as Tony almost. Started to sing along almost as an accident when playing. It was very difficult, almost impossible in the start, but after a while it just came naturally.
So now i find it the other way around, i find it difficult to just play songs without singing along to them, its a lot easier for me to keep timing etc. when i have the lyrics with me…
Some things feels almost weird to play on the guitar if i dont sing as well.
I have never practised singing before i started to play guitar other than the usual singing in the shower and the car, that most of us do.
But now i do practise from time to time just sit down with the original recordings and try to sing along with different songs, most times i try to learn how it goes original and then try to tweek it down into my own style… so i guess i can say i practise some singing now…
but for the most parts i do practise both parts at the same time.
Sounds like you got some good basics down then.
I never tried chromatic, was it easy to switch from diatonic to chromatic?
To be honest, I don’t play the chromatic much. You can basically use it as a diatonic in 3rd position, it just sounds different. I also play some simple melodies on it. It is not too difficult to switch in terms of the mechanics of playing, but of course it to use the chromatic’s strengths, it needs a lot of practice.