I’ve been struggling a lot with this recently. It’s my next cello goal, and Black Tie Elephant songs will start to incorporate some vox. I made a first attempt last week at a farewell celebration for my boss Jeff at CWS — playing and singing ‘I’ll follow the sun’ by The Beatles. I was really nervous — the whole simultaneous sing/play thing takes me waaaay out of my performing element. Which is a good thing, I’ve realized!!
I’ve been able to sing and play guitar or piano for many years, but it’s MUCH more demanding on cello. First, you have to think about the arrangement — unlike guitar, cello is pretty much non-chording, so cello line needs to be arranged to play the missing note (or two notes) in the chord: notes that aren’t being sung. Then, you have to work on your bowing, making sure there is independence between repetitive bow pattern and vocal rhythms. This is similar to practice strumming patterns on guitar. Then the real tricky bit: double stop pitch. Unless you’re playing an open string, there is no fixed pitch to rely on! No frets, no keys Intonation is really disorienting! Right now I’m practicing listening for open strings and using them as tonal anchors as much as I can. Even doing so, double stops are killer. It’s hard to know which notes need to adjust!
But when you get it down, like singing and playing guitar it’s a really liberating experience, so it’s totally worth the practice!