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I read an interesting comment:

Clapton may be one of the greatest guitarists of all time, but he has never, not since 1970, been able to sing the chorus to Layla at the same time as he plays the signature riff. He's the one playing it when the song opens, but he always, always hands it off for someone else to play during the chorus.

Validity of this claim aside, does the ability to simultaneously sing and play an instrument deteriorate?

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    Layla was recorded in 1970. The claim being made is that Clapton could never play and sing the song at the same time, not that his ability to do so deteriorated.
    – Max
    Nov 19 '20 at 3:43
  • This was a studio recording. In the 70’s artists were already multi tracking so it is extremely doubtful that he did both at the same time then. My take is he doesn’t WANT to do them both at the same time, he wants to focus on his vocals on the chorus and not try and pull off a difficult coordination of independent lead vocal and lead guitar lines on stage. Nov 19 '20 at 6:49
  • @Max - don't think the question meant deteriorate over time, rather trying to do two things at the same time. Deteriorate could be the wrong word.
    – Tim
    Nov 19 '20 at 7:10
  • Where was the comment from?
    – Tim
    Nov 19 '20 at 7:13
  • @Tim I dropped the comment into google with quote marks around it and found it on this youtube video
    – Edward
    Nov 19 '20 at 13:51
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Like with all skills, if you keep practicing and doing something, it will get better or at least stay the same, until things like old age or other factors start to interfere.

Conversely, skills naturally deteriorate when they are neglected, but even then, a little practice can often bring things back up to a good level.

I don't think that singing and playing at the same time is an exception to the above universal rule.

As to why Clapton does or doesn't play and sing at a particular point of a particular song, we would have to ask him, but I personally don't think it's just because it has become hard for him to do it. I'm sure there are many other possible explanations, including the simplest one: he just likes it more that way...

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  • So Clapton simply stopped practicing doing the riff and singing Layla? Nov 19 '20 at 2:37
  • No. Multitracking. The vocal track could have been tracked after the opening riff was put down. Nov 19 '20 at 2:56
  • It's not necessarily that he can't do it any more. Not even likely. Maybe for some reason he just like it more doing things this other way, it can be as simple as that.
    – MMazzon
    Nov 19 '20 at 3:23
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That's an interesting question. Here's what I could tell you from my experience. Being in a band with my friends, I've noticed something that our lead singer (and guitarist) struggled on. This scenario is placed on a vice versa perspective of your question. In your question, Mr. Clapton is heavily skilled in guitar but he is not able to sing the chorus. In my band, our lead was excellent in terms of singing, but was unable to have a steady rhythm while playing the guitar. (Also as a side note- my guitar teacher could not sing at all even though he is a professional classic guitarist) As a result, yes, simultaneously singing and playing the guitar is quite difficult. This is why bands usually make the singers play rhythm guitar while the electric guitar is handed off to a person who doesn't sing (or does sing, but only a little bit). However, this doesn't mean that this is impossible. You could practice- Clapton could- ANYONE could practice singing and playing everyday and one day-- master it. It would just take a different method of learning and practicing- just like every new instruments you would learn. Clapton most likely just passes the chorus to other people because (he could if he tries) he's more interested in terms of guitar technique development. And that is fine! That does not mean he is any less talented than we already perceived him as. It means that everyone focuses on what kind of playing they want. Everyone learns differently. People might want to focus on a single instrument while some others choose to be multi-instrumentalists.

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