How To Sing And Play Guitar At The Same Time

One of my new students recently asked about singing and playing the guitar at the same time, and noticed that my beginner guitar lessons do not contain any video material on the subject.

This is true, I'm sorry to say that I have no singing voice whatsoever, so this subject isn't addressed on the website at all, sorry about that.

I can't say that I will have anything of the sort in the future since I sound like a seagull with a fever when I try to sing 🙂

I do know a bit about the technique though, and as I've heard from others and have tried myself, it's not the easiest form of making music. You need to be able to totally separate your singing from your guitar playing, a skill which is quite difficult to master.

You could maybe compare it to playing the drums, where all 4 of your limbs need to be performing different tasks.

Guidelines for singing + playing the guitar simultaneously

Here are the general things you'll need to know.

  1. Be able to play the chords to the song perfectly, without thinking about them.
  2. You need to have a good sense of rhythm, which is where a metronome really comes in handy.
    Make sure you can play the chords nearly perfectly, as well as switching from one chord to the other without hesitation, and keeping with the rhythm of the song (metronome).
  3. Realize that the words and phrases will not always be the same as the strumming pattern.
    This is where a lot of people get confused and initially fail at the endeavor. Starting to add the words straight away does not really help, you need to be able to count out loud the basic beat of the song while strumming. By this, I mean that you need to start strumming as you would, and count out loud 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 (if the song is in 4/4 time). You'll notice that this will already get a bit difficult since the beat and strumming pattern will not match. You need to get used to this before being able to add the words to the song.
    Once you get comfortable with this, so strumming while saying the beat out loud, you can start adding the words.

It also helps to be listening to the actual song while you are practicing. With that said, if you want to perform for others, you'll need to be able to separate your singing from playing.

That is really the key.

9-step beginner method

Here is a 9 step method of learning to play the guitar and sing a song at the same time.

  1. Choose an easy song that you love - This means that you should start out with a song that has simple chords and a simple melody. Go for a song that you love listening to, as you'll already know the lyrics and rhythm.
  2. Learn to play the guitar bit perfectly - Practice the chords and chord changes to the song while playing along with the original. This means that your guitar skills need to be at a level where forming chords and changing in between them is not an issue.
    If you're not quite there yet, have a look at my Beginner's Guitar Guide.
  3. Learn to sing the song - Set your guitar aside, and learn the lyrics to the song.
    If you know them already, listen to the song and start focusing on the melody, vocals, and the general flow of the song.
    Sing the song over and over again whenever you can, so it becomes part of your DNA. Sing along with the original, sing in the shower, hum it when you're cleaning, etc.
    You need to be able to sing the lyrics and be spot on with the melody before continuing.
  4. Start combining your voice and the guitar - There are 2 ways to learn to perform a song's guitar and vocals at the same time. It is your choice which you pick, some people prefer one over the other:
    1. Strum + hum - This method involves focusing on the guitar part first. You play the chords you already know, and hum the melody to the vocals.
      This way, you can start combining the guitar, without having to stress over the lyrics.
    2. Sing + strum muted strums - This method is the opposite, you concentrate on singing first. Start singing the song, and add muted strums on every beat.
      You can also apply a set strumming pattern, just make sure you are muting the strings and not forming any chords yet.
      This lets you introduce the strumming rhythm while singing.
  5. Join everything - You will now be ready to join the proper guitar part with the lyrics and melody.
    Make sure you use a metronome to keep time. You can also slow the song down if you need to.

These are the steps you need to follow to master singing and playing guitar simultaneously.

Stage performers make it look easy, but you will find that it is harder than it looks at first. The key here is practice, and being able to separate your singing from your guitar playing.

Best easy songs to sing and play on guitar

The following are some of the best songs for beginners to start combining the 2 artforms.

1. Achy Breaky Heart

If you are into country music, this classic by Billy Ray Cyrus will be a good choice. It uses 2 simple chords that are easy to switch in between, so you can focus on the melody and rhythm.

Music video

2. Chasing Cars

This Snow Patrol song is great because the chords are very simple and repetitive. This might not be the most famous song ever, but it's a good one to get you into combining guitar and singing.

Music video

3. The Lazy Song

This popular Bruno Mars song has a lot of style, so it's great for performing to others. It has some syncopation going on, which makes it slightly more complex.

Music video

4. Let It Be

The chords to this timeless Beatles classic are very easy beginner chords, and the melody is simple as well. There are no wild strumming patterns, chords or melodic surprises here, meaning it's a great song to start learning singing plus guitar with.

Music video

5. Redemption Song

This Bob Marley masterpiece is a great beginner's song for learning guitar, and for combining it with vocals. It uses easy chords and has a simple melody. It also has a few short guitar riffs that let you show off your guitar skills as well.

Music video

6. Three Little Birds

Here is another great Bob Marley song, Three Little Birds. It uses 3 beginner chords and easy vocals, making your job relatively simple. You'll need to learn the reggae strum for this song, so practice it until you can play it without problems.

Three Little Birds is a great guitar song for beginners. It is a 3 chord song and uses very simple strumming. As you progre", you can spice up the strumming to get a reggae vibe as well. Have fun with it!

Music video

7. Ring of Fire

Johnny Cash wrote many easy to perform songs during his career, this one was one of the most famous ones. It uses 3 simple chords and easy vocals.

Music video

Want more?

There are loads of other popular guitar songs that use easy chords here.

2 replies
  1. Alastair
    Alastair says:

    One of these days I will get the hang of this! Great article, especially the part about counting – timing is so important, without a metronome I’d be even further behind than I already am!

    I have managed to get some basic songs learned, just singing over simple songs that have just 3 or 4 repeating open chords, and it has helped a great deal. There’s certainly no reacon to run before you walk – you’ll get nowhere.

    I’ve just downloaded this book to my Kindle, which takes you through the steps involved in learning. I got to step 6 (out of 11) before it clicked for me, so I highly recommend it: How to sing and play guitar at the same time – Amazon.

    I also found it useful to record myself as I went along, so I could play it back and hear where I was going wrong. Good luck everyone!

    Reply
  2. TheHomeBody
    TheHomeBody says:

    Excellent advice. It’s something a lot of guitarists overlook, especially if they aren’t singers themselves, but an important skill.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *