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.

Sing and play

Sing and play

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 having 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.

Here is a general guide to singing and playing the guitar simultaneously:

  1. First of all, you need to be able to play the chords for the song without thinking about it, so basically perfectly.
  2. Second, you need to have a good sense of rhythm, this 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. Thirdly, you need to 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.
  4. 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, but if you really want to get good at playing and singing at the same time, for example, if you want to perform for others, you'll need to be able to separate your singing from playing, that is really the key.

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!


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