Singing While Playing Guitar

Tips for singing along with playing your guitar, this will hopefully help you to sing while playing.

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Hi there everyone. In this lesson, I'll be trying to help you on singing while playing guitar, whether you know nothing about singing, or can sing but having difficulty singing while playing. Note: This is not a singing lesson, it's not how to do a vibrato by your vocal chords or a vocal training, so if you're looking for that, don't waste your time on this. Here it's only about how to get your singing and playing synchronized. In other words, how to control your singing to go with your music beat by beat & note by note. (Please be aware that this is not anything I've been taught academically or even in private lessons. I have been playing guitar for 2 years and more without being able to sing along, so that's what I came up with accumulatively to help me). Well, to start off, you have to abandon these ideas: 1-I sing well, and I can play guitar, so at some point after regular practice, it will naturally happen that I can sing while playing along. >>No, this won't happen because singing while playing is a practice itself. 2-I gave up on that, I can't sing while playing, there are some people who are gifted by that and can do it, but I'm mentally unable to do it, I always screw up while trying to separate between what I'm speaking and what my hand is doing on the neck of the guitar. >>Not true, it's just that you don't have the key thing, when it's so simple. One of these two things (or both) may happen when you try singing while playing: 1-You screw up the lyrics, and may even speak nonsense words. 2-You screw up the music, and at times when you have to change chords, you just keep singing, with the same previous chord which sounds like something is terribly wrong. Here's what i think to be the key.

Part 1.

Things to do before even touching your guitar: 1. Sing the song for few times and try to be louder than the singer. 2. Read the lyrics if you can't figure them out, and it'd be better if you know them by heart (memorize it), but you can print it out or look at it on the computer while singing. 3. Master the song, and what I mean is that you sing it without having to think about it. Example: If you are singing this: "So close no matter how far It couldn't be much more from the heart Forever trusting who we are And nothing else matters Don't hold your guitar when you are still at the level of "Damn I forgot what comes after the 1st line!" "Was it much more from the heart, or much from the heart?" If you are still at that level, then keep practicing the song. Because that will absolutely make you screw up while playing, because you will start to think about lots of things at the same time, and you won't be able to focus. If you sing "much from the heart" instead of "much more from the heart", and you are following some chord progression, you will jump to the next line that may have different chord that should be played, but you are still on the same chord, because that line in the original song is longer. So master the song (lyrics wise) before trying to do both singing and playing at the same time.

Part 2

Do these before starting to sing along. 1. Of course make sure your guitar is tuned the correct tuning for the tab you are looking at. 2. Make sure you know how to play all the chords properly(technique wise) and having no problem with changing from one chord to another.

Part 3

Important practice.(It's better if you have some chord and music theory to totally make advantage of this part) First of all, think about your voice as another instrument, let's say a lead guitar. And all what you are going to do, is to play that guitar. So you have to play the proper note, and beat for the song. If your voice is an instrument, you have to practise it. Here are some ways: 1. Play a note on your guitar then, try to sing it. 2. Play some scale like the E major scale (Do this on the E string) E--0--2--4--5--7--9--11--12 1st try to sing each note after playing it once. After that, try to sing the whole scale outloud without playing anything, but only the 1st note of the scale (the E note, for the E scale, the A note for A scale, the C note for C scale... Etc) And keep altering things that, play a note like the 2nd fret, then do the 4th and 5th by your own voice. That helps A lot to get a control over your instrument (your voice). Do the same with minor Scale E--0--2--3--5--7--8--10--12 Sing each note after everytime you play it on the guitar for few times. Sing a note that's the next one after a note you played. Example: play the 5th fret ("A" note) then sing the 7th and 8th by your voice, and if you get it wrong, play them and do it again. That will help you control how to jump by your voice from a note to the CORRECT next one, and if you can't do that, you will never be able to sing. 3. Use your voice to produce a chord. You can't of course sing two notes at the same time, so play a note on the guitar, for example let it be the C note (The 3rd fret on the A string) Then you sing the E note (The 2nd fret on the D string). That will really help because most of the times, what you are doing when you are singing along with playing some chord, is that you are singing a note that the chord you are playing contains. Example you are playing Am chord, and what you are supposed to sing, is a word with the note C, which is a note in the Aminor chord). Now try it for different chords
E minor: e--0
         B--0
         G--0
         D--2
         A--2  
         E--0
pick the 1st 3 strings, then try to sing the note "G"(the 4th open string).
F major: e--1
         B--1
         G--2
         D--3
         A--3
         E--1
Pick the 1st 3 strings, then try to sing the note "A" (The 2nd fret on the 4th string) Do the same for different chords, then try to play a note, like F, then sing the whole other notes that make up the major chord. Then do same for minor. Now try to do things like these. Play a note then sing the note that makes the power chord for the note u played. Example:
A---5 (Sing this)
                 E---3 (PICK IT)
Play a note then, sing the same note but an octave higher (If it's an E, sing the next higher E).
Example  e--                           e--3  (sing this)   
(E and   B--                           B---  
an       G--                           G--0  (pick this open string)
octave   D--2 (sing this)              D-- 
higher 1)A---                          A-- 
         E--0 (PICK IT)                E--
                                       (G note and an octave higher 1)

Part 4: Singing Along

Two things you need to figure out before singing while playing guitar. First: Figure out the 1st note you are going to sing. (That will be the problem because once you have done the previous practice tips a lot, you will be able to jump from some note to the correct one) But now you will have to figure out the very 1st note just to start. You will know the attack time and the 1st note by your ears. Just listen carefully, and if you can't figure out the 1st note, try all the notes in the chord till you think that one is it. If you can't still find it, try all the notes that in the scale that the Chord is from.( example: Try C, D, E, F, G, A, B for C major chord). Second: The attack time of your singing. You need to know when exactly you are going to start singing. Don't just play some chord and sing anywhere. If you get this right, you most likely won't screw up with timing for the rest of the song if you know the song well. And it will be easier to change the chord in sync with changing the notes you are singing. Few examples: From the Song "Rain" by Breaking Benjamin look at the link if you don't know these chords.
  C            Fmaj7sus2           
  Take a photo-graph
The 1st note: is the 2nd fret on the D string. The word (Take) and the (PHOTO) part, are in E note (2nd fret on D string). The attack time: You play the C chord once, then you start singing right at the same time you strum the chord again. Then, another attacking time (you will get this by instinct if you get the 1st attack time, and 1st note right) is when you start saying (-graph), you switch to that F chord at the same time you start saying (-graph). And the note of (-graph) is the G on the D string (5th fret on D). From the song "Unforgiven II" by Metallica
Am           C  G  Em                      Am
   Lay beside me, tell me what they've done
(Assume you are playing it on standard tuning) The first note: the E note on the D string. The Attack time: the 1st one is so easy, but time to switch can be little tricky: So here's how I sing it:
Am          C       G   Em                   Am 
   Lay bes--ide me--ee, Tell me what they've done
  
Lay bes-- (E note (2nd fred, D string))
--ide me--ee (D note (open D string)
So the word "me" is all sang in one note(D), but you only switch chords. I hope that helped, it's long and boring, but it will help if you were stuck.

52 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    SocialismCross
    well most likely the faster song you were talking about is a song with less complicated measure (bars) for the music notation of the lyrics.
    ugmung
    yes, very good lesson. reading, singing, and playing are in all different parts of the brain, and you have to be able to bring all the parts together before you're good at doing them all at once. it's like if they were each on a tip of the triangle, your goal is to bring them to the center we're they're all together. you have to learn how to focus on singing, while retaining the playing on your guitar. it's very tricky and requires A LOT of practice. so start off with really slow songs with a lot of powerchords, like powerpop. haha.
    RoCKyRacOOn87
    Here is a simple way to practice without even singing. Play your guitar while reading a book or magazine. once you can do that. Play while reading outloud, in rythm. That practices your sub-conscious playing ability.
    Metalligirl
    hurrrr i wanna be like james hetfield some day, he can sing while playing difficcult riffs and stuff :c And he doesn't seem to have any trouble D':
    Metalligirl
    James is a pretty cool guy. Eh plays while singing and doesn't afraid of anything. lmao.
    SocialismCross
    wouldyakindly wrote: Very useful, especially the stuff about mastering lyrics. I'd like a to see a more advanced one though, cause the aspect of singing/playing that is hardest of all is (in my opinion) strumming a more complex rhythm that conflicts with the rhythm of the vocal line; eg, in polly by nirvana.
    thanks for that positive feedback man. I'll post a more advanced thing once i can put stuff in words. thanks
    SocialismCross
    Metalligirl wrote: hurrrr i wanna be like james hetfield some day, he can sing while playing difficcult riffs and stuff :c And he doesn't seem to have any trouble D':
    i agree.
    wouldyakindly
    Very useful, especially the stuff about mastering lyrics. I'd like a to see a more advanced one though, cause the aspect of singing/playing that is hardest of all is (in my opinion) strumming a more complex rhythm that conflicts with the rhythm of the vocal line; eg, in polly by nirvana.
    StewieGriffin93
    i sing along to Under the Bridge. After the intro, the chords/singing start. I got the guitar part down without even thinking of singing it in the future, but I tried it one time and it was pretty spot-on. It's a pretty easy song, so i recommend it nice lesson!
    SocialismCross
    ummm focus on part 4 of that lesson. Try to know exactly when you should attack and sing the 1st word ever. and let your hands play as if you forgot about it. If you can't do that 1st time around, keep playing the whole chords progression without singing, once, and over and over, till you don't have to think of it, your hands just do it .
    Peacemaker551
    I think the best person i know of who sings and plays at the same time is Daron Malakian from System of a Down...he's ridiculous >.>
    on3andth3sam3
    what about creating a sweet rhythm, along with singing at the same time?i find it annoying to sing to the rhythm, but i can't see any other way to do it, any advice?
    SocialismCross
    Peacemaker551 wrote: I think the best person i know of who sings and plays at the same time is Daron Malakian from System of a Down...he's ridiculous >.>
    well yeah i agree with you, but IMO i like him as a back up singer, but frontman.. i don't think so.. he adds something when he's a backup, but i'm not sure i'd like to listen to that voice for the main thing..
    hornet224
    I think the best example of a person who sings and plays at the same time is Dave Mustaine. How many people could sing and play "Poison was the Cure" at the same time? That song is absolutely insane.
    SocialismCross
    hornet224 wrote: I think the best example of a person who sings and plays at the same time is Dave Mustaine. How many people could sing and play "Poison was the Cure" at the same time? That song is absolutely insane.
    Yes man. Well most of my friends are either Metallica's side of the war, or megadeth. And i don't get it. And those metallica extremest make fun of mustaine, and i think the same as you do. Don't get me wrong i'm a metallica fan, esp james..but those who love metallica shouldn't underestimate mustain.
    AndrewAmadeo
    TripleSixMetal wrote: Also sometimes the songs that are fairly easy to play are hard to sing at the same time, like King Nothing, but way faster ones like Battery or Master of Puppets are not that hard...
    Master of Puppets verse riff is mainly muted open E's while the lyrics are sung, then after the vocals hetfield does the power chord slide thing. So thats probably why.
    Logan_B
    This is what gets me: trying to play Built To Fall by Trivium and sing at the same time. The weird timing of the guitar in the verse throws me RIGHT OFF. Everything else is simple. My brain just cant wrap around the weird riff and the singing that is kinda offbeat from the notes. I can just feel that I am concentrating so hard and I can't do it. It' so frustrating cus I really wanna learn to be a singer and play at the same time
    Bean92
    something i find very helpfull if your trying to learn to sing and play a specific song is, to hum the vocal notes without actually saying the words while playing. its a good way to start.
    SocialismCross
    And the lesson was kinda going in an ascending direction towards actually singing along. Stuff you gotta do till the practice of singing along, and what you need to do. I Know it's kinda not so much about singing along. And yeah 3 doors down's here without you was one of the songs i wanted to sing along too bad when i was starting. it took me a while too. I will check out sublime's santeria.
    Peacemaker551
    Oh, he's great either way i think, but whether he is better as a backup or lead singer doesn't take away from the fact that he sings while playing some crazy guitar lines...i can't sing like him and i can hardly play some of his lines, and he does both at the same time very well lol
    SocialismCross
    Peacemaker551 wrote: Oh, he's great either way i think, but whether he is better as a backup or lead singer doesn't take away from the fact that he sings while playing some crazy guitar lines...i can't sing like him and i can hardly play some of his lines, and he does both at the same time very well lol
    i have to agree with that, yeah his riffs are crazy and he can still sing along.
    Sed07
    Good article man Some of the stuff I found useful, like alternating a scale between the voice and guitar and making a chord using the voice. But despite saying that it's not a singing lesson or a vocal training, u do focus on training the voice more than providing techniques or tips to actually sing along while playing. (I mean, u have 3 long parts for vocal training and then 1 short part for singing along, the latter of which is supposed to be the main purpose of the article) Personally I think the best way to learn to sing along while playing is to first learn to sing the song, then sing while listening to it. Learn to play it, then play while listening to it. And finally learn to play it while singing, and do that while listening to it. At first, it's not gonna work very well, but then occasionally try to sing and play it without listening to it, and eventually it'll work. That's how i usually learn songs. The first song that I learned to sing while playing was Here Without You by 3 Doors Down. It's not easy for a first song, but it helped me a lot in synchronizing my voice to the guitar. Currently working on Santeria by Sublime, which a really cool song but a little hard to sing to.
    SocialismCross
    Sed07 wrote: Good article man Some of the stuff I found useful, like alternating a scale between the voice and guitar and making a chord using the voice. But despite saying that it's not a singing lesson or a vocal training, u do focus on training the voice more than providing techniques or tips to actually sing along while playing. (I mean, u have 3 long parts for vocal training and then 1 short part for singing along, the latter of which is supposed to be the main purpose of the article) Personally I think the best way to learn to sing along while playing is to first learn to sing the song, then sing while listening to it. Learn to play it, then play while listening to it. And finally learn to play it while singing, and do that while listening to it. At first, it's not gonna work very well, but then occasionally try to sing and play it without listening to it, and eventually it'll work. That's how i usually learn songs. The first song that I learned to sing while playing was Here Without You by 3 Doors Down. It's not easy for a first song, but it helped me a lot in synchronizing my voice to the guitar. Currently working on Santeria by Sublime, which a really cool song but a little hard to sing to.
    Well what you're saying is right dude. But i thought that the reason you mess up "singing along" is that sometimes you can't even sing without the guitar, musical wise. For me, i like to have Good singing into 2 dimensions. 1st is the raw material of your voice, 2nd is techinques, if you can get the right notes for example. If you can't get the right notes, you won't be able to sing along an instrument.
    mukumuku
    any remedy for the slower song w/ continuously changing chords? i really knew the song and how to play it, but when the two combine, it is frustrating... by the way thnks for the reply before.
    Kino666
    I started my band Triangle of the Lost at the begin of 2009, with me as singer and the only guitarist. The bassist is on the same level as me if you talk about playing instruments, and he said it would be better to take a singer without a guitar and myself as guitarist and background (second singer), like if we play fast and dificult the singer sings and when we play slower and eassier I will sing, that's what I wanted to. And so we gonna do it, but thanls for the advice, but I had discovered this myself a half a year a go. But Now we need a good singer, that can make as much sounds as me with his voice (and not an new waved rocker {Emo}), he must be alternative (Like a modern hippie). But it's hard to find! Greetz, Kevin ''Kino666'' van Dijk
    anonamouslyevil
    excellent lesson. i wish this would have been available to me a few years ago. i started being able to sing/play 2 songs..... gotta start somewhere. thanks again.
    weekendlobotomy
    any advice for someone with an almost total inability to sing but with gross amounts of enthusiasm to do so...(cant even growl really)...
    SocialismCross
    Hi thanks a lot for all that positive feedback, and obviously you people are more advanced when it comes to singing, there are people talking mustaine and master of puppets ... and growlong techniquues. I'm more of an acoustic guitar player when it comes to singing. I was just sharing my technique of how to break in a song to sing it. So, thanks for the feedback.
    TripleSixMetal
    Good lesson! I have not found many lessons on singing while playing guitar anywhere... I am practicing James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine style Singing/playing and it can be damn hard some times... Also sometimes the songs that are fairly easy to play are hard to sing at the same time, like King Nothing, but way faster ones like Battery or Master of Puppets are not that hard...
    SocialismCross
    thanks guys. it'd be confusing if using examples for "singing and playing" of songs people don't even know. so i thought i'd use metallica for metallica for guitarists is like english to people from planet earth.
    CodeXANA
    I find it easier to play and sing by playing chords to get a rhythm. Then try and add intricate tabbing later. Making a comprimise between fingering and quality for vocality is not always the worst choice...
    k3vin70
    nice and you put some metallica nothing else matters in there nice
    Diyora-x
    thats a really good lesson (Y) helped a lot since u also used metallica
    David Blackbird
    weekendlobotomy wrote: any advice for someone with an almost total inability to sing but with gross amounts of enthusiasm to do so...(cant even growl really)...
    He kind of explained what to do, play a note on your guitar and try to match pitch. You could also buy a cheap electronic keyboard (like the ones for kids) and try to match pitches with that, and, if you're really out of tune, try singing into an electronic tuner, there are many freeware and shareware tuners available for download. Btw, nice lesson, good job
    NagorRoberts
    Yo. does anyone have any tips for me? i really want to sing in my band, but i have two problems. 1 i have really bad nerves, i get nervous about everything, and 2 i have no idea if i will actually have an ability to sing or scream, as due to my nerves i've never tried. Anybody want to help me. thanks. nice lesson bdw. peace. :
    Billy Kochase
    yeah i can keep rythmn while playing guitar but i am not a good singer but would like to be any sugestions
    scottishmob
    NagorRoberts wrote: Yo. does anyone have any tips for me? i really want to sing in my band, but i have two problems. 1 i have really bad nerves, i get nervous about everything, and 2 i have no idea if i will actually have an ability to sing or scream, as due to my nerves i've never tried. Anybody want to help me. thanks. nice lesson bdw. peace. :
    Here is the dealy-yo. Sing by yourself first. No one even has to be around. You'll get confident in your singing voice enough so that you won't care if anyone overhears you. Then you'll be confident enough to either take lessons or try singing in your band. I reccommend lessons as you can learn bad habits by just singing without them, but you need some confidence before you will be ready for lessons/ Ultimately your choice, hope it helped.
    mukumuku
    thanks.. but I wonder why faster song is easier to sing with? is our brain is too genius that we just dont notice, because of what-like downgrade of the speed of the song?
    manf
    lol tyle ? i meant style lol
    manf wrote: ive been playing guitar for 0ver 20 years and i still find it hard to sing and play guitar at the same time. my singin isnt that good and i dont even know what my tyle is lol plus im realy shy if anyone is listening. im just gonna practice more singing and find the courage to sing louder
    manf
    ive been playing guitar for 0ver 20 years and i still find it hard to sing and play guitar at the same time. my singin isnt that good and i dont even know what my tyle is lol plus im realy shy if anyone is listening. im just gonna practice more singing and find the courage to sing louder
    SocialismCross
    well i think he means, if you can't sing while playing, simply get another guitarist to play, and you sing
    SocialismCross
    I had been playing guitar for almost 5 years, and for the 1st two years, thats all what i could think, i play the guitar, and get someone else to sing ...