Every Musician Should Sing

The voice is an instrument that every, single, individual musician should learn to use.

Ultimate Guitar
The voice is an instrument that every, single, individual musician should learn to use. I know what you're thinking: "But I'm a guitarist, a drummer, a pianist, a bassist, an instrumentalist ... My voice isn't my primary instrument so why would I need to learn to use it?" The truth is that although you may not think of yourself as a singer, if you can speak a language or even make vocal noises then your voice was your first instrument. Period. You may not aspire to be the next Ronnie James Dio or Whitney Houston, but your voice has many other musical uses than performance. As a child, you learned to speak by imitating sounds and noises made by those around you; your parents, relatives, and friends. You practiced the physical movements needed to make those sounds until you were able to make them at will. Eventually, you learned to string those noises together into words, then words into statements, statements into sentences, and finally, using sentences to engage in full conversation. This process is, by and large, the same one that you can use to learn to play your guitar, piano or any other instrument that you choose. Unlike the guitar, your voice is the only melodic instrument you have that has a direct, physical connection to your mind; it is part of your body. If you look at any other instrument such as the guitar, the piano, the trumpet, or the drums, a boundary exists between your mind and the instrument that you must overcome in order to achieve mastery. Depending on the instrument, this boundary might be your hands, your feet, or your mouth in the case of wind instruments. Most musicians require many months or even years to minimize or completely remove this boundary. Your voice, on the other hand, is an instrument that you likely already have control of even if only at a basic level. If you can use your voice to talk than this boundary is already very small or might already be gone. Not only is your voice integrated into your physical being, but it is also by far the instrument you use the most. On average, people say between 7,000 and 20,000 words every day. Imagine how skilled you would be with your guitar if you were required to play it every hour of everyday just so that you could communicate with other people? I'm not suggesting that you bring your guitar everywhere you go, I’m simply trying to illustrate how much we use our voices on a day-to-day basis. As a musician, there are additional uses of your voice that you can take advantage of right now, today. One very important use is to assist you in learning to accurately hear the parts that you are learning to play; this concept is referred to as internalization. In order for you to fully master a lick, phrase, riff, song, or solo, it is necessary for you to internalize them. Simply put, if you have internalized your part, you should be able to clearly and accurately hear every aspect of it in your mind and be able to reproduce it. The voice is the easiest way to reproduce a part and verify that you have internalized it correctly. Being able to accurately reproduce an idea vocally will give you clear proof that you have effectively internalized it. You can even save yourselves a lot of time and frustration by internalizing your parts before attempting them on your instrument.

Try this exercise the next time you are learning a new part:

Step 1: Put your guitar down. Put it in its case or on a stand. If you are playing some other instrument, make sure you cannot reach it from where you are. By having your instrument out of arms reach, you will remove the temptation to try and use it to find the right notes. Step 2: This step is the most often ignored or overlooked, so make sure that you give it your full attention. Listen very closely to the part you are attempting to play. Try to hear the part in your mind and for the moment, refrain from singing it. If you need to listen to the part 3, 4, 5 or more times in order to hear the part correctly, then do it. We aren't trying to learn things quickly, we are trying to learn them correctly. The more you practice this skill the less time it will take you to internalize new ideas. Step 3: Now that you can hear the part clearly in your mind, sing, hum, or even whistle the part without the music playing. If you are unsure about a particular note, rhythm or motion, don't try and guess what it is. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you can clearly hear the part in your mind and correctly reproduce it. Step 4: Now that you can reproduce the part correctly, return to your guitar and work on connecting what you can hear in your mind and sing with your voice to what you are playing. Once you have worked with this concept long enough, you will find that your mind will start to internalize melodies, chord progressions and even rhythms automatically. This dramatically speeds up the learning process and will improve your ability to recall ideas.

Advantages of Using Internalization With Your Voice

  • Decreases the time needed to learn a part
  • Decrease sthe time needed to memorize a part
  • Singnificantly increases confidence for performance
  • Helps to achieve higher levels of ability and skill
  • Helps to develop a stronger rhythmic awareness
  • Significantly improves tone
  • Significantly improves phrasing
  • Significantly improves articulation
  • Significantly improves dynamics
  • Significantly improves improvisational abilities
  • Gives more musical uses for your voice
  • 32 comments sorted by best / new / date

      great great lesson. I'm already guitar and keys in my band, so why not backing/second vocals. There is a line I have had stuck in my head for years now. I have been trying to work it out on my guitar. When I do get it out, if it's already been written I am going to be pissed. but I haven't heard it ever outside of my head. I woke up with it one morning. But awesome lesson, will definitely try this when I get home from work
      I agree with the exercise, and I use it very often when some melody of a song gets stuck in my head, I sit at the piano and try to find the notes that I'm humming. This is the limitation you talked about, and this is the thing that is very hard for me as a musician to not have trained my relative pitch, and when I dont know what note i'm singing. So I play it on the piano or guitar several times to find the note. But once is in your head is a matter of time to find it on the instrument.
      Shut up larita browser. You probably like Avenged Sevenfold and Asking Alexandria and whatever other band we could use to solidify your being a bot.
      I usually hum along to whatever I'm trying to play, but my voice is just ill-suited for actual singing.
      This is the start of being a "musician" rather than a "guitarist" - playing the music that's in your head, and getting it out by singing it, rather than stumbling over scales and falling into pentatonic ruts... I reckon that's what made Hendrix the creative genuis he was.
      Dead Eye Dick
      "Unlike the guitar, your voice is the only melodic instrument you have that has a direct, physical connection to your mind; it is part of your body. If you look at any other instrument such as the guitar, the piano, the trumpet, or the drums, a boundary exists between your mind and the instrument that you must overcome in order to achieve mastery" Couldn't agree more. I'm a terrible singer, but even then I find that there is a ridiculous amount of creativity that can be tapped into by singing or humming to chords compared to puzzling over scales on guitar trying to bring out what's playing on your brain radio
      This is all nice and true. Too bad I can't sing/whistle/hum anything in pitch at all. So basically I lose.
      I know what you mean, I have often had music I swear I have not heard outside my head but when I eventually convert it find out Id subconsciously heard it while grocery shopping or something.
      Good article! Even while reading this I was already picturing all the benefits using my voice for something like this could have, and I'll definitely try it out. (Love how UG put a picture of Matthew Bellamy too lol. Dude's voice is incredible)
      I have an amazing voice, I can sing with the best of them... in the car. with the volume all the way up, I can hit some pretty impressive notes and I also seem to sound like all the singers im singing. I know I know. im basically, a badass
      duane baldwin
      Another advantage of singing is if an audition comes down to two people of comparable skills. I'll pick the guy that can sing every time.
      I learned to play lead and melody lines that way. When I was a teen I would whistle the melody and find the notes on the guitar. Eventually, I started seeing the patterns that helped me visualize the overlay between melodies and chord options.I am now convinced that [i]solfege is the best way to learn to read music as well. Not that you directly referenced [i]solfege or notation, but the concept would be to learn to see notation and hear it in your mind then play it with your hands. Almost like using your brain as a midi interface between the sheet and the fingers, lol. Also, I am an above average whistler now...
      whenever Im trying to write a solo, I get out my phone recorder and record myself "singing" over the backing track. If you know the backing track, 90% of the time, the song you sing will be in key and very melodic to your ears. The mind and voice are amazing tools for songwriting on any instrument.
      I would agee that every musician should know how to sing I mean Im i play guitar bass piano and drums and i sing and if your going to play all that then you should at least know how to sing because you never know where your music is going to tack you
      I wonder if singing and playing has any effect besides the obvious? obviously singing has the advantages listed, think singing and playing at the same time would have any advantages from a melody stand point?
      Everyone can sing, unfortunately we are normally too embarrassed to do it in front of an audience. One of the things I'm trying to do now is solo (simply) and sing the notes ala George Benson style; sometime it works and it's pretty cool when it does! That being said, if all these top musicians say you should sing whatever we're playing, maybe this is advice we should actually take on board...
      I definitely dig this lesson. This is how I write all of my tabs for the most part. I listen to a part and break it down note by note. If I can't find a note right away, I sing and hold that note until I can much it up with the right one on the fretboard. Mastering singing takes an incredible amount of work, but some of the best singers to listen to aren't even the masters.
      You had me at Dio . but seriously awesome lesson, I've actually tried a few of the ideas before but not extensively , thinking it wasn't helping me, but it makes sense the way you explained, thanks for the lesson.
      I don't agree with this, if you have practiced guitar for enough time you should be able to play anything that pops up into your mind.