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Playing guitar and singing at the same time

Playing guitar and singing at the same time
Teacher Cliff Smith playing his Strat and singing - Cliff Smith Guitar Lessons London

This is a question that I am asked a lot by my pupils – ‘What is the best way to learn how to sing and play guitar at the same time?”

Simple songs

Start with a simple song, one that doesn’t require too much complicated guitar work and is easy to sing (within your vocal range). A song with a simple strumming rhythm would be a good idea. Three or four chord songs are a good place to start.

LEARN the guitar part

Learn the guitar part. I mean really learn it – commit it to memory. If you are learning a cover, play along with the original recording until you you can play the whole song from memory with no mistakes.

Put your guitar down!

That’s right! Put it down and learn the vocal part. Memorise the lyrics and melody, making sure that you can sing the whole song from start to finish. Again, if it’s a cover, sing along with the original recording.

Guitar and vocals together

Now you are ready to try and combine the two! Have a go and see how you get on. You may find that you can do it… or maybe not?

What is going wrong?

If it’s not working, you need to figure out which aspect of the music needs attention. Is the guitar strumming going out of time? Are you singing the wrong rhythm/notes?

A common problem I see is that people adjust the strumming rhythm to match the vocal, or vice versa. In most songs, the guitar and vocal will be playing different rhythms. If you can’t ‘feel’ how the two parts fit together (many people can’t at first), then you need to analyse further…

Lining things up

Now we need to write some stuff down. Let’s say that your guitar part is made up of down and up strums. Print off (or write out) the chords and lyrics, and write in the down and up strums, aligning them with the syllables of the words that they should fall on.

Break it up

Now go through the song in sections. Start with verse 1 and slowly play and sing – are your down and up strums lined up with the correct syllables? You should be able to figure out if it’s your guitar or vocal rhythm that is going out, then work on it until you have the correct alignment.

Record yourself

If you can’t figure it out, record yourself! Listen back and you’ll probably spot what’s going wrong straight away. Recording your practice sessions is a great habit to get into, as it allows you to listen to your own playing without the distraction of actually playing it at the same time!

If you can read and write music, you could write the vocal melody and strumming pattern out and see where they line up.

I hope that this helps you to play guitar and sing at the same time!

If you have any questions etc, please leave a comment.


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