How is it that so many famous guitar players can sing while playing the guitar? Not only do they sing, but the sing really WELL! Is there something behind the reason for this?
Playing guitar can DEFINITELY help to improve your singing abilities. It provides you with a more comprehensive connection to a piece of music that would otherwise not be realized but simply singing along with the recorded singing melody.
While singing, you only are contributing to the music in a Melodic manor. Meaning, you can only sing one note at a time. Whereas learning to play an instrument such as the guitar, you can get a much more thorough understanding to the overall piece of music through playing the underlying chords and melodies that would be impossible to replicate with one voice.
How will playing guitar directly affect your singing capabilities.
I can vouch first hand for the statement that playing guitar will help improve your singing because I have been through the process myself.
I have been playing guitar since I was a kid but never considered myself a “Singer”. Sadly I believed that singing was some ability that people were born with and that since I wasn’t a “Natural Singer” I never would be able to sing.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like anything in life, everything that you know how to do has been learned. Through purposeful practice and persistence, you can learn how to sing. It’s not magic. It’s just simply making your voice match notes that correspond nicely with other notes being played in a song by other singers or instruments.
To play guitar you have to learn the chords of a song. Once you learn to play the chords, you then learn the rhythm. Put the two together and boom, you have music. Now, let’s add another element. A melody to play along with the chords and rhythm.
One way to add a melody to our song is by singing and it doesn’t have to be a monumental task to do so. You see, more often than not, the note that a singer is projecting through their voice is matching one of the notes in the underlying chords being played. Let me explain.
Let’s say that in the song a G major chord is being played. A G major is made by playing the notes G, B, and D together at the same time. Or In Harmony. Well, wouldn’t it make sense that if you were to sing over this chord and sing one of those three tones, it would sound nice?
Well, it would and always does. Try it.
Here is a great exercise to help understand what I mean. Grab a guitar (or have a friend who can play it for you) and play one of the basic chords in the open position. Any of these chords will work perfectly.
- G major
- C major
- D major
- F major
- E major
- A major
- E minor
- A minor
Check out this video if you need a little assistance with a some basic guitar chords. (remember that your guitar must be properly tuned for the following exercises to be effective)
Play one of the chords and really listen to the sounds of the strings/notes ringing out. Play it again really force yourself to internalize the notes. Now, play it again and attempt to match one of the tones with your voice. It may be difficult at first but stick with it. Move your voice up in down in pitch until something “Sounds Right.”
The best way that I can explain it is that you will feel the vibration of the chord matching the vibration in your head. It’s a bit of a weird feeling the first few times you try it but it is a very important feeling/element to notice.
Now, what we have accomplished in this exercise answers the question “Will playing guitar help my singing?” ? Well, we haven’t just “copied” what another singer is doing by singing along with their exact singing melody they have recorded in a song. We have extracted a note out a chord being played and matched it with our voice.
“Ah Ha!” This is what singers are doing when they write singing melodies over the music they have written. We are training our brains to be able to pick certain notes out of chords and melodies that we are hearing and match them with our voice. A much more effective skill than just matching the exact notes that a singer has recorded.
We now have integrated our voice and the guitar together. We have connected with the music in a way not possible just by trying to match a melody. We are creating it.
Now, try it with another chord. And another. You’re training your ear to be able to understand why and what you are hearing what is being played.
What you are practicing is called Ear Training.
Whats harder? Singing or Playing guitar?
Well, this really isn’t a fair question because it is entirely subjective. Some people could argue that either of the two is more intuitive to pick up but here’s my opinion.
I would venture to say that singing is probably a little easier to learn because it is an extension of your own body. It is natural for us make sounds with our voice as we do it all day everyday through talking.
Now, with that being said. For the most part we use the natural middle range of our voice when we are speaking, other wise we would be straining all the time just to speak. Imagine trying to talk like Alvin and the Chipmunks all day. It would be exhausting.
Great singers can extend their voice and and belt out sounds at the very maximum of the range their vocal chords are able to produce.
This is where an instrument is much easier to use. The notes available on a guitar extend far past what the natural singing range for a human voice is.
Why is the guitar such a great instrument to learn to play while singing
The guitar is an excellent instrument to learn to play and sing along with because of its popularity and versatility. Especially the Acoustic Guitar. Most people find the sound of an acoustic guitar to be a pleasurable instrument to listen to. It requires no equipment to play it other than the guitar itself.
The pitches found within the chords noted above ( The Open Position Chords) fall very close to the natural human speaking vocal range so it sounds natural to the human ear.
The acoustic guitar is reasonably simple to learn a few chords and be able to sing along with a campfire version of songs that we all have come accustomed to recognize and love. And plus, it’s a lot easier to lug around than a piano.
Playing the guitar and singing at the same time.
Here are some tips for learning to play the guitar and sing at the same time. I must say, when I first started learning to play and sing simultaneously it felt a bit like trying to juggle flaming chainsaw while riding a unicycle on a tightrope, but it gets a lot easier as you practice.
First, make sure that you have a good grip of the chords in the song. You don’t want to have to struggle with chord changes while attempting to sing.
Second, really internalize the lyrics. The more you have to think, the harder it will be to play/sing everything at the same time.
Third, once the lyrics are completely memorized, practice singing along with the recorded singer. Don’t be discouraged when you can’t match the really high notes that the professional singer is belting. There is a reason that the record company decided to take a gamble and produce an album for this band/artist. It’s because they’re probably really really good.
Once you feel you that you can pull off the prior three steps it’s time to try and put them all together at once. Figure out where the lyrics match up to certain chord changes in the song. That way you will have some reference points as the song moves along. And then, the to the tough part.
There is no secret formula for being able to play and sing simultaneously. You just have to attempt it over and over and over until you get it. This is the exact method that all your favorite artists had to work on until they mastered their craft.
The only real secret is that the only guaranteed way to not learn how to play and sing a song at the same time is to give up before you’ve figured it out. DON’T GIVE UP!
It’s not easy, in fact it’s quite a difficult skill. That’s why all of us are so impressed by our favorite singers and guitar players. It gets easier with time. Keep working and it will come. Good Luck!