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Play Guitar & Sing At the Same Time

Accompany Yourself on Guitar: Singing and Playing

Many of our favourite artists are singer-songwriters like Neil Young or Jack Johnson, who write their own songs and then play and sing them. So unless you just want to be a lead guitarist, burning up the fretboard, chances are pretty good that you want to be able to play guitar and sing, right?

How cool would it be to hang out with some friends, maybe at the beach or a barbecue, break out your guitar, and have a sing along? Or if you're looking to join a band, being able to sing and play guitar is definitely an advantage. And not to mention playing a love song to the object of your desire and singing your heart out at the same time. Do that and see what happens.

Myth of the Singing and Playing Professional Musician

Before you get too concerned about whether you need some amazingly technical voice to be successful, consider this: Bob Dylan, Elliot Smith, and the aforementioned Mr Neil Young are three of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of the 20th century. They are legends.

But the fact remains: None of them have a particularly good singing voice! You do not need a great voice trained in expert vocal technique to be able to play guitar and sing. Singing is something that anyone who isn't medically tone-deaf can do. Just like Dylan, Smith, and Young (and even if you're a beginner), you simply need to find your own voice and give it the passion and soul that sets them – and you – apart.

Start Slow: Singing and Playing Tips

Start with a simple song. Learn how to play one with an easy chord progression which doesn't require too much thinking. There are hundreds of easy songs for beginners out there. Forget the vocals and just work on your strumming and chord changes until the notes are clear and the rhythm is right.

Get a metronome so that you've got a "click track" going in the background at an even tempo and just keep practicing until you can play without thinking about it. Then work on it until you can play it without making a single mistake. Your fingers will hurt and it's woefully repetitive playing the same chord progressions over and over, but you will train your hands and create a kind of "muscle memory" (it's actually called "procedural memory") and eventually you'll be able to play most of the chords without looking.

Remember not to neglect your right hand strumming technique. Start off playing any way you like, as long as the basic rhythmic style is there, and once you're comfortable with the chord changes and you're not making as many mistakes, learn to play the strum-patterns correctly. Great guitarists, especially of acoustic songs, pay just as much attention to the power of the right-hand guitar part. If you're able to do this, your playing will really take on another dimension of feeling.

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Learn How to Sing the Vocal Part

You're not singing and playing guitar just yet. You've learned how to play the guitar part. Before you try playing the guitar while singing, just do the singing part by itself. You can do it while holding the guitar if you like, just don't play the guitar.

Choose a song you like, something with some emotion that stirs you up. This will keep you motivated. Try recording yourself. This will be painful at first (most people don't even like to hear the sound of their speaking voice recorded!), but it'll show you clearly what you need to work on. (You can do the same thing again later when you start playing and singing at the same time. It'll show up all sorts of crazy mistakes you didn't notice while playing).

Sing along to the CD until you've memorised not only the lyrics, but the singer's phrasing and inflections as well. This is what gives personality and style to a vocal piece. If you've just started learning how to sing, this awareness of how the voice works just like other instruments will come with experience. Just practise as much as possible. And try this if you want the totally most awesome-est vocal training out there.

Putting it Together: Time to Play Guitar and Sing

Okay, you have been playing guitar until you can make the chord changes without thinking about it. And you've got the vocal part down cold. You tool the time to break it down and practise both parts. Now (drum roll please...) it's time to put the two halves together. Now you have to try and sing and play guitar at the same time!

It may seem hard at first, but much like learning anything, you have to just keep trying. It's not an easy thing to do. Weirdly, you'll start making mistakes in both the chord progressions and the vocal line – both of which you had mastered. It really is a different thing altogether and you have learn how to get your hands and mouth and heart and brain to all work at the same time in a way you have probably never done before. Sometimes they just refuse to work together. And even when they do in a "technical" way, it all means nothing if you're not feeling the music. It takes some practice, let me tell you!

Final Words...

Don't try to learn half a dozen different songs at once. Stay focused. Learn one song thoroughly before moving on to the next. Don't try to rush ahead. You're just shooting yourself in the foot and actually slowing down your progress.

Follow all these tips for learning how to play guitar and sing and pretty soon you'll find that you've become a songwriter too. Once you learn to play guitar and sing at the same time, you will start to write your own songs for sure. At least, I hope so! There can never be enough awesome new music in the world.

Best of luck with it,

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