Singing for Guitarists
Playing guitar and singing go hand in hand, so if you play guitar it will really benefit you to learn some singing, even if you don’t want to sing in front of others. Singing will support your playing in several ways:
- 1) Your playing will become more lyrical. When you sing, you sing words. That communication will translate into more expressive guitar. The best guitarists think lyrically (think of Jimi Hendrix’s phrasing, it’s almost as if he’s speaking.)
- 2) By singing through songs, you’ll play them from beginning to end. Some guitarists just learn bits and pieces from a song. Learning a whole song will make you a more balanced player, as you’ll see ‘the whole picture’ rather than just the riff.
- 3)Singing through a song will help your timing. Playing short extracts from a song doesn’t really show up any uneven timing, wheras playing from beginning to end will.
When you first try singing, make it really simple. Play a scale on the guitar (or even the first 3 notes), then humm along to the notes . After that try the sounds ohh, ahh, ehh. The idea here is just to get comfortable with the feel of playing and singing. Listen to whether your singing in tune with the guitar, and it may help to record yourself.
Once you’re comfortable with playing notes and singing you can extend this to a section of a song. You want to start with a song that entails simple chords. When playing it, simplify any strum pattern to simple down strums, one or two per beat. That way you know exactly how long each chord lasts for. This is really important, so that when you sing over the guitar, it’s really easy to see how the words ‘attach’ to the chords. There tend to be key words (or consonants) that connect with the change in chord. Look out for these, as these ‘glue’ the guitar to the singing. If you ever find that you’re singing and it sounds like the words are ‘floating’ over the guitar, it’s because you haven’t found those connecting words.
Another good thing that helps is to play the vocal melody and sing along with the melody (as in the first exercise). This helps to set it in your mind. That way its less likely to be lost in the chord progression, as you may end up following a note in the chord as opposed to the melody.
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