How To Play Guitar and Sing at the Same Time

Griff Hamlin of Blues Guitar Unleashed wrote a great article where he gives you tips on how you can develop the skills to be able to sing and play guitar at the same time.

This is something that so many guitar players WANT to do but struggle with it.  It can be like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.

Read Griff's article below and use his advice the next time you are sitting around the bonfire or performing a song for your friends and family


So you want to be able to sing and play at the same time?

Pretty hard, huh?

It is, but it doesn’t have to be. It all boils down to timing (doesn’t everything?)

Here’s the deal; when you are strumming a song there is a certain rhythm and groove that’s going on…

When you sing, your voice is an instrument and it is performing a melody and that melody has its own rhythm – the notes that you sing are meant to be sung at a specific time.

Now in the blues, that time can get pretty loose and the vocal can almost sit on top of the beat and just float around. This tends to happen a lot in a slow blues especially… and it happens less as the tempo gets a little faster.

If you want to be able to play a song and sing it at the same time, both things need to happen basically on autopilot.

Now for playing the guitar part, we tend to be pretty good about that because we know we need to be able to play it well. And of course if you’ve followed my emails and ramblings for any length of time then by now I’ve impressed upon you the importance of timing so you’ve got that going on ;)

However, with singing we all tend to forget that our voice is also an instrument and the melody that we sing is also formed with notes and rhythm and beats and timing.

So before you try to sing and play, need to get the singing down rhythmically and correct… that does NOT mean you sing along with the song on the recording.

For one thing, when you play it on guitar, it won’t sound like the recording. So all the little audible cues you are used to won’t be there.

So first, record yourself playing the song with no vocal so you can use it as your practice track.

Second, listen to the track (don’t sing) and count the beat along with it. Most songs are in 4/4 time so if you aren’t able to count to 4 consistently throughout the recording along with your own playing… that may be the problem right there. And in that case you need to go back to the guitar playing part of this equation.

But assuming you are playing it correctly and in time, and you can count along to confirm that, the last step is to try singing along with that practice track.

If you can’t do it right away, try clapping the beats instead of using your voice, that may be easier.

But at the end of the day, singing requires as much patience and regard to rhythm as any instrument. You don’t want to be the singer instrumentalists joke about that “doesn’t know when to come in and can’t find the key.”

And one last little tip is to try choosing songs that have a melody that sits “in the pocket” as opposed to floating around the time. A lot of songs by artists like Johnny Cash, The Eagles, and Tom Petty are pretty straightforward melodies.

On the other hand, trying to sing something like “Stormy Monday,” “Red House,” or even “Brown Eyed Girl” might not be the best choice from a singing standpoint.

For us blues lovers, check out something like “Move It On Over” as done by George Thorogood or maybe even “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry. The melodies in those tunes fit right in with the guitar playing and the general rhythm of the song.

Some other good, popular songs are, “I’m Tore Down” as Clapton does it, and “Walking By Myself” as Gary Moore did it.

Those are just some ideas but hopefully you’ll listen to them and hear the characteristics of a song that is setting you up for success instead of one that is setting you up for failure.

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