Playing the Guitar While Singing

Playing The Guitar While Singing

Singing… Everybody does it! However, only a few can do it well. We sing along to our favorite songs and pretend we sound awesome. Or, we tell ourselves that we could perfectly sit in as a back up singer… Yeah, right! Of course, shows like American Idol helps build that mystique of being a rock star overnight.

Face it…we all are suckers for a great singer. You know the ones who can reach down in the depth of our soul and bring out the emotions that can make us ecstatic one minute to crying and sobbing the next. I guess that’s why they make the big bucks! Of course, great songwriting, arranging, and well written lyrics are also part of the essentials that help make a good song too.

Once again, it’s the singer who captures the heart and soul of the song. As for me and singing? It has taken me a lot of years of playing guitar before I even would consider trying to sing. I just didn’t think I could do it…

Furthermore, I didn’t have any confidence because I didn’t know where to start. Then one day I saw this Paul McCartney song book for guitar and bought it. At the time, I had a lot of Sir Paul’s music on cassette. I had the McCartney and Wings Band on the Run album and would practice to that. I really dig the song writing on the older 70’s rock. Besides, what can you say about Paul McCartney that hasn’t all ready been said?

Then I bought another great song book called the Eagles Greatest Hits for easy guitar and practiced playing and singing to those awesome songs. It was then I realized I did have a chance in hell… Next, I tested my singing out on Acid Planet and got rave reviews. It was at that moment I realized I could play guitar and sing too! I think I finally felt like a complete, true musician.

I remember playing in this small juke joint one night years ago in a small town in central Texas… I met this old feller who wore an ol’cowboy hat and knew how to play only 3 chords… C, G, & D. No kiddin’! Just those three chords.

However, he knew over 300 country songs, and by request could sing and play any old hit country song at the drop of a hat. And, he was great. He could make every song sound different and never repetitious. Just amazing, I was kind of jealous of him.

Willie Nelson is one of those people that come to mind too! Wait till you start recording yourself… This is really where you can really get better. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. So please, don’t cut yourself short. Start playing the guitar while singing. – Scott

Playing the Guitar While Singing

Start Simple 

Better to be simple and right than complicated and not right.

Don’t Put Too Much Pressure On Yourself

Don’t ask your fingers (or your voice) to do more than they’re capable of- and they will become capable of more as time goes on. Have fun. It’ll be fine.


The first thing to do, whether you are playing your own song or someone else’s is to adapt the guitar track to the voice (a capo if needed).

No Solos

Meaning, no solos while you’re singing. Also watch out for picking. You may not, in certain instances, be able to pick and sing simultaneously. You can’t play as much as would like, so the other musicians in the band should cover your guitar parts as much as possible so that the song doesn’t sound too empty.

Practice, A Lot

Of course, and I know you know this, but it’s a simple fact that the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it

Learn Singing and Guitar Parts Separately

Learn to play the guitar part so well that you can do it in your sleep. Then learn to sing the song so you don’t have to think about it, without the guitar.

I would suggest merely humming the melody or “scatting” (da da dum ti dum) or whatever gibberish comes out of your mouth at the time to the melody while playing through the chosen chord progressions on guitar.

Otherwise you’re having to concentrate on the words as well as your playing simultaneously which is where lots of people who have only played as an accompaniment for others without singing along themselves get frustrated.

Then after you’ve mastered both versions, then combine the two and it should go pretty smooth. That’s always worked for me.

Again, Start Simple!

At some point, begin to practice to a metronome or other steady beat. (It may seem hard at first, but will be good for you in the long run…)

The key is getting really comfortable with the guitar. When you are beginning to play the guitar, it takes great concentration and a fair amount of physical discomfort. That all goes away in time. Once the playing becomes second-nature, you will be able to sing along. Trust me.

Vocal Mic Placement

Mic placement – particularly when using sensitive condensers – directly affects every aspect of the singer’s sound and performance. As engineer, I am obsessed with and stressed over how the singer addresses the mic in every way.

While there are no hard and fast rules, ideally the singer needs to sing directly, i.e. on-axis into the diaphragm of the mic. Distance to the mic is extremely important because our ears relate distance to intimacy with the singer’s voice and emotion: closer distances equate to a more intimate sound.

Off-axis singing or changing distance causes a degradation in quality but is all part of “working the mic,” which is part of a singer’s on-mic sound. Experienced singers use these physics to enhance or color the good and bad areas of their voice. A good singer will use slight distance changes for dramatic punctuation.

Working very close to the mic nearly always necessitates the use of a “pop filter” of some type to attenuate air blasts from the mouth. All cardioid microphones exhibit the “proximity” effect which boosts low frequencies as the singer gets closer to the diaphragm. Singers can use this effect to achieve a larger, fatter tone.

In general, a good starting point mic placement is slightly higher than the singer’s mouth. The mic is then aimed downward at the mouth with the exact distance at the singer’s and producer’s option. I have seen thousands of ways singers approach singing into a mic and only cite the above example as just one way. I have recorded singers who insisted on lying down on the studio floor, naked with a hand-held mic, the studio monitors blasting away, in total wanton abandonment.