Saturday, 22 June 2013

Confession #23 - Sing What You Play!

One of my goals when I started getting serious about the guitar was to learn to sing and play.  I've learned to do that, but my singing needs a lot of work.  Of course, time is tight and I never really get any dedicated singing practice time, so progress has been glacial.

Recently I've started teaching one of my children to play guitar.  When I was practicing just for my own benefit, there was never any need to say aloud the names of the notes I was playing.  However when teaching somebody else to play, its only natural to say the names of the notes that you want them to play.  And if you're going to say them, its only natural to sing them too.  If you just call them out in a monotone voice, it sounds awful against the melody coming from the guitar.

Its only been a few short weeks, but I'm already seeing a little bit of improvement.  I'm getting better at hitting my pitches, and I think my range is expanding ever so slightly.

Take a few minutes in your practice session to sing the names of the notes you are playing.  While you are playing your warm-up exercises would be a good time for this.

There are three benefits that you will realize from singing what you play:
  • naming the notes will improve your knowledge of the fretboard,
  • singing the notes will help develop your ear, and
  • singing the notes will help develop your singing voice.
You could use any of the one octave major scale patterns from Confession #8 - Learn the Major Scale!  or Confession #21 - Back to the Major Scale!.  These patterns have roots on the third, fifth and sixth strings, and can be shifted up and down the neck to play the major scale in a variety of different keys.

TIP:  Use your electronic tuner to verify what pitch you are singing.  If you're off by a semi-tone, it will sound awful and you'll know you're not hitting your pitch.  But you could be singing a third or a fifth above the target pitch, so it will sound nice and you'll think everything's cool.  The tuner will let you know if you are actually hitting your pitch, or just adding some harmony to it.

Next Week's Confession - Voice Leading!


  1. A useful tip! Someone (who used to be a professional singer), recently told me something similar. I started playing purely from a guitar point of view originally. Now I tend to play & sing (?!) solo acoustic/semi-acoustic at folk clubs and open mic nights and it's comletely changed my approach to singing. The same person also pointed out that I actually sing to the guitar rather than concentrate on the melody of the song. My awareness of this now I think has also helped me and will hopefully improve my vocal technique. Great post.