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Tip: Singing to Play Better Guitar

Let’s explore a tip that has a lot to do with music — no matter what instrument you play. We’re talking about singing. What do we guitarists need to know about singing? Maybe we should scrap the whole topic and let vocalists pick this up. But maybe we should investigate a bit.

What’s the point of singing? What do we sing to help us play guitar better? First, a fact: Singing helps you memorize and understand music better (than if you didn’t sing.). We’re not going to slog through all of the academic, scholarly research done to prove this. Instead we’ll get practical, so you can prove the usefulness of singing to yourself.

Pick any two tunes from your favorite artist. Pick two tunes that you don’t know how to play yet and that sound fairly similar to each other. Some possible artists to start with: Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel. We’re going for catchy, simple melodies. We’re not going to work with chords in this tip.

Learn the melodies of both tunes completely by ear. For the first one, don’t sing it all. Just dive right in, and pick out the major scale pattern you are most comfortable with, and try to pick out the tune’s notes within that pattern.

For the second tune, don’t touch the guitar yet. Sing the tune, and keep singing it, repeatedly, until you are confident you know the melody without any backup harmony. Only then, work it out on your guitar. Use the same major scale pattern you used on the first melody, if you can.

Now for the moment of truth: which tune was easier to learn? I bet it was the one you sang.

Keep this in mind: Your first instrument, and with many people their most musically accurate instrument, is your voice.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2007 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – February 15, 2006 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.

1 Comment

  1. DrunkRock
    December 22nd, 2007 @ 11:28 am

    Great tip! It took me a while to realize the usefulness of singing in relation to the guitar. I feel sorry for those that never figure it out!