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picking the right string

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Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 84
Topic starter  

I'm an intermediate level player, but I must have skipped a beginner lesson somewhere.

I'm learning to sing while playing, i.e. sing the melody and then throw in little improvised guitar licks during gaps between vocal phrases. I'm not the world's best at it, but it's coming along - sometimes I can remember (or think up) a lick that fits, and then sometimes I can visualize it on the neck, and then sometimes I can actually execute it. (There's a lot that can go wrong there...)

But the thing that's killing me is hitting the wrong string when starting a lick. It's such a fundamental thing. I don't have a problem with finding the right string in other situations, only when improvising + singing. What tricks of the trade are there for getting around this?

When you learn to type, they teach you to put your fingers on the "home keys", so after some practice you don't need to look at your hands anymore. Is there a similar sort of trick for the picking hand on guitar?

Eminent Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 21

Do you anchor your pinky on the pickguard?

Chris C
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 3454


I'd guess that this is a common problem. Basically you're trying to play two instruments at once - guitar and voice - and your attention is now split between the two (both consciously and subconsciously). It's similar to learning to play the piano - it takes a while to get the right hand working well on its own, and more time to get the left hand fluent, but when you first try and put them both together it's a whole new level of challenge again and one or the other can start making basic errors.

We tend to take our voices for granted, but good singing technique and skill takes as much work as any other instrument. It's often suggested that, when first attempting to do two things at once, you should have at least one element rock solid and automatic before you try and add another. But I seem to recall that some people support the idea of bringing the two together as soon as possible, but to do it very slowly - so slow that you more or less can't get it wrong - and then gently pick up speed.

There are probably quite a few angles you could look at. For instance, timing is always worth a bit of work (and can be thrown out by the introduction of new demands). Maybe settle your playing into a comfortable groove and then just sing simple numbers on the beat - 1 2 3 4 or da da da or something that requires no thought about the content. Then switch focus to the voice, and play a single chord or note between some more complex singing. If you start simple and gradually add more complexity to each side of the equation then it should come together OK with a bit of practice. You may also be able to spot a specific point at which it starts to fall apart or you hit a problem. If so, that should suggest where you might focus more practice. Others may differ, but that's what seems to work for me - just dropping the demands back a few notches and working gently up to where I'd like to be.

Good luck with it all. :)



Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1224

First off...VISUALISE your fretboard and LEARN where your voice works and doesn't work. By looking at your fretboard you'll soon know where to keep yer yap shut! Next, go for QUESTION then ANSWER. Sing the question, and have that lick "feel" like an appropriate answer. Just sing where your fretboard permits you to sing and answer where you can't with a lick.

Woiks fer me!


"Feel what you what you feel!"