How to sing & play guitar at the same time

I joined my first band as a guitarist. Later on, though, particularly because I was interested in songwriting, I wanted to sing. However, there was a problem: I found it difficult to play and sing at the same time. If you are like most guitar players starting out, you probably have the same problem. With this in mind, here are my tips for how to sing and play guitar at the same time.

Know your chords

When trying to synchronise your hands to your voice, you don’t want to be thinking about how to finger that Cm7 chord. Too much thinking isn’t helpful. So, make sure you know all the chords in your repertoire back to front.

Memorise guitar and vocal parts separately

Before you put your guitar and voice together, make sure you know both music and lyrics well. Doing so, enables you to concentrate on playing and singing simultaneously. To see whether you have conquered a song’s guitar parts, try watching TV or having a conversation while playing the song. If you can play it without any mistakes, you’re ready to add your (memorised) vocals.

“You can be a singer, and you can be a guitar player, but putting them together is another animal”— Gavin DeGraw, US singer and songwriter.

Choose a simple song to start with

Don’t make life harder than it needs to be by starting off with a song that is too complicated. You will only become discouraged and want to give up. Start with a song that has a simple strum pattern and melody. There are plenty of famous easy-to-play songs to choose. Here are some suggestions:

  • Knocking on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan)
  • Teach Your Children (Crosby, Stills and Nash)
  • Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
  • Free Falling (Tom Petty)

Check out this tutorial on how to play Free Falling.

Take it easy

Being able to play fast isn’t a mark of a good guitarist—it just means you can play fast! Slow the tempo and work on the song bar by bar. Once you can play the song slowly without making mistakes, then you can speed it up.

Play to a metronome

An issue many guitar players have who are not used to playing with others is maintaining a steady tempo. So, when learning a song, practice your strum patterns with a metronome. Do this for 10 – 15 minutes every day, and you’ll notice a big improvement.

How do you practice guitar? Tell me in the comments below.

Other posts you might like:

How to strengthen your hands for playing guitar

How to make faster progress when learning guitar

Andrew Healey


Andrew is an Auckland-based writer and musician.

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