I can’t play the guitar and I can’t sing, but this year
Yes my audience will be my children, they are both under 4, yet as many of us know, children can be the harshest critics. In fact they can be downright rude and insulting. Just the other day I was called ‘Daddy no balls’, no provocation, nothing.
So I need to make sure my skills are pretty tight when I bang out ‘Incy Wincy Spider’, ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ (I do plan to learn other songs for me). If I get negative feedback it might crush me, so I will need to work doubly hard to keep the judges happy.
With this hanging over my head I took the time to research if it’s even worth learning the guitar if you can’t sing. I want to start this path on the right foot so I have taken the time to throughly research this topic.
Below is what I have learnt.
Should I learn to play guitar if I can’t sing? Yes, you should learn to play the guitar if you do not have the ability to sing, it isn’t a requirement to be a great player. The majority of famous lead guitarists aren’t proficient singers. However, singing is a skill that can be learned and like anything, you get out what you put in.
Many beginners are put off learning the guitar because they cant sing, perhaps you imagine yourself playing and singing to friends, to impress someone you like, at a gig or even your children like me and if you couldn’t sing then where is the joy in the playing?
Well there is actually a lot of fun to be had learning the guitar and whilst you can learn to sing there are actually many different styles of playing that will keep you interested.
Why You Don’t Need To Learn To Sing To Play Guitar
Most of us first and foremost choose to learn the guitar because we like music. I certainly fall under this category but I also like to learn new skills because for me that is what makes life interesting.
Just as we have many tastes in music there are also guitars and styles of playing that match that taste. So if you are blues, jazz, rock, country, classical to name a few then you will find there different styles and methods that accompany that genre of music.
Personally I like all sorts of music, and as I grow older my tastes change, if you would have asked me 10 years ago if I like Jazz, Classical or Folk music example I would likely of said no but now yes I do.
So here comes my first point, there will always be a different style of playing to discover a new song to learn to play and a new rift to perfect. The joy comes in the learning, the struggle with getting to grips with something new, the grit to keep on battling through and the joy of having finally learned.
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things”Albert Einstein
Secondly, you don’t need to sing, just look at some of the great guitarists, Carlos Santana, Jimmy Page [Led Zeppelin] and Slash [Guns N Roses]. These guys are legends, they don’t do lead vocals, their playing does the talking or singing if you like.
Shredding the guitar always generates the highest of praise, we all appreciate that skill and many a debate is had about the best guitarist of all time.
So grab an axe and learn.
Am I Too Old To Learn To Sing?
Just as you are never too old to learn to play guitar (you can watch me learn as a beginner at the age of 39 on my midlife guitar journey here) You are also never too old to learn to sing. The hardest part is the mental barrier that we place in front of us, and the older we get the more common this seems to be with everything we do. Like, I can’t run a marathon, I can’t do the splits, I can’t be assed – oh but I like that one.
I am a start from the bottom kind of guy, metaphorically you understand, and don’t have much choice with this one. So I like to eliminate what hope I have of reaching a goal from the outset, whether I have no hope or maybe at least one hope of ever being able to sing.
In this instance the first thing to do is to eliminate if you are tone deaf, also known as amusia, and this simple test will clear that up here. Surprisingly it isn’t very common and only an estimated 1 in 20 truly have it and it isn’t amusia-ing if you do (apologies I am a Dad, we have allowances you know). It turns out I am 100% not tone deaf, so that is one major excuse out of the way, maybe the more excuses I eliminate the closer I will get to where I want to be.
Ok so you’re not tone deaf, are you able to speak words? Yes? Well there you go, you are now pre-qualified to learn to sing, that is it.
From everything I have read, singing is not a ‘you have it or you dont’ skill, it can be learned. We all have our own voice and you may not like the way it sounds right now but with time and effort we can develop it into something good, maybe something we never thought possible.
Following this path is called ‘finding your natural singing voice’ so when you start it you really don’t know what that sounds like. Its a path of discovery, i’m just hoping my natural voice isn’t unnatural for a human, like a goat.
I Want To Learn To Sing Where Do I Start?
On a normal day, I communicate with humans through the English language. When I start to sing however, I become Dr. Doolittle but not in a cool way. No this is more like I am a demented seagull choking on chips, I make a deeper connection with the animals, one where they seem to run and know instantly that I am frighteningly weird yet monotone.
If you have this ability, you are lucky, probably, somehow, in other areas of your life, not singing though. But is it possible to change this? Can you actually improve? How do you even go about doing this?
Well in researching how to improve your singing I found that it can be done and here are some methods with a conclusion at the end:
- Singing Lessons With A Vocal Coach $$$ – This by all accounts is the best way to learn but you have to pay the highest costs, somewhere between $50 – $100 an hour. This scares the hell out of me right now as the thought of ‘singing’ in front of one other person, a stranger, ‘yeh nah’ is my thought as is said here in New Zealand.
Years ago as a school child I auditioned for a bit part in some play and lined up with other school kids and basically got laughed at by the teachers, and those around me, maybe this humiliation lives with me but if I want to get anywhere then I will need to explore and overcome this. For some reason I have the ‘Walk Of Shame’ scene from Game Of Thrones running through my head, haha.
Taking lessons is part of my plan and I will document it on this blog, warts and all.
- Singing Lessons Online With A Vocal Coach $$ – Often cheaper, and by all accounts it can work as well as singing in person with a teacher. There is a huge variance in teachers out there so you get a lot more choice, you could find people in different time zones that may fit your life schedule better. So if you are limited in when you can take a lesson this could be the option for you.
Maybe a little easier to fall out of a habit on this one though. When you have to meet someone in person you tend to feel more obliged to go and not make excuses.
- Online Courses $$-$ – A complete course often offered up as part of a package or a tiered package with accompanying prices. My issue with this is getting trustworthy reviews. With the prevalence of online marketing you can’t be sure if any recommendations are genuine. So it will require some research to find something that is credible and worthwhile to you.
- Books $ – These range in price and quality but there are some extremely experienced singers who can offer you the advice that you need. However you won’t receive any feedback on how you are singing and if you are improving.
You will need a high degree of self discipline but will likely develop a deeper understanding of what your voice is doing. Whether you will be able to self correct however would be my concern.
- Free Lessons / Tips on Youtube FREE- A great resource but there are over 12 million learn to sing videos so it can be hard to choose who to follow and often in my experience the learning can be fractured, tip based, incomplete and you have a tendency to move from one instructor to another through catchy titles of other videos.
Consistency is key with anything. When you start learning guitar it is recommended that you stick with one teacher until you reach a proficient enough level that you know you could get better advice elsewhere. It is no different with singing.
Conclusion from my research:
Learning to sing is about training the voice and this comes down to muscle coordinations, subtle muscle coordinations. This in itself is personal to each individual and so takes a systematic process of learning, so one trick, tip or exercise will not turn you into a great singer.
You are training your voice and the steps you need to take will require feedback and you won’t get these from Youtube videos or any passive form of learning.
There are people that will try and tell you that this is possible but it seems to me they are more concerned with appearing to be helpful rather than actually being helpful and telling you the truth.
There needs to be an interaction with feedback. A professional can give you this, they can guide you and help you learn more efficiently, tell you where you need improvement so your learning is more effective.
Exercises that many singers offer on Youtube are useful to warm up your voice but they are not a substitute for a teacher who can provide systematic training and who cares about you wanting to improve.
Combining Singing With Playing Guitar
For the complete beginner, singing and playing the guitar together is like having a heated conversation whilst chopping vegetables blindfolded. It is extremely difficult and will only lead to frustration, demotivation, fingers for dinner and ultimately stop you playing.
The best way to tackle this is to choose to learn to play the instrumental part first. You need to be able to play this to a point where it is automated. If you need to think about what you are doing then it will only detract from your ability to sing a long.
Think about when you first learn to drive a car on the roads, you are concentrating on driving correctly. Any distraction, like talking with a friend, loud music, selfies, drinking coffee, screaming children and weird people for example, will seriously diminish your abilities to drive well. Once you have experience and can drive automatically you are then are less likely to be distracted by all this.
The level of automation you will need to achieve with guitar playing is one where you do not need to look at the fretboard. You should be able to transition from one chord to the next with your eyes closed. This level of playing will only come about through practice.
Once you reach a level where you can play like this then you can begin to incorporate singing.
Start slowly at first, play the song slower than you have been whilst learning it. If you struggle connecting the words with playing then hum the tune at first. Many recommend using a metronome to set the pace so that you can keep a tempo. Concentrate on getting the words correct at chord changes. Sing the song when you aren’t playing guitar, when you are in the car, in the shower or anywhere you feel comfortable. Learn the words inside and out.
The most important part is to practice and practice again, 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there.
Easy Songs To Learn Playing And Singing Together
The easiest song to learn is the one with only a few chords and one that has simple rhythms and rhymes. The desire to learn a song however is what will carry you through and at the early stages of learning an ‘easy win’ is important in gaining confidence.
Write down some songs that you really like or know the words to. Then you can search these on Ultimate Guitar (which is good as it has approximate strum patterns also) and see if any of them have simple chords like G, C, A, D for example. You will need less time to learn the words and will likely already have a good idea of the inflection and intonation of the song. If you take a minute you will likely be able to imagine the sound and melody in your head.
As I mentioned, desire to play a song you love helps you learn much quicker than one you start learning from scratch. For me, many Oasis songs stick out as I can remember many of the words to these, like Talk Tonight or Songbird for example.
Where Can You Find Online Coaches To Help You Sing?
If you need to learn to sing then online lessons can be found here or alternatively search locally for a vocal coach.
Can You Recommend Any Free Resources To Help Me Learn To Sing And Play Guitar?
I use justinguitar.com for lessons and he has an excellent resource on singing and playing the guitar at the same time here.