Singing What You Want to Play


Singing what you want to play is what all great players and composers do, period! And, if you’re sitting in your chair right now protesting at that statement, or squirming at the idea of it, then I  suggest that you address the reasons you that you feel so fearful of doing this. After all, it's for the BENEFIT of your playing, right?

I know it can be a difficult thing to overcome because I was once there. And believe me, the  reasons(excuses) for not singing were many, but at a particular point about 20 years ago, I realised that, in order for me to be the best I could be as a musician, and play not only well, but play honestly, from my heart, I had to get real and do my utmost to honour the music I was hearing in my head, and that meant singing what it is that is in my head. It is vital to playing and making music with integrity (art) as breathing to staying alive

Whenever I try to get my students to begin singing the scales they are practicing or singing out loud melodic ideas that they are hearing in their head, I am generally ( almost always) met with resistance to the process. 

The three(3)  most common excuses for not wanting to sing  are

  1. I don’t sing
  2. I can’t sing
  3. I am learning to play guitar, I didn’t come here to learn how to sing

Is that you? Can you relate?

It took me twenty years but I did notice a pattern. It was FEAR  response! These excuses are the most common ones I hear, but it’s the fear of not actually being good enough or similar that is reason behind why a person resists and protests the process.

Singing the music you want to play is actually quite easy, when you know how to do it.

Singing the Notes of the Scale

Begin by singing the notes of a scale as you play it on the guitar. Let's say you are practicing with an A  Aeolian minor Scale.

The notes are as follows: A - B - C - D - E - F - G - A

  1. Play each note and then try to sing that same note. At first this might feel rather strange, or off pitch, but non-judgement of your singing and discipline is required. Give it some time, you will find this gets much easier and can actually become enjoyable. 
  2. Once you get a little more comfortable with the first exercise, try this variation. Play the first note of the scale (A) and then singing the second note (B) immediately afterward, then play the 3rd note (C) and sing the 4th (D), followed by playing the 5th (E) and singing the 6th (F), then playing the 7th (G)  and finish up with the Octave (A)  After a while of singing the scale in sequence, your brain quickly begins to organise the notes in your head as you are playing, allowing you to really begin to explore your musicality. 
  3. Now that you can sing the scale notes in sequence, play and sing the notes randomly trying to sing each note as you play them in real time.  
  4. Lastly, pick a melody from a song that you like and can already play, and singalong to that melody as you play it.

Now it is very common for people to be shy and apprehensive about this process of singing and playing, and it will most likely feel awkward at first, but like I said earlier, your brain quickly adapts, but I promise you, if you persevere with the abvove exercises and try to sing everything you play, you will begin to feel connected to your instrument and your music like never before.


Singing what you want to play and discovering the power of own voice is truly liberating. There is nothing like the feeling of it. Try it for yourself. 

‘the cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure that you seek…’ Joseph Campbell



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