Learning to Sing

Anyone can learn how to sing, and you should start here! Learn 10 tips singing teachers don’t tell you that will immediately improve your singing.

Great topic and, as always, presentation. One suggestion: I found that by paying extra careful, conspicuous attention to word pronunciation and articulation not only helps finding and hitting the right notes, but also with injecting emotion to better convey the songs essence. I personally think, even in daily conversation, we sometimes are ‘lazy’ in our vocal communication skills, and forget how important these two areas, plus volume, clarity and cadence, are in conveying meaning and emotion.

In this video How not to suck at singing! - YouTube what does Justin mean by pitch?

I am very interested in hearing more advice about this. One member recommended “The Rock and Roll Singer’s Survival Manual” by Mark Baxster. You can tell it was written years ago, but still has a lot of good tips. Mark also has YouTube video tips. This is something I need to work on a lot. I sing and play at the risk of dogs howling to the beat-just kidding.

Justin, I think the secret to that Tom Waits voice is whiskey and cigarettes. Lots of both.


Stuart, pitch in the context of sound refers to the frequency of the sound eg high pitched or low pitched. Taken further in western music every note has a specific frequency, for example the open low E string’s frequency is 82.4 Hz.

When people talk about pitch in the context of singing eg the singer has perfect pitch, they mean the notes sung are hitting the defined frequency of target note.

But as Justin described, the human voice does have natural vibrato, so may not hold the frequency stable when singing. It will natural fluctuate. But that fluctuation would not so radical as to become way off the target frequency.

We should also remember that people are listening, not oscilloscopes, so one is aiming to be close enough.

When people talk about a singer being a little pitchy, it means they are singing too far off the target note, either flat or sharp, too low or high in frequency terms, relative to the target note.

Hope that helps.

1 Like

This is an excellent lesson from Justin, just wish it was available at the beginning of the year when I started out to learn to play the guitar again, also at the time with the encouragement of the community I decided to sing as well.

I am just consolidating at the end of Grade 1 and part way through Grade 3 Music Theory also just started Ear Training, so I might be in a position of having a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.

The query I have is in the lesson Point 5 Justin says you need to work out the melody of the song, and the starting note. I am sure if you have the sheet music and knew what it said then you would be able to determine this, but I don’t have it and if I did I would not make any sense of it at present.

So, my question is can you work out the basic melody from the sequence of chords.

Take for example Brown Eyed Girl which has in the verse the chord sequence G C G D. The starting chord G using the standard three finger shape has the notes with octaves as G2,B2,D3,G3,B3,G4. G is obviously the root note but which one is the starting note or can it be a B or D. The starting note presumably must have to be within your Tessitura range (singing range) so in my case I could do G2 and G3 but G4 would be a struggle. Moving on to the next chord C which is X, C3, E3 G3, C4, E4, does the melody follow the root note C, again which one are do we need to look at intervals used for the song.

If Justin had done a lesson on this could somebody point me in the right direction. I am aware that there is a lesson “No singer? Try a Duet” could this be where I need to go to work out the melody.


Hi Michael,

I don’t think you can easily figure out the melody from the chords. The chords, and the key of the song, will give you some strong hints about what notes the vocal melody is likely to include, but they won’t tell you which note is being used at any given moment.

If you are able to detect intervals by ear, you might be able to figure out what interval the singer is singing compared with the chords played by the instruments, but that’s so far beyond what my ear can do, it’s crazy to me that people can actually do this.

If you want to look at some reference material for the melody in Brown Eyed Girl, you could check out the site linked below. If you prefer to figure it out for yourself, then don’t click through :wink:

I’ve got some explanation about how you would put this information to use below, again don’t click if you prefer to solve it for yourself.

Click here to see some explanation

The lowest note in the vocals is a G, and the highest is the G one octave above that. So you would need to find a place in your vocal range where you can sing all the notes in an octave from G to G, or if that doesn’t work for you, transpose the song to a different key.

The first note of the melody is actually a D.

1 Like

Michael, I think when it comes to music one can get into hot water when trying to make hard and fast statements, since it is creative and the one rule that we can make is ‘if it sounds good, it is good’

That said, I think it is fair to say that for many songs that are diatonic ie the chords are all in the key of the song, no fancy key changes, modulations, chords borrowed from other keys, the the notes of the melody would be the notes from the associated major scale. For example songs in the key of C would be played with the C Dm Em F G Am (ignoring the Bdim) chords and the melody notes would likely be C D E F G A B.

I think also a good chance that the notes in the melody that are played/sung over a chord in the progression are likely to be notes from the chord. So if the song starts with a C, you could try the notes C E G as a start. And that was the case for BEG based on @direvus’s reply, he says the first melody note is a D which is in the chord G. But it may not be the case, the melody note may be a note in harmony with the chord.

I don’t know of you have done any of Justin’s lessons where he introduces scales and talks about playing the notes of the scale over a chord from the scale. You can play all the notes of the scale over a chord in the key and some will sound better than others. So the same may apply to the notes in the melody.

Have you looked at this lesson: How to Play a Melody on Guitar | JustinGuitar.com You’ll find more on this topic in that lesson plus some songs to try and figure out with some tips to help get started.

1 Like

Brendan @direvus

Thanks for the link to the web site which was very interesting.
I did click, not sure I would have come up with D as the opening note.

David @DavidP

Thanks for your comments. I have only had a little look at scales so far.
Will have look at the lesson you mention for a bit of general interest.
I have come to conclusion that I should not at this stage of the journey get too diverted away from the main task of learning to play the guitar.


1 Like

That makes sense, Michael. I guess the operative word is ‘too’. That of course is tricky since it is one of those relative things.

My personal approach was to follow the lessons methodically for my first year or so. I think provided one can stay patiently engaged you will do well just following the path Justin laid out, and in time get to all the things you aspire to, like finger-picking or playing the blues. That said, nothing wrong with dipping the fingers into other areas if it helps to keep one engaged.

There a true consultant’s answer that really provides no answer :rofl:


I’m not sure I’m understanding your question. Check the C Chord Explorer Lesson, at a certain point Justin shows that we can get the Happy Birthday melody starting from the chords. I’m not sure this is what you’re questioning about.

1 Like

As I’ve just re-watched the lesson for the second time, so much pregnant content here, I better identified the first advice that I should straight away put into practice: work out physical exercise :fearful: I’m afraid I’m a lazy one :joy: And in fact while singing I run out of breath so easily! I thought to share with you this audio I recorded last month where the main focus was getting in control of my breath support, but still couldn’t completely really get rid of this nasty “breathy effect”. The song is Molly Malone.

Hope the link works :crossed_fingers:


Thanks Silvia I will take a look at the lesson
Michael :+1:

Well there are many variables to consider :wink:

1 Like

Don’t strive, keep the volume down for now, concentrate on the tone
Think about what are the sounds you are trying to make

I love how things link up from different worlds:
Here’s a three minute video to check from a workshop on how to do mediaeval Plainchant from a twelfth century village church on the outskirts of Oxford UK. The group launch into giving it the large one… and then the penny drops:

Echoes of the 12th Century at St Mary’s Iffley - YouTube

1 Like

My understanding is that this is relative pitch, not absolute or perfect pitch, which is the rare ability to sing/name a note without reference to an outside prompt.
(The mierenneuker :wink:)

Another great lesson but it’s missing something I was hoping to see which is how to get the timing right when singing. I really seem to struggle to maintain the right rhythm and keep time if I start to sing.

Maybe this is indicative of a more fundamental problem that I have personally? I can keep time playing along with songs and other people but I can’t ever ‘count’ time in my head as I play. Is that just me?

I think it’s very common for your guitar playing to suffer a bit when you start to sing along - I’m still working on it.

I find it better to keep time by moving, rather than counting. I usually start learning to sing a new song by just strumming one chord per bar while I get the melody and phrasing right for the vocal. But I keep my strumming hand moving in time with the beat.

Then I strum all downs, and then a proper strumming pattern.

If the phrasing is complicated, I’ll do a lead sheet with the count written in on top of the vocals, so I know exactly which word comes in on which beat.

1 Like

If you can keep timing while playing it might be that your internal timing is already automated and you don’t need to count anymore, if not
at the beginning to get the right tempo. I tap my foot on the beat while I practice singing without the guitar, this helps me a lot. If I’m singing along with the original I tap, sing and play air guitar too…which is a lot of fun to do :laughing: