Singing and playing is hard!

Ok, so before learning guitar I was a confident home singer and thought I had a pretty strong amateur voice. I love singing along to songs, and can do the single strum per bar + sing, just about.

The problem is as soon as I start strumming and singing at the same time - my voice is either drowned out or it sounds flat, or just not in tune with the guitar. Not sure what exactly, but something ain’t right… I can typically do things and sing at the same time, e.g. type on computer, drive a car, walk, cook, etc.

I understand the timing of what words I sing and changing chords takes practice on a song by song basis, and I’m ok with that, it’s the flat/out of tune sound to my ears that’s bugging me :confused:

Just another one of those things about it taking practice Chris. It’s a whole different thing to being able to sing whilst driving a car, walking and all of the etc. you mention for one reason. All those other things you’re already doing automatically whereas you’re thinking about the guitar playing at the same time as singing. Justin refers to this so much and it’s absolutely true. Getting the guitar playing of the song automatic then frees up your head to tackle the singing bit.

But, you’ve started which is the main thing so keep at it! :+1:


Which is why I think I’ll NEVER be able to do it. My guitar playing is never “automatic,” even on songs I’ve been playing for years. I’m always having to pay attention to what I’m doing on the guitar, and as soon as I try to sing, the guitar playing falls apart.


It may be that you are just not used to the sound of your own voice over a live instrument. It’s not the same as singing over a recording…especially if there is already a vocal on the recording.

Or it’s possible you are not quite in tune with your guitar. I found I had to really work on my intonation when starting to sing and play…even over simple one strum per chord change playing.

In either case, I’d suggest you record yourself on your phone (Voice Memo on iPhones works well, and there’s probably an Android equivalent).

I think it will probably be obvious from the recording if there is really a problem. If it’s not obvious, post the recording here…many people can offer good advice.

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I consider myself an immediate guitar player, probably somewhere in the middle of that level, and I have always struggled with beyond basic strumming and singing at the same time.

It is improving steadily, but I can mix up my strumming a lot easier when I’m not singing versus when I’m singing. I try to get a little more creative with the solo fills, but I really feel like just putting on more mileage will help!

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Hear where you are coming from, have you tried this ?

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When I started playing the guitar, others told me it’s a lot harder to sing and play at the same time. So I had zero expectations of singing.

The first song I learned was a simplified version of Blowin in the Wind from Justin’s beginner songbook before it was taken out due to cease and desist orders from Dylan’s lawyers.

My wife would sing the song along with my playing and she would have sung it some 50 or 60 times at least when quite by accident I started singing along in the chorus. That’s when the light bulb went off for me that it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

Justin’s lesson on singing and playing at the same time covers what’s needed (and effectively what I did) but in much more detail than I followed.

What’s important is choosing a simple song where the chord changes align easily with the lyrics. Some songs the lyrics don’t come in till well after or before a chord change which is lot harder when you are a beginner.

That sums it up nicely.

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Just reread your original post. My wife is my judge of whether I’m singing on key or not. Usually I’m pretty well spot on. When I’m learning a new song (I’ve now been playing and singing well over 10 years), sometimes I’m singing flat for the first couple of measures. Not all new songs, but it’s not rare either. Once I get on top of the song, it’s almost never a problem.

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Hello Chris, a lot of great advices have already been given.
One thing, that came to my mind, is whether you encounter this problem with every song you play and sing?
For me, it makes a huge difference whether I sing and play a song that’s rather new to me. In this case, I have to concentrate on both - the singing and the playing - a lot, and that’s awfully difficult :flushed:.
Although I’m not a good singer at all, there is a small number of songs, I can sing quite confidently (I know the lyrics by heart, have no big problems with rhythm and staying in tune,…). Playing along with these songs makes the singing much easier, as the latter is more or less on autopilot.

I’m very much with Tom’s @Tbushell tipp to post a AVOYP, to get feedback from the community. Sometimes, we are just too self-critical :wink:.

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Wow thanks everyone for the detailed and supportive replies, this online community is the best I’ve ever been involved with, so caring!

So after reading your replies and watching Justin’s grade 3 video about it, I’m feeling much better about finding it difficult. I guess I thought that the singing part would be the autopilot bit allowing me to focus on playing, but yeah I probably don’t know the lyrics and melody as well as I thought, e.g. I don’t even know the words off by heart, and am actually reading the verse and bridge sections as I’m playing. That coupled with not playing on autopilot either is why I’m finding it tough.

I really liked Justin’s 10 step system for learning new songs, and gives me something to follow rather than winging it and getting frustrated. I won’t be so impatient or hard on myself in future and focus on really nailing the guitar part first before starting to sing along.

One small thing that occurred to me is, I’m singing in tune with the recording, then singing the same over my guitar. But my guitar might be tuned a tiny bit differently to the recording. I remember the beginner lesson about “for what it’s worth” Justin said the recording had been slowed down a tiny bit in the editing and so sounded a touch flatter compared to what it would sound like playing at home. Could this also be a contributing factor?

On a side note, YouTube creepily recommended a video that seems very relevant to this topic, it’s How to Sing in Tune When Playing Guitar - YouTube

Keep on strumming,

Most that I’ve attempted, but not all. I remember back in Justin’s grade 1 some of the songs with trivial guitar parts I was able to sing fine to. The one that really got me was “wish you were here” - one of my all time favorite songs and I know the lyrics off by heart, must have sung it a million times! But singing and playing I sounded like a robot :joy:

Maybe when I’m a little more confident! :grimacing: For now I liked the suggestion about playing to family, might enlist my wife as judge!

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I found out the hard way that it is a lot harder than it looks to sing and play at the same time. I found out that I it is best to learn the singing and guitar parts of the song separately and then put them together.


Daphne @Daphne20
You are right that’s the way to do it.