Thinking while playing guitar

A question for guitarists who are don’t sing, either lead vocals or backing vocals.

When playing, do you sing the words to the song in your head, or do you only concentrate on playing the guitar?

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Hi, @kevinuk81 , no I don’t sing the words in my head, I am just listening to the song to keep time and get the correct chord changes.

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Depends on the song. If it’s fairly new to me then I concentrate on playing and getting it right. If it’s one I know well then I just let my mind wander and think about whatever. I rarely sing in my head since singing out loud is something I’m unlikely to ever do.

Often I do sing in my head. Not usually the whole song, even if I remember all the words. Often I am kind of internally humming, singing or something the melody, I think.

What I find interesting is that I can sing in my head and keep playing, but as soon as I open my dang mouth, it all goes to heck.

I could apply that statement to more things than guitar I suppose…:roll_eyes::rofl:


I tend to sing the words in my head. It helps me keep track of where I am in the song. Actually I think it helps me learn the song better as well - when there are slight variations between verses or choruses, the words help me remember where those decorations go. (I don’t really know if this is a good habit!) I’m trying to learn to sing out loud (I’m one of those non-singers trying to gain confidence) as well - it’s easier with some songs (The One I Love by R.E.M.) than others (What’s Up by 4 Non-Blondes - the vocal rhythm and range is a huge challenge for me in spots!).

Here’s where I have trouble: I’ll be working on a challenging chord change or progression and finally play it correctly. I cycle back to the beginning of the bit to play it again, and my mind starts thinking things like “Oh! I’ve finally got this! Now I can work on…” - then FLUB!!! And the flub usually extends beyond the thing I was working on. :roll_eyes: Some day I’ll be able to play through a progression while thinking about something else!

Concentrate on trying to play. Can’t do the singing as well :slight_smile:

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I don’t (can’t) sing. But will work on singing while playing when practicing songs at home. If I can play it properly while singing (even tho singing sounds bad) then I feel more confident in playing my part during actual jam.

Also for playing lead on songs that aren’t 12 bar blues I will try to have lyrics going in my head to know when to end solo as it’s usually over verse and or chorus chord progression

Me too. Chord changes often (usually?) fall on a word in song. So singing along gives me a trigger for the change. Also prevents me playing three verses before the chorus when there are only two! :grinning:

I’m still a beginner (been playing a year) and even trying to think about the words is more than my brain can process at this stage. My thoughts are about what chord is next, maybe at push humming the rhythm of what I’m playing. Singing, even silently, still seems a distance off for me. I have zero singing ability generally but I would like to get to the point of being able to play and sing simple songs eventually

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Very interesting question…I tend to work on the Rhythm aspect on its own with the metronome but if I start learning a song I would sing it right from the beginning and just slow down tempo so that timing is still decent enough. With practice I’m developing my Rhythm and automate the feeling, but to be honest lyrics have always been a kind of facilitator that help me to detect where the chord changes and the bar starts and ends…as I said the feeling of tempo and Rhythm is coming with time and practice. I sing out loud though.

All very good answers! I would like to elaborate on a few things. As many have said and is soooo important, Rhythm, rhythm and more rhythm. Your chords can be played wrong or twangy, but if you keep the rhythm, everything will still fall along. Takes practice to get there.

I would say it is ultimately up to the player what you are comfortable with. At first I would suggest to just concentrate on the rhythm. Even if that means one downstroke per beat. Depends on your degree of beginner.

Often times it is difficult to keep the rhythm. Having proper fluent chord changes that you don’t have to think about or don’t have to think about the strumming pattern as well as having a proper chord structure to help remember the chord progressions. All this together can be stressful on your rhythm if all doesn’t just fall naturally in place. Especially so, on those song progressions that are not quite straight forward. A quick note, the singing does not usually start on the beat. This varies greatly from song to song. Why it is sooooo important to keep the rhythm. There are of course songs that do follow this, find those ones, it does make it easier, and if you can make it sound good, then it is. Everyone in the room can/has or will sing along and all is good! Rhythm will achieve this.

I still cannot sing alot of the songs I play without changing the strumming pattern or chord progressions by mistake, but I keep the initial 1 beat for sure and the rest falls into place with a quick correction(again takes practice, you aim for perfect practicing, for playing songs I would be a lil more lenient) but not the rhythm 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + is most on the forefront of the tourney.

Hope this helps. Have an excellent day!!

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