Tip: Is singing for you?

– This post comes from the old Forum. It was useful enough to offer it again here –

I was never in a choir and I was never praised for my singing voice.
I still hate hearing myself sing but I love to do it.
when I do solo gigs; people approach me by saying “I have a good singing voice”.
what does that even mean. It took some years to do it and to progress I will need professional lessons.

I agree that you can have some physical advantage on others but I also think that factor is massively overrated

damn right you can train it. I believe that 80% of what I can today with my voice is thanks to singing a lot and listening to myself. Knowing my boundaries, how to adapt, how to expand range, very gradually.

One thing I did on autopilot since I was a kid was listening to melody. Guitar and vocals. recognizing them instantly, hearing when a note was sharp or flat or timings were different.
It would bother me if somebody would sing a wrong note in a simple, famous melody.
I guess this “passive” training helped me develop before I even knew it.

just like drawing is 80% looking and 20% putting a pencil on paper; I approach singing just the same way. To me, singing is 80% listening. it’s just as important as in playing guitar:

  • am I in tune?
  • am I in the right octave (oh don’t laugh, you can be singing the right note but in a higher or lower octave. In many cases, that isn’t even a problem though)
  • and most of all; what’s my range?

it is important to listen to yourself, both while singing (to correct on the fly) as afterward.
Record yourself, listen. cringe. get over the cringe. listen where you go wrong.
You will hear A LOT more mistake and impurities when listening to yourself afterwards.
retry. I revisit old recordings once in a while and then you notice your progress.

There are a lot of songs that I try but certain ends, low or highs, don’t fit me. I lose power if it is too low or I’ll squeek when going higher.

Guitar capo to the rescue!
my capo is paramount in my solo setup. when I sang a lot the last couple of weeks, my range gets extendes by 3 half tones. Some songs sound better to me if I play them higher than I usually do. I know the basic chord grips I need for the song and because I need to go on autopilot; I put on the capo and sing it in a key that fits me on THAT exact moment.

Learning a new song is useless for me without a capo. I learn to play the basic chords and I will search for the key that overlaps most with my range.

If you want to learn how to play AND sing; work in layers and buy a capo.
Try recording your guitar and sing over that first. Does the key even fit you?
try to find a key by sliding the capo up and down and test the recordign to your singing.
don’t worry about it being all good.

focus on comfort first
I trust you will FEEL in which key you manage best to cover the lows or reach the highs.
That’s the playground you want to play in.

then start of trying to hum or “lalala” over your playing.
don’t stop playing. if you need to stop something, stop singing for a moment but keep on playing. Rhythm is the leader. There are plenty enough threads here about learning how to sing and play together but singing itself needs practice and maintainance.

you can train your ear to listen to yourself but if you don’t sing for weeks, you will lose your souplesse and power. As soon as you can play and sing a little together, you are practicing both.

some songs you can transpose with a capo, other you might want to transpose with this tool
this tool allows you to copy paste a song with chords and it translates them to a different key. Try to find a shift that ends up with chords that suit you. you can still use your capo from there on!
Next to my capo, that is the second most important thing when I quick want to figure out if a certain songs suits me or not…and in what key.

To wrap up, some tips.

  • Singing is about “brilliance on the basics”. fidn a good range and but the biggest effort in doing what you can but -better-. Listen to Johnny Cash. He sings rather low and his voice gets rougher every decade but he has control. you should have absolute control of your basics. build upon that but don’t go skipping octaves and doing jumps if you’re still struggling with pitch in your comfort zone. This isn’t a guitar where you go pick a different note on the other side of the fretboard. This is you getting a firm grip of control on your homeland while your gradually expand your borders, up and down the range. don’t do “decorative” stuff in songs if your singing skills are still basic. all the curly stuff singers like Rihanna and Christina Aguilera do only work when you actually -nail- it.
  • drink a lot of water, before, while and after singing.
  • avoid soda/pop/sugary stuff. Nothing wrong with an occasional beer or whiskey; it even will loosen you up a little but drink a lot of water still!
  • your favourite songs to hear =/= your best songs to sing. Make peace with that. When you get better, you’ll take a humbling and ambitous take on them but try to find easier songs you like first and find a good range.
  • open up, emotionally. singing songs can be jolly cumbaya but the best stuff, comes from the heart.
  • get over the shame you feel because somebody is listening. Holding back is terrible for your pitch and power.
  • don’t feel dumb because you can’t play and sing right away. I always admired people who could play and sing. wow. I couldn’t understand it. envied them. Then I just started. My first song was “where is my mind” by the pixies. It has bar chords. Then I tried Creep by Radiohead. Als bar chords.
    Needless to say, the power in my thumb and fingers developed way quicker than my singing voice and my bar chords went better and better. Then I learned to fingerpick. Then I learned to add decorations to my chords while fingerpicking (All thanks to Justin,using sus2,sus4 and 9 chords are pillars to my fignerpicking today.)
    You build up in layers and it all starts with quarternote strums :)
    when you got that basic, droning rhythm daown and you can sing a few notes while your song is consistent, you conquered a BIG hurdle.

Get up, stand up!
I really think you should consider trying some guitar practice standing up.
If you struggle with power,stability, high or low notes, standing up will enable you to have a good straight posture, both feet on the ground, chin straight but not up.

Do this and imagine yourself yelling “hey” to somebody you know 100 feet away. Your body needs to build tension in your abdomen and you take control of your diaphragm for a second. This is the first step to achieve “vocal support” and you could try to emulate that when singing long notes, high notes, low notes…


This is really good advice and I recognize many of the things I should have been doing for decades. Anyone aspiring to to sing and play or just sing. Read this. Thank you @LievenDV :sunglasses:


100% Lieven

Just like we can learn to play we can learn to sing. Sure we may never reach the levels of our favorite artists BUT we can reach levels that are enjoyable for us and others.


I can’t stand my voice.

Great advice, but not sure I 100% believe you. I feel I’m a lost cause when it comes to singing. I’ll focus more on playing for now.

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Great thread. I’m an accidental singer. When I started playing, I never expected to sing. The guitar players I talked to said it’s a lot harder to play and sing and all I ever cared about was being able to play the guitar so mentally I had zero expectation of singing.

The first song I learned (from Justin’s songbook) was the simplified Blowin in the Wind. (A E and D).

My wife would have sung that song maybe 50 or 60 times when I quite by accident started singing along in the chorus. A big light went off in my head - “maybe this isn’t so hard after all” and I’ve been singing ever since. And it’s such a great tonic.

Like it was said earlier, your voice is a muscle and the more you use it the more it develops.

In the earlier years of my singing, when I’d record my voice I really didn’t like it. That feeling has mellowed at lot and at times I enjoy hearing my recorded voice.

Several years ago I came across Justin’s lesson on playing and singing. It was fascinating to hear all the detail he went into and while it was simpler than that for me, I can see that such detail would be helpful for some.

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I’ve done a lot of singing by now and I still cringe on half the lines I hear myself singing. We are our worst critics. I can hear that I sing correctly, apply a certain technique, use melody lines and apply creative ideas. I can evaluate whether it is bad-good-or even above my usual level.
Still… brrr it’s remain so akward to hear the timbre of my voice :smiley:

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Thanks @LievenDV !!
A lot of great tips!

I find my self have to use a capo to change the key in songs most of the time. Probably 70% of what i sing have to be changed with a capo. Im not even close to be able to change keys on the fretboard without a capo.

Thanks again! :+1:

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Thanks so much for sharing Lieven, I have the feeling I’ll revisit this topic more than once.

I’m one of those who never thought about singing, making the strings ring and playing in time was hard enough :rofl:
Then it just happened. Stil struggle with certain strumming patterns but that s a different conversation.

Thanks again!

And thanks to @tRONd for posting here, I wouldn’t have come across it otherwise.

Great post. I think the point above is your most important one. Some of the best vocal performances I’ve heard have been absolutely terrifying and inspiring at once, often by people who don’t have “good voices”.

I hear you… I would love to sing but get told my my family that I sing ‘out of tune’.

I watched the ‘3 awesome rock vocal tricks’ lesson with Chris Liepe https://www.justinguitar.com/guitar-lessons/3-awesome-rock-vocal-tricks-sg-333. I think that is when I finally realised that the voice is an instrument too that you can learn how to use.

I then signed up for Chris Liepe’s free training. I did give up (for now) because I can’t practice singing without sending my family into hysterics, and the house isn’t big enough for them not to hear me! Chris’ most memorable tip for me was to sing with a tuner app (such as built into Garageband on the Mac) to try to sing particular notes. The one time I tried I discovered that I sing about two or three semi-tones too low - no wonder I sound out of key to other people (even though I sound spot on inside my own head!).

I also tried out the ‘Singer’s Studio’ app on my phone - this also helps identify your range and fine-tune (or rough-tune) your note singing accuracy.

I’ll need to try to find those moments when everyone else is out of the house to try to sing notes in key again!


Exactly my problem and the reason I don’t sing!

Did you see the video Chris Liepe did recently, where he talks about how he warned his university dorm neighbours that he would be practicing singing at the dorm?

Might be helpful in your situation.

At some point, I’m going to dig into Chris’s lessons…they seem really good!

They already complain to me about my guitar playing, which IS better than my singing…
That being said on Friday when I was home alone I was practicing with the Singer’s Studio app, singing “La-La-La” up two semitones and back down again. I think I’m getting better already! It’s almost like a video game trying to keep the line charting the note you’re singing in the right place!

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playing standing up is so much better for your playing posture - your shoulders don’t get all hunched up, and your neck stays straighter, and it is a million times better for singing and getting some air through your pipes.
Plus the guitar feels completely different - in a good way - because it’s not sitting on your leg, - especially for players of dreadnoughts, or GA sized instruments


I have new found respect for anyone that can sing and play guitar at the same time


Good advice thanks!!! :slight_smile:

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It’s kind of ironic for me. About 75% of people are afraid to speak in front of a crowd, which is something I got over about 35 years ago. At least as long as I knew my subject, and had enough time to organize my speech. Remember, those people are there to hear you because they want to, so you typically have a friendly audience to start. Still, I get so nervous playing and singing guitar in public, it’s something I’m working on, by playing for people, with my wife first. The problem I find with getting nervous, is I forget to relax and breathe and my playing turns to a train wreck. So I’m working on breathing and relaxing, trying to play like I do when practicing. I look to Derek Trucks as someone I’m trying emulate (I wish I could emulate his slide skills, but this is about being calm) when he plays because he looks totally focused and related. I also find getting emotional about a song while playing it, often makes for a better song, but then that emotion interferes with my playing.

I keep practicing, thankfully because I enjoy playing, and I try to remember if I make mistakes it’s OK because everyone does, I try to accept and laugh at them, and continue.


11 posts were split to a new topic: Who could, only after practice, sing in tune?

Lately, I’ve been told I can sing. But I’m still not satisfied with it, so I intend to take lessons once I get the guitar playing up a few notches.

Drinking water, standing up, all great advice.

Here’s what I do:

I quit smoking a year ago this coming Sunday, July 10th. Instant improvement in clarity and keeping notes longer. Good cardio exercises will help also.

And a lot of listening and singing. I sing on a daily basis, biking, walking, working. For those who don’t want to sing when others are around, I sing while driving my car, sometimes with the song playing, but most of the time acapella.

The vocal chords are an instrument to be treated with care, but it can be tuned. I believe everyone can improve. I’ve witnessed it here on this site. DavidP is the first name that comes to mind.


:partying_face: :sunglasses: :sunglasses:
This will help you in a dozen+ things…Well done

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