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Basic Method         Exercises        Singing and Playing    

Singing "invites" music into your head.  It's very important.

When I was playing my best I was a very good singer.   I could hear the guitar part I wanted before I played it (or as I played it).     

On a horn, "you have to breathe the note out.  That gives horn players a certain focus that other musicians sometimes don't have."      -Pat Methany

The same is true for singing.

Most important.

Sing loud and sing different tones.

Sing until your throat hurts,
then stop.  Don't push it, you could damage your vocal chords.

Drink water.   Stay hydrated and keep your vocal cords safe.

Sing with a piano or guitar
as you play scales and chords.

Sing the solfege syllables  Do, Re, Mi,   (see ear training).

Sing over a single chord to hear how the notes interact with the key.  Do this for every note.

Sing over chord progressions to hear how the notes interact in the key.

Jam with people.  Focus on the rhythm.  Make rhythmic sounds and don't worry about the words.

Sing along with CD's

Practice clean singing and metal growls and screams.  
Screams toughen up your vocal chords and help you make different tones.  Clean singing helps you get the right notes.  Even if you hate metal, practice it.  It helps you project and sing from the diaphragm.

Basic Method

Breath Capacity
To sing good, you need lung capacity.  

Exercise builds up your lungs and helps you focus.
Jogging can destroy your knees.  Biking or roller blading is safer and you can sing while you do it.

Sing as loud as you can.   Go for a walk in the forest so it's not embarrassing.  Take your metronome.

Inhale as much air as you can, then "gulp" down 5-10 more mouthfuls of air.  Be careful.  You're stretching your lungs.

Smoking hurts your ability to sing.   It makes your throat "scratchy".  It affects your tone.  It makes you more likely to get sick after hard singing.

Listening leads to Singing  

Singers follow the chord progression and bass (harmony).  They might be singing different notes, but they're blending and interacting with the harmony.   Before you can sing different notes, you have to sing the same notes.    See listening

Hum or sing the background chords
 (not the melody).  This helps you hear the chord progression.   

Add rhythm to your singing,
 try to match the rhythm of the song.  Sing nonsense syllables to the beat.

Add 'feeling' by changing your tone and dynamics
Sing louder or softer.  Add warbles, or bends.   Sing with a clear voice, sinister, bouncy and happy, gravelly, death metal growl, boy band, blues, etc.   Have fun with it.

Singing in Key 

 When you sing without a mic, you might be sharp or flat.
The music sounds different as it comes "through your head", instead of "into your ears".  This is why your talking voice sounds different when it's recorded.

Sing into your cupped hands and redirect your voice into your ears.  
This is a great "natural mic".  I used to sing in the bar like this.  (Needs picture)

Sing into the corner of a room.  You'll hear the sound bouncing off the wall and back into your ears.   Sing in the shower.   Sing under bridges.

Buy open air headphones
You can easily hear yourself singing while wearing them.   Get a cheap mic and small amp and sing while music is playing.    If it makes feedback put a pillow in front of it.   Get a karaoke machine.

Sing into a guitar tuner to check your Intonation.

Jam with people.
It's so loud you'll have to listen to the amp.  You can't hear anything else.  This is the best way.  Listen to everyone and interact. Protect your ears with loose fitting earplugs.

Sing scales and chords.  
See Ear training.

Record a chord progression that defines a key* and sing over top of it.
*Play the same chord over and over, or play a 1, 4, 5 (or five 7) chord progression.  See defining chord progressions.  

Singing with a CD

Sing with the singer on songs you know.   Now you're singing the melody (over the chord progression).  

Sing different notes that might sound good.   For fast lyrics, move your tongue to the rhythm and sing "nonsense syllables" that fit.  

Beat box* a rhythm pattern with your mouth.
It makes your tongue faster, and makes it move to the rhythm.       *simulate drum or rhythmic noises

Clear your throat    

It makes your tone clear.
Say "Ha" using your diaphragm muscle (lower stomach).  Make it an "air" sound.  Force it out fast, several times, then cough.  
Say "Ha" and turn it into a wheezing sound (like an old man with emphysema.)  Then cough.
Scream as loud as you can, and work it through several different tones, then cough.

There's also  a spray product that opens your vocal chords. I haven't tried it.  

Adding Variety

Find a singer who sings high or low.  Practice with their music.   
Low singing requires more air movement and open vocal chords.  It will probably be quieter.  High singing requires tighter vocal chords and can "break" or waver easier.

Use a mic, amp and tuner.


It can be high or low.  It sounds good amplified, if you do it right it's hard to tell the difference.

You can change your sound by
The way you open and close your mouth.
The tension in your jaw and throat.
The way you breathe.
The way you change your syllables.

Sing bass tones like a bass guitar.
Sing like a rhythm guitar.

Use spoken words instead of singing.


Try to make your voice clear, style appropriate** and sexy.  Men are attracted to higher voices, and women are attracted to lower.  
Try accenting certain words to the beat. 

**Heavy metal is scratchy, distorted, deep and scary.   Country pop music is sexy and charismatic.

Singing while Jamming

 Jamming is one of the keys to inspired music.

Close your eyes and sway to the rhythm.  
Get your body moving, head bang, jump up and down.   Dance to the rhythm.   Focus on the music as it moves past you. Each moment is a moment waiting for you to express yourself.  

Don't worry about words or thoughts or what people think.  
Don't worry about keys, chords or scales.  Clear your mind and sing along with rhythmic tones.  
Sing any sounds and words that pop into your head.  
Sing with feeling.  Use your tones and dynamics (loud and soft).  Try to feel the music as it's happening.  

Let your subconciouse react.
Different tones come out at different volumes.   Get closer (or farther) from the mic to control your volume, while keeping the right tone.   Cup your hands behind the mic to make the sound fuller.          

"It should all be done with the microphones."      -Jimmy Page

Project your voice and sing as loud as you can.  
Jamming is very loud.  

Harmonize with the other instruments.   

Blend with them.  Ask the band to play quieter at times.    

Sing until you're sick with a sore throat.
I used to do this once or twice a week.  I got very good.  When your throat starts to hurt from growling and screaming, ask the band to play quieter and work on gentle singing.  When that starts to hurt, work on spoken word parts.   When that starts to hurt, STOP.   Be carefull.  Damage can be permanent.   If in doubt, stop.

All the singing sites say that's a bad idea, but it works for me.  
Use your own discretion.


Look in the ear training section for a lot more exercises.  Use the ear training charts.  Practice these with your guitar or piano to get the intonation right.  

Sing a note, then sing the octave (higher or lower)

Sing a note.  'Glissando' or bend to the next octave  (like a trombone sliding)

Sing a note.  Sing the octave.  Sing any notes in between  

Pick a different note, 
sing the octave.  Try to sing the same intervals for the middle notes.

octaves same intervals                

Sing Scales

C2  Ionian scale  (C2 faster)      (C2 faster)    (Fastest)
C3 Ionian scale     (C3 faster)    (C3 faster)    (fastest)
C4 Ionian scale    (C4 faster)    (C4 faster)    (fastest)
C5 Ionian scale    (C5 faster)    (C5 faster)     (fastest)


Sing the scale notes your skipping.   This reminds you of all the possibilities. 

Sing all twelve notes.
   It also reminds you of possibilities.

Sing any lyric as many ways as you can.  
Use your mouth, throat and diaphragm.  Extend certain words, then shorten them.  Change the pitch for different words.  Change the tone.  Change the accents.  Change the volume.
Words are the least important part of singing.
If you use the same words, you don't have to think about words.  Many people avoid singing because they don't know what to say.

Pretend your singing a foreign language.   

Create a rhythmic lyric line and sing it to the beat.  
This gets your tongue and mouth moving.

Some lines are very fast because your mouth doesn't trip over itself.  This is how some people rap at 200 mph.
You'll find many fast flowing lines if you sing to yourself all day.

Rhythmic syllables are "ka ta fa la sa ma cha ra pa"  Mix them up into different patterns.  
Each one requires a slightly different tongue and mouth movement.

Tone sounds are     ay     ah      ee     oo (sue)     oh     uh     mm (hum)     rr (are)     nn (win)   etc

Sing tongue twisters as fast as you can.
Tongue twisters

Make drum sounds.   You can sound like a synth drum set.   Pretend you're playing the drums with your hands.

Sing a phrase to the beat of the metronome (or drum machine), then sing a phrase against the beat.   Repeat and make variations.

Visualize a "pattern" in your mind.  Sing any note that's higher or lower.  

singing patternsEach can be sung a LOT of ways.  

Try to hit four right notes       
Try to hit four wrong notes.
Try three right notes, and one wrong note.

Sing a note, sing a different note.  
Sing the first note, sing any different note.  Continue the pattern

same note

Sing a note, then sing any different note
Sing the original note, then sing a note "1 note higher or lower" than the last one.  


Singing and Playing 

This takes time.  You have to be able to play something.  You need to go on "autopilot" and let your fingers do it.  
There are ways to simplify this.

Play one chord with a simple rhythm (or straight 1/4 notes).  Repeat it over and over.  
Sing along with any notes.  

This helps you create melodies.  If you only play the root chord (tonic) you get a good sense of the melody right from the start.   This is a great way to start writing songs.  

"The point of music is to tell stories with the melody…  You don’t care what chords are underneath, it’s the basic feeling of the song that gets you immediately.”         -Carlos Santana           

Play two chords.  Repeat them in the same rhythmic pattern.  
Sing whatever you like.  When you find something that works, sing it over and over.  

Create a cycling riff without a rhythm (an 8 note pattern of 1/8th notes.  etc.)
Try to keep the riff simple.  Sing notes and listen to how they interact.   If you can't do that, sing one long note that sounds good to you.  Try to make your vocal part rhythmic.  Listen to how your voice interacts with the riff.  

Create a rhythmic riff.  Sing "La" to the rhythm while you play.  This gets your tongue moving rhythmically.  When you can sing the rhythm, try singing a few notes that work.  

Sing the notes you're playing on the guitar.
This helps you find notes on your guitar.   It also helps you imagine and remember possibilities.  

Sing a note before you play it.  
If your wrong, sing the wrong note OR sing the right note again and try to find it.
If you watch Jimi Hendrix, he's pretending to sing the whole time.   Steve Vai does it.  So does Joe Satriani and thousands of other guitar players.  

With a little practice you'll be able to improvise a guitar and vocal part at the same time.  
It's fun and it helps you get in the zone.   It forces you to simplify your guitar part so the vocals can fit better.

"My guitar and voice are almost interchangeable.  I'm in my best state when I really know the song and can sing it well, and I know the chords perfectly and where I am on the guitar at all times.  It's a thing of feeling very continuous between the guitar player and the singer.   It's a neat feeling, almost magical."       -Jerry Garcia