Every Guitarist Should Sing
As part of my lessons, I like to encourage my students to sing (GASP!). I know, it’s scary. But it’s also highly beneficial. The voice is the one instrument with which everybody is endowed and should feel comfortable utilizing. For most of us, it’s our first indoctrination into music. Singing in a school choir or belting out children’s melodies is the earliest foray into performance for much of the Western world. But it’s also one of the things we are most self-conscious about as adults. But aside from the fact that everyone can do it, there are many reasons I encourage my students to sing.
1. It fills out the song. The function of the acoustic guitar is mostly harmonic in pop music. Or more simply, it is meant to support a melody. As such, many popular songs are merely a small selection of chords repeated for the duration of the recording. This can be really boring to play by itself. However, if we add a vocal part, the song becomes much more interesting (and challenging) to perform. Lyrics add variation to song and make it feel more complete. Moreover, by doing two things at once, we are a degree of difficulty to the performance.
2. It makes them uncomfortable. That sounds weird, I realize. But part of getting better at anything means becoming comfortable being uncomfortable. If you are not a trained singer, belting out a tune can feel very goofy. Ultimately, that can be a good thing. Often a student comes in so nervous and wound up they can hardly perform. But when we start singing, they often feel weird and start laughing. The tension cedes from their body, they become relaxed and stop taking everything so seriously. In the grander scheme of things, music isn’t all that vital for our survival. So when we play our instruments we should have fun with it and treat it as a light, joyous occasion, not a reflection of our worth.
3. I’m not particularly good at it. Sometimes when I play something on guitar, a student might occasionally say something like “It sounds so good when you play it, but it doesn’t sound good when I play it.” Well, guess what? It’s not going to sound good when I sing it as I am not a trained singer. I’ve taken some vocal lessons and my instructor told me I had a naturally strong voice, but ultimately I realized I didn’t want to put in the hours to become a professional-level singer. I’d rather spend my time on the guitar. So when I sing it shows the student that I’m not good at everything, but I’m also not afraid to be vulnerable. I think that helps them feel more comfortable making mistakes and being imperfect in the studio.