Beginner Singers, I Feel Your Pain! - What Learning Guitar Taught Me About Singing

Learning to play the guitar is hard! I started a couple months ago and now can officially play about 5 chords. (Baby steps are better than no steps.) 🙂

Now that I’m trying to learn a new instrument, it gave me some insights into what kinds of approaches beginners should take when learning how to sing.

In this video, I’ll show you my best tips and takeaways  that will help you grow your singing practice, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced singer.

It’s best to practice in short blocks of time, as often as possible (daily is best).  Progress takes time. Make adjustments, internalize new sensations, but know that you might need to sleep on a new skill or technique before it clicks. It’s better to revisit new sensations every day, even if only for a little while, than to practice for several hours once a week.

Take a break sometimes! Take some time, step away, and sleep on it. Know when to call it a day when you’ve exhausted yourself from practicing too much and return when you’re physically, emotionally, and mentally ready.

Happy practice makes for faster progress. When learning a new skill don’t get down on yourself. Instead, be silly, laugh at yourself, and have fun while you’re practicing. Believe it or not, that mindset shift and positive outlook will lead to faster progress.

If any of you are learning a new skill (singing, guitar, or a new instrument), can you relate to this process? Let me know!

I hope these tips, approaches, and mindsets will help get you to the next level. Good luck!

 

xo Fel

AUTHOR

Felicia Ricci

All stories by: Felicia Ricci
41 comments
  • India
    REPLY

    Oh Fel! I'm glad to see this and be reminded of some of these things--especially practicing 15 min a day. I'm really breaking out the EFT to get back to practicing but 15 minutes is a great way to trick myself into starting. Do you think you will start writing songs now? I think you would be a natural.

    Thanks again!

  • Patrick
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    Wow. You are great. I appreciate hearing the practicing tips. I can be so hard on myself to be really really good at something and loose sight of the fact that it just takes time. I have been playing the guitar for many years - it has taken that long for me to get good at playing. I need to remember that that applies to my singing as well. I have only been singing for about a year and a half - I should not expect myself to be professional ... yet! Good reminders. Thank you.

  • Cat
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    There is some really interesting research about sleep, dreaming, and the way the brain forms memories that reinforces what Fel is saying about the passage of time, and making practice a daily habit even if it is in small increments. Same for play and the way our brains learn. Great advice; it works!

  • Mireya
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    Hi Felicia, I'm so glad to see this video of you. I've been following your videos on singing for a couple of months now and have found them really useful. A couple of months ago I decided to start learning how to sing and how to play the guitar, so I started both at the same time. As you can imagine, I couldn't feel more identified with what you say in this video. All your tips are very useful, so please keep posting and keeping us motivated!

  • Sarah
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    Fel!

    I took singing lessons a long long time ago and had to stop, because I wasn't getting anything out of it anymore and it was getting too expensive. Fast forward 6 years- I bought myself a guitar. I've always wanted to learn how to play! I taught myself some simple songs that I could sing along with and I feel that it has helped me out tremendously with my singing. I like trying to match the person I'm singing with and adding the guitar element makes it that much more of a stellar experience. Especially when the singers do a funky thing with their voice that corresponds with how they play the song.

    I really liked your tip about practicing in shorts spurts, compared to practicing for longer. I still have a hard time with people listening to me play, so I wait until my house is empty and cram in a quick playthrough of a few songs.

    Thank you for everything!

  • Noémie
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    Making a sound when you mess up is a great idea! It's true that pretending to have fun often leads to really having fun. It's so hard to not be hard on ourselves (lol) thank you for helping with this really practical exercise. I'll be trying it no later than today 😉

  • GregEastwood
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    Very nice Fel,keep at it..........you'll be great.......I f you've listened to my songs on reverbnation then you can tell i'm more of a country type singer songwriter ...........what i would like to know is how does Brian Johnson of AC DC do it ?..........

  • Gloria
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    Oh Fel, This was Awesome!!
    So many great tips, the juiciest for me was to take it lightly!!
    to have fun and joy.. yes that is the reason we play music.. and sing.
    Sometimes I forget this and get all caught up in being perfect and trying to impress others.
    Thank you sooo much for the reminder, I love your joy and honesty.

    I am a guitar player and remember what you are going thru.. keeping it light is the best advise EVER 😀

    Love & hugs
    Gloria

  • Joan Daley
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    That was great! My husband and I started singing with the worship team at church 2 1/2 years ago. I found your videos and learned soooo much! Thank you by the way! Then a couple months later I started learning how to play guitar. In April of last year, I started playing guitar at church as well as singing, and people started asking me to teach them. I am still a beginner myself, but yes, the best advice and encouragement I can give them is to practice in small time slots, multiple times a day. I tell them if your fingers get sore, STOP! take a break and come back in an hour or two. It is the same with singing, right? If you start straining to hit that note, you're gonna set yourself back, and learn bad habits that create more stress. I loved the Belting Crash Course, and still do vocal warm ups with the whiny baby voice. And I used my mic to save my vocal cords! Keep up the guitar! You are doing great!

  • Danny C.
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    Fel, you hit it right on the head. You give us so many good ideas that are very helpful but we have to take those ideas and make them our own with lots of practice. Muscle memory is the key to so many things in life whether it's in the brain' eyes, fingers or vocals. That's what makes a painter a painter, a sculptor able to take the right amount off with the right curves, a basketball player able to flick his wrist with just the right amount of thrust for it to swish into the basket and singer to hit the notes He or She is trying to navigate to in the lyrics of a song, all coming to a satisfying and many times an with an emotional high of accomplishment. All as a result of training the right muscles to do the right thing at the right time. "Muscle Memory". But it's very helpful and much appreciated when some gives you tips and understanding that helps you get there a little faster, and I feel that your input to your subscribers accomplishes that for us. Thank You for all your help. DannyC

  • Aldo
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    Great video, Fel! I heard it once described as the slow-fast way approach. Break the task down (a song, for instance) into small chunks (even measure by measure) . Once you master the measure(s), move on to the next one. Tie it together and before you know it, you've mastered the song. It beats playing the song 50-100 times all the way through wrong and determined to play it right the next time!
    I've been there! lol

  • Leilani T.
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    Thank you Fel, I really understand how you feel, I get very frustrated when I'm learning how to sing, I didn't know it was this hard but like you say everyone can sing so I am looking forward In Finding my voice and stop beating myself up lol. How it would be a good 15min. Practice? Keep up with your hard work you are doing great and don't worry you got this guitar! P.S. Keep being yourself you funy???????? blessings????

  • Nathy
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    You always so funny Fel! I love your videos! I'm learning to play bass right now and I agree with all that you are saying here. When I'm tired I stop to play for a while and when I'm back it's so much better! And learning really takes a lot of time, but someday we can do that. Kissus!

  • Deryl Mogg
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    Fel:

    I played a guitar as a teenager.... poorly. Haven't even picked it up in over 30 years. I picked up a ukulele about 4 years ago and fell in love with it. I am self taught (between google and youtube you can learn to be a brain surgeon I swear).

    Each and every point that you brought up was exactly how I learned to play. I get a lot of people asking me to teach them and those points are the ones that I start out with early on.

    1: Practice in short blocks. (Never put your instrument back in it's case. Leave it hanging on the wall where you see it every day. Pick it up and strum what you are trying to learn for 30 seconds or a minute, you might find that you practice even longer than that, - I once played for 5 hours and my fingers were so sore and it was 3 am I had to stop -)

    2: If you really don't feel like playing then stop and don't beat yourself up. (One day I picked up my uke and I just couldn't play it so I put it down for 10 days. This was after playing daily for over an hour each day for months. Around day 7 I started to wonder if I had quit trying to play the Uke. After 10 days I picked it up and realized that I could play those hard chord progressions so easily, the same ones I was struggling with and thinking that I would never get. How did that happen? You and I both know that.... the brain is a very powerful organ/tool/instrument.

    3: Playing a ukulele is happy music, it is fun, it never fails to bring a smile to the face; even just walking down the street with it. You cannot help but laugh and it makes mistakes so much less stressful and so much more fun.

    Thanks for everything Fel.

    Yours Truly,

    Deryl

  • ThatsEarlBrother
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    One of the greatest gift is teaching someone how to learn.The art of teaching is the pinnacle of achievement! No matter the subject and you have it in spades.I teach and play guitar( watch your thumb position)well use to i am getting chops back to return to supp.income.Thank you for sharing.I may some day be a paying student as i will probably be performing at some small establishments that have opened up in the area(wineries and such.)Mainly jazz standards etc.Anyway Nice beginner lesson!

  • me
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    I wanted to tell you that you've really helped me out with the belting.
    I'm more positive in my singing as though before I was blocked on this break between my speaking voice and my head voice. And I can really relate to the guitar thing;) I've started learning the guitar about a year ago and I've made progress, but little at a time and sometimes I see that my hands did it without me thinking about it and I'm all happy.

  • Simone
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    Hi, Fel
    I suffered from the same problem when I started both playing the guitar and singing (more recently). What's worse is that I felt I needed to know stuff beforehand, and that I just needed to do everything perfectly all the time (I am a bit of a perfectionist). Then I realised that if I knew how to sing or play the guitar I wouldn't be learning, and that I was supposed to make mistakes and be happy about the learning process. Mistakes mean you are trying and you are putting yourself out there. When there is no risk, there's no reward, stuff like that.
    Thanks for the videos and all the encouragement. And congratulations on the progress! Keep it up!

  • Missy Ellis
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    I can totally relate as I'm now trying to learn the guitar also. I, too, have gotten really frustrated with myself for getting it wrong and that's when I know it's time to quit for the day. But I like your idea of laughing at your mistakes instead of cursing yourself. I'll try to remember that as I struggle along. It's very true about practicing a little each day rather than for hours one day only. Somehow those muscles seem to learn despite what a train wreck the practice might have been. Just keep swimming...just keep swimming. Thanks for your insight and for sharing your experiences!

  • Stepharoth
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    Fel, you're like my hero. Love your videos. I picked up guitar as my first ever instrument about a year ago and it has been a battle in my mind ever since. Depression and music can be the weirdest excuse for self-torture sometimes, but I've been trying to keep positive like you suggest here. Something similar that's worked for me is making myself stop playing/singing when I first start getting the negative moodlets. If I stop playing while I'm having fun (and while itching for more), I'm hoping it will become a more positive association in my mind when I sit down to practice the next day. Will have to see how that goes! Also, meditation has helped with all the things, everywhere, always. It's just getting myself to sit down and do it that seems difficult in the moment. :/

    I can't wait to see your guitarings improve! What songs do you want to learn first?! If you've not checked it out already, Rocksmith is such a helpful tool once you reach the 6 month marker. Any sooner was a bit much for my hands to process as the notes were flying at my eyeballs, but it's been invaluable since. Instant feedback for mistakes is very addicting!

    You rock, keep on being cewwwwl.

  • John Porter
    REPLY

    Felicia,

    Great tip a good time for me as the regularity of my voice practice is not good.

    Did come across your TED talk this week which I found quite enjoyable. It seems you are in the midst of several journeys simultaneously.

    Cheers,

    John Porter

  • Tom
    REPLY

    I started playing guitar a bit, and the wear and tear on the fingers is incredible! I think your ideas are right on. Wish I had started 40 years ago playing. It really does take time. Keep going! My daughter has made incredible progress with her guitar in just a year or so. Glad to see you "branching out"!

  • Julie
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    I think of my 10 minutes practice each day as my relaxation time, and I have made it a habit to practice guitar/singing before I go to bed. Like you said in the video, I don't put any pressure on myself even when learning something new. This is my hobby, if it isn't fun, then I need a new hobby. It took me quite a while to start changing chords on guitar fast enough to play songs, but once you get past that, you can play with other people and it gets really fun. Good luck!

  • Robert
    REPLY

    HI Fel
    I am going through exactly the same thing except i am trying to learn how to sing and learn musical instruments! I just turned 63 the other day so i am probably twice your age. I have a full time job that i have had for 20 years. I am finding it extremely hard to play my electric guitar. I feel your pain and your tips and videos help me greatly.
    Thanks
    Robert

  • Mette Kat
    REPLY

    Thank you Fel ????
    It makes total sense.
    I'm a singer and I've just started on the ukulele ( as well as picking up as many singing advice from you as I can find )
    I really feel confident because I do like you, I laugh ( sometimes hysterically ) when it sounds terrible. My fingers are soar and I stil, enjoy it. ( yousician got me started and it's a wonderful tool to guide you.)
    Thanks for the happy reminder tho- some days it's easy for me to get mad and fall down that rabbit hole.

    Happy Easter/Earth Hour ????????

  • Alex
    REPLY

    Hey Fel, I've been playing guitar for 20 yrs and Im learning how to sing properly using your videos and with guitar, progress comes in stages. If you keep picking that guitar up everday, one day you will suddenly find yourself in another stage of progress.
    Your tips are awesome and if I can keep even a little of what you share in mind while singing it goes a long way.

  • Bob
    REPLY

    Hi Fel
    I play the guitar and always felt I couldn't sing because I never bothered to find out what key best suits my voice. I tend to sing close to the key of "A". I still have a ways to go using your tips but I am gaining confidence after going through this exercise and recording myself. I would like your view on this.
    Thanks for the help.
    Bob

  • Michael
    REPLY

    Hi there
    Yes I can relate
    I was talking to my Girlfiend about muscle memory last night
    When I first started learning to play guitar , all I had to lean on for reference was an extensive drum background
    Before learning to play drums , all I had was tapping my foot and some of my mom's expensive cook wear , for dinging and denting
    ... Which , by the way , is an exellent way to get your parents to buy you a drum set .
    Anyway , the first few months of picking up any new skill will take a lot of perseverence , so by all means , have fun first an foremost .
    Now , when I play , I try to learn note runs and speed and accuracy , that I have not tried yet
    If I am only hitting scales in defending order , I switch to ascending
    Then I speed up the process
    Then I trie to do it as fast as possible
    Then I do it as fast as possible without any flubs or foul ups
    Then I start in the middle and alternate high and low notes
    Then I find out ( guitar) where every possible run on the neck is , as to not limit myself to one area of the guitar
    It becomes a huge note blender
    After all of that , I choose an alternate scale to mix with the scale I just learned
    This is where really interesting note combinations begin to take form
    As far as vocals , it depends on the day
    I can sing in many registers and styles
    I'm just not consistent , day to day
    I find it helpful to record and save
    On a " jeez this sound craptastic " day , I sometimes stumble upon an old recording of a not so craptastic day .... And it all comes back

  • Glau Almeida
    REPLY

    I'm so happy I'm not alone, I tend to start doing something for my own pleasure and then everything is about being perfect, the best there is and then comes frustration. I've always wanted to be a singer, but life happened and I got depression. Only recently I've been better anf trying to fight for what I always loved to do. That always filled my heart with joy, I even started to consider musical theatre, something I love.
    The problem is now I feel like I've wasted my time and I'm trying to make up for it by trying to rush things that take time.
    I really love your videos, you're so honest and open that even from Brazil I feel conected to you and what you say.
    Thank you for the lovely job.

  • Alexandra
    REPLY

    Thank you so much for this. I have really been learning that progress takes time the hard way. I have been singing for awhile but after some extended illness I have been getting frustrated with myself not being back to full energy and standard after some time.
    I am going to remind myself of these three tips as often as I can.
    Thanks so much!!!!

  • Elize
    REPLY

    Dear Fel, thank you once again for an excellent video! You make things so logical that I immediately get the picture... from now on my visualization is round sounds/notes accompanied by breath and grounded to mother earth! thanks x

  • Ron
    REPLY

    Fel,

    Trying to learn to play/sing Break Away by Rik Emmett (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F6slLFBdP4) eventually led me to your videos. I really enjoy your style and enthusiasm..keep up the great work and I look forward to practicing diligently and learning from you. I have my first finger blister in more than 2 decades of guitar playing from practicing this song this past week! But it is the voice that needs work (wah ; )

    Evangelinformatics.com

  • Adrianne
    REPLY

    Hi Fel!
    This really Helped me! I have been singing for a while and haven't the best. But when I found your videos it totally changed me! You really helped me find my voice! Thanks so much!

  • Deirdra Brown
    REPLY

    Fel,

    Thank you for being the wonderful person that you are! You have given me so much confidence in my singing. I hope someday when I am finally at a place to do so, I could help others just as you have helped so many. Thank you!

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