Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Yet another singing question...where to sing the melody???

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Darcy Hoover, Feb 6, 2008.

  1. Darcy Hoover

    Darcy Hoover Tele-Holic

    I recently took up singing whilst playing, and I'm trying to get my ear and voice together by singing notes, or trying to match a pitch an octave up or down, intervals, etc. and I'm still struggling with which octave to sing at. But I find I have a hard time singing melodies that aren't on the chord root without actually playing the melody.

    For example, an easy song to sing and play, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" with the chords G, G, C, D (for the verse) but the melody goes B B C D B B B etc....

    I find that very hard to sing in key unless I use a looping pedal to play the chords and play the melody underneath. Without playing the melody line, I find I can sing it fine if I transpose the melody line to G G G# A# G G etc...

    This is true for a number of songs....if I base the melody on the chord root I can get along fine. I can basically just pick up and start playing and singing if I start on the chord root, and it doesn't sound off key to me, but as soon as I try to transpose the melody line up or down, I fall apart without the crutch of playing it underneath.

    Is this an acceptable practice (I don't plan on performing, just don't want to scare the cats)? I'm finding it so frustrating trying to sing the original melody (which often seem to be based on the 3rd or 5th of the root chord).

    Any direction appreciated!

  2. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 28, 2006
    NELA, Ca
    My voice is awful tone wise. I mean really lousy. but I learned how to hear and sing pitches in school ear training classes. The most basic way - and it's really easiest and best at a keyboard though on guitar is fine - is to play, then sing the notes of a triad.

    Ex; play C E G (I III V), then sing them.
    Next; play and sing together.
    Next; play C, sing E and G
    Next; just sing the triad
    Next; do the same thing for I chord, IV chord, V chord (add other chords in the key as you get more comfortable - iv, ii, iii, etc).
    Do it with various chords and progressions. Etc., etc., etc. You can do this with any type of chords - 3 note, 4 note, major, minor, 7th, etc.
    Start really easy and go slowly. It'll start to work.

    Look on line for an "interval chart". You'll be able to find a page that has a listing of "common intervals in famous songs". For example: a major 3rd interval = the first two notes of "when the saints come marching in". Or a IVth interval = "here comes the bride". Or my favorite: bV = "Maria" from west side story.

  3. rand z

    rand z Friend of Leo's

    Feb 19, 2004
    trumansburg, ny
    ive probably sang as much as anyone here, (going out on a limb) and basically learned from singing along with pop and blues records. copying various styles till i sort have developed my own. 38 years of it.

    technically the melody can start on the tonic and jump almost anywhere: the 5th, 7th for blues, 3rd or 4th... literally anywhere. i wouldnt get hung up on where the melody goes, id just practice singing it along with the recording. then, trying it a capella (alone).

    harmony is based on the 3rd, 4th, 5th etc., too. even the octave. major and minor keys.

    like i said, i wouldnt get hung up on it... most great modern singers know very little about it and dont need to.

    sing along and copy, copy, copy and then forget it and just go out and sing.


    rand z

    ps. you can also take vocal lessons or join a choir etc.

  4. Darcy Hoover

    Darcy Hoover Tele-Holic

    Thanks a ton guys! I'll start playing and singing those triads tonight!

  5. Daddydex

    Daddydex Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2007
    Maybe the guitar is bogging you down. Try using the chord to find the starting note and then practice singing the melody without the guitar. When you get very comfortable with that you can add the guitar again. I do a lot of my vocal rehearsals in my head. You have to get very comfortable with the melody and phrasing before you can really sell the song.


  6. Leon Grizzard

    Leon Grizzard Friend of Leo's

    Mar 8, 2006
    Austin, Texas
    I think Daddydex has the right idea. Sing without the guitar, then add the guitar latter. That's also the best way to figure out what key you sing a song best in. Stand up and sing it a few times; you'll make whatever adjustments you need to hit the highest or lowest notes, and the final note of the song will almost always be the tonic of the key.

  7. emu!

    emu! Poster Extraordinaire

    When the singing melody starts on a note that is not the root or is akward, I usually find that note on my guitar neck when practicing, then just before playing the song live, hit that note a few times before starting the song to get it burned into my brain/ears.


    HOBBSTER01 Friend of Leo's

    Nov 23, 2007
    Ringgold, Ga.
    I usually sing and play with my acoustic first then loop and grab a tele for the chops.

  9. rand z

    rand z Friend of Leo's

    Feb 19, 2004
    trumansburg, ny
    practice, practice, practice...

    its a learned thingy much like riding a bike, driving a car and patting your head whilst rubbing your belly at the same time.

    good luck!

    rand z

  10. 6StringShooter

    6StringShooter TDPRI Member

    Jan 28, 2008
    I've been an acoustic guitar player/singer for years but I had the same problem you did when I first started. Here's how I dealt with it:
    I would figure out the melody and just play it in the same octave that I would eventually sing it (much like you say you've done). Then (if I could) I would play it in some different octave (either higher or lower) so that it could still guide my intervals, but not my pitch so much. That would help to ween me off the melody. Following that, I would begin to strum the chords but just once per change (or measure, i guess). In other words, when you see a song's lyrics with the chords above them, that's basically what I would play. Downbeats only. So if I would see this:
    G C D
    Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
    I would play this:
    G G C D
    Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
    As I got more comfortable with that, I would add more strumming, arpeggios, licks, etc. Next thing I knew, it was sounding just like the album.
    Anyway, that's how I did it. It might work for you, it might not. It was a gradual, drawn out process but looking back on it (and it's been about 8 years since I picked up an acoustic) I'm glad I took the time to do it. It has kept my playing very clean and precise. I hope this might be of some help to you!

  11. 6StringShooter

    6StringShooter TDPRI Member

    Jan 28, 2008
    the dadgum spacing won't stay on the chords, but hopefully you get the idea...:D

  12. Darcy Hoover

    Darcy Hoover Tele-Holic

    Thanks for all the great advice guys. I really want to be able to do this and I'm suprised at how difficult it is for me. I'm on nights so just spent a few hours recording a number of songs that I thought were coming along nicely, recorded the guitar parts with a looping pedal so I didn't have to worry about playing....unfortunately I sound far worse than I think I do whilst singing, pretty cringe-worthy actually. I think my ear and voice haven't figured out how to get along just yet, but hopefully I am moving in the right direction and improving! I especially like the "singing those triads and developing my ear" advice, get my ear tuned up, and I just went out and bought "Singing for Dummys"!

  13. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Atlanta/Rome, Georgia, US
    Your car/vehicle is your rehearsal room. Ever since I was a little boy, I sang my guts out in the car along to the radio as mom or dad was carting me around. Sing in unison, sing 3rds and 5ths. To this day, whenever I drive my car, I start singing immediately and don't let up until I park and there's no music. I don't view this as an exercise or a discipline, it's just what I naturally do.

    That said, there are plenty of things that don't (or didn't) come naturally to me. For instance, I'm far more comfortable singing harmonies above a main melody line than I am with with nailing pitches below it. And I have to work harder on nailing the end of phrases than I do beginnings. As for less predictable, non-linear harmonies (a la' some of the lines that Buddy and Julie Miller do on their version of "Rock Salt and Nails"), doing that sort of thing "naturally" on other tunes with no basic guidelines other than what my ear was telling me, has been a work in progress.

    I know you said that you're not looking to perform, but maybe some of my "cheater" tips can be useful anyway. If the first interval that I'm to sing for a particular tune is awkward, I'll find the pitch under my breath on my way toward approaching the mic. Similarly, I'll hum the interval to myself as soon as that particular chord presents itself. As a guy that has dealt with crappy monitor mixes more than once (!), I'll say that being able to hear (feel) pitch "in your head" is pretty much prerequisite to being a reasonably proficient vocalist.

    As with any musical pursuit that seems to initially bamboozle, key is to identify the specific snags, methodically create a cure, and repeat ad infinitum until you're blue in the face.

IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.