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Old 09-02-2017, 08:30 PM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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I started out as a stringed instrument player (44 years ago). I started singing later, only about 15 years ago. I don't think of myself as a "good" singer, but I'm on-key and reasonably able to harmonize. So I'm a player who sings.

Most of my favorite artists aren't really good singers either (John Prine, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, James McMurtry) but they are all great songwriters. I don't care how pretty you sound if you're singing banal pop drivel.
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Old 09-02-2017, 08:34 PM
ollaimh ollaimh is offline
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i sing well when my voice isn't ruined by acid reflux--i'm getting old. but i try to create a finger picking instrumental accompaniment that would stand alone as pure instrumental. then i think i have a great song. it doesn't have to be a complicated accompaniment , but some times it is, but i really like one that fits the songs and paly it intro and once or twice through the song.
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Old 09-02-2017, 10:32 PM
mjudd mjudd is offline
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I'm a guy who wishes he could sing and play guitar, but can't do either very well.

That said, I'm not sure I have a listening preference as to singer who plays or player who sings. I like good music and that can come from either. Generally speaking, I'm more impressed by someone who can really play well, but who also sings: Eric Clapton is probably my all time favorite musician, and if I had all of his albums and videos and had all my other music taken away from me, I could probably still be happy listening to his music the rest of my life.

One thing that should be noted, though, is that there are some great musicians who are thought of primarily as singers or songwriters, first; but who also are quite skilled guitarists. Paul Simon comes to mind. He is primarily known (by many) as neither a singer or a guitarist, but as a songwriter who also sings harmony to Art Garfunkel's melody lines in his songs. Yet, Simon is a talented singer in his own right and a quite skilled guitarist.
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Old 09-02-2017, 10:44 PM
semolinapilcher semolinapilcher is offline
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My guess is that on this forum we are all probably more on the "music" side of the equation, but there must be folks out there on the other end of the continuum ("lyrics").

So here's the opposite end of the spectrum... still pretty worthy actually, but so much less than the total package:

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Old 09-02-2017, 11:50 PM
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Pickcity Pickcity is offline
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For me, playing and singing have always gone hand in hand with one another, along with songwriting and performing. I honestly don't know which one describes me best, but I work on all of them and always have. Being well rounded has always been the goal. Being able to entertain a crowd, as one person with an acoustic, and being very good at it has always been the goal, but to also be very good with a band.

Those are the things I aspire to be, and appreciate artists who are all of those things.

The singer is usually the worst musician in a band. Not always, but usually. I don't believe I was ever the worst one in the band and I was always a singer.

I like instrumental music, but I prefer singing with music, when done well.
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Old 09-03-2017, 12:17 AM
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Brucebubs Brucebubs is offline
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Bruce Cockburn.
Incredible guitarist, singer, songwriter and lyricist.

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Old 09-03-2017, 12:21 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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I started off as an instrumentalist and got my first paying gigs as one. But I quickly realized that unless I played in specialized folk clubs like the old Foolkiller in Kansas City where people came specifically to listen, that it was difficult to hold a crowd playing only instrumentals.

So I could play occasional gigs and parties doing instrumentals, but the folk clubs didn't pay diddly squat. Parties paid more but I got treated as background music.

So I worked on my singing, worked on my songwriting, and also worked on being an entertainer, some of which seems to have been instinctual and other parts of it I had to learn, especially as a street musician, where I had to attract a crowd and hold it if I wanted people to stop and listen (and contribute money to my case!!) Hard to do that without singing.

By the time I started getting paid to perform in clubs where alcohol was sold, I was mostly singing, though I learned I could append instrumentals to the ends of songs and take the crowd with me when I did, particularly if they were uptempo and the crowd could clap along.

But just instrumentals by themselves? In most places I could only get away with two or three per set. The problem is that once you lose the crowd's interest and they start talking instead of listening, they're much harder to get back.

Something that's worth remembering, Skip, is that most people who come to hear music aren't musicians and don't pay much attention to instrumental passages. They listen more to the words, but even more so to the rhythm and the overall feel of a song.

Correction: women tend to listen more closely to the lyrics of the song than guys do, but most men and women won't listen attentively to instrumentals. They just don't.

Brilliant, genius-level instrumentalists can overcome that just by the power of what they're able to do, but most of us merely good musicians need the words and the stories they tell and the pictures they paint if we're going to engage an audience. And, truthfully, unless an instrumentalist is truly brilliant, I find most of those performers kind of boring after a while myself.

So do lots of other people. Sorry, but that's been my experience in four decades of professional musicianship. Unless you've been hired specifically to provide background music, most people want to hear words....

Wade Hampton Miller
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Old 09-03-2017, 12:23 AM
LarryVe LarryVe is offline
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I think everyone has their own unique mix of talents.

Robert Johnson, quite a strong vocalist and guitar player.

Rev Gary Davis, not much a singer but a beast on the strings.

MJH, not much a singer, not much a virtuoso player, but still was very entertaining and musical.

Bob Dylan, not quite a singer, also not quite a player, but blended together nicely to make music that lasts.

Chet Atkins, no singing, but his guitar playing was phenomenal and extensive.

There is no extremes, it each depends on the music that the player/singer decides to bring to the table.
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Old 09-03-2017, 01:09 AM
jaybones jaybones is offline
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I'm a player who sings.

Learned long ago how to sing (for my performance requirement for my music minor I had to be in the chorus. Only guitar opening were in jazz band- bass and guitar and in the university's pep band, basketball games and such, guitar and bass. And those were either beyond my abilities (jazz for sure), but I probably could have gotten into the pep band), and now that I know my range and how to get under the note (sing from the diaphragm) I can do a decent job.

Plus, when I play and other people sing (usually non-musicians in an informal setting) they either don't know the words or will sing the parts wrong (ie. sing the chorus on the verse is most common).

When I've been in rock bands, I'll do backup harmonies.

And a couple times a year I'll play solo at church. Either a hymn or Christmas music.
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Old 09-03-2017, 01:23 AM
BluesKing777 BluesKing777 is offline
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I was given an acoustic guitar when I was 8 but took a while to work out what it was, let alone what it did, and where singing joined to it!

Then I went to guitar lessons at about 13 and concentrated on that until I joined a band with classic 2 guitars, bass, drums and we somehow worked up some tunes, wobbly but tunes. Then somebody, the self appointed manager (ha ha) said the only sensible thing to come out of his mouth ever: "You need a singer!" Singer? Somehow, maybe to save looking for someone else, it landed with me. No idea. And we got a gig, poor audience.

So the washup of the post gig meeting was firstly, humiliation, then a reorganistion including losing the other guitarist, getting a proper lead guitarist and I was appointed singer/backup guitarist. Again, no idea of what that was either.

So we trundled around like that for a few years, actually playing places! Oh boy. And we had a few 'lead guitarists' until we got a self confessed superstar guitarist who didn't want to play 2 guitar stuff, just 3 piece. So I was relegated to 'occasional' guitar parts but mainly vocals! I don't remember voting.

So as things go, our super guitarist had a hissy fit and the band fell apart. After a while, I decided I wanted to learn more 'blues lead guitar' with a local teacher and hardly sang a word for many years. I then started doing acoustic blues guitar and the natural progression was to sing to spread out the gig.....

And here we still are all these years on. But it is a natural thing - singing and acoustic guitar! Wouldn't change a thing!

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Old 09-03-2017, 07:12 AM
gfspencer gfspencer is offline
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Originally Posted by alien View Post
I'm a singer who plays guitar. But it's the whole package. I think I play pretty well. Also, I play with some others and we play and sing multiple parts.
I agree! I like some singers who play. I like some players who sing. I definitely go for the whole package so I prefer someone who does both reasonably well.
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Old 09-03-2017, 08:01 AM
Judson Judson is offline
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Realizing that this is a "guitar" forum, I still lean heavily toward the vocal side of a performance. Being able to bring out the sort of emotion in the listener that Jessie Winchester achieves here is the key to it all for me. If you're so good you can cause a listener's eyes well up with tears, then you are a true artist no matter the level of your virtuosity with the guitar.

Originally Posted by Silurian View Post
The emotional impact of the song is central. For me voice, lyric and melody are all in the mix, but the virtuosity, or lack of, in the guitar playing is the least important factor for me.

This has been posted plenty of times before on the AGF, but it encapsulates what I'm looking for.

"Alas for those that never sing, But die with all their music in them!" --- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Hear my original music at:

Last edited by Judson; 09-03-2017 at 08:08 AM.
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Old 09-03-2017, 08:49 AM
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devellis devellis is offline
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I much prefer listening to players than singers and don't sing myself.

A whole lot of guitar interest groups, I've discovered, are actually much more about singing than they are about guitar. Let's face it, singing is far more common and pretty much anyone can sing at least a little. Ask a stranger to sing "Happy Birthday" and they probably can. Hand them a guitar and ask them to play it, and not so much. So, in a group setting, more people can relate more fully to singing than to guitar playing. So, as a social activity, singing has a real leg up and a guitar may serve best in support of a song in that context.

Really good singers (and songwriters) are a pretty rare breed and finding one can certainly be a joy. Don't get me wrong -- I appreciate good songs and singing. But the trouble is that a lot of so-so singers and songwriters are out there. And honestly, even most of the good ones simply don't move me as much as a really good guitar player. It's soooo hard to play guitar really well (and I certainly don't) that when I encounter a really good player, it really captures my interest. And even someone with modest skills who's doing interesting stuff will win my attention. Perhaps it's the relative scarcity of people who take playing seriously (relative to the number of singers, that is) that makes them interesting to me. Playing behind a song and playing as the main thing are very different.

The fact that I'm not a singer, of course, has to have something to do with this. I can relate to a player's skills and the time and effort it took to acquire them. Singing, at least at the level at which most people do it, doesn't seem to reflect a lot of hard work to me. It's something they've always done and they've managed to get pretty good at it. Others, of course, go well beyond that but those seem pretty thin on the ground in most small-town venues.

I've encountered a lot of singer/songwriters who can barely sing and who sort of talk their songs. If the songs are exceptionally well-crafted, that can work. But often it doesn't really capture my interest. Songwriting is a real skill, cultivated through hard work and a rich trove of experience and imagination. I very much admire good songwriters and a great song can certainly be moving. But great songs don't really come around all that often, while mediocre songs abound. Couple a great song with an interesting delivery (not necessarily a "pretty" voice but an expressive one) and you really have something. But again, that combination seems pretty rare. It's okay for people not to excel. Few of us do. I'm not criticizing people who are honing their talents and have the courage to put it out there. I'm just not enthralled by their performances. On the other hand, someone who's even stumbling a bit with some fairly intricate guitar work is more likely to catch my attention. Again, a big part of that is that I can relate to the latter (struggling guitarist) more than the former (struggling singer/songwriter).

So, for me, an evening of mostly guitar with a bit of singing would win hands down over an evening of mostly singing with a bit of guitar thrown in. But clearly, I'm in the minority. When I was more involved in Irish traditional music, the balance was heavily toward instrumental, with only the occasional song or dance in the mix. I enjoyed that a lot but it's dwindled considerably in these parts. And my musical tastes have also shifted a bit. But I think I always have, and always will, have a preference for good instrumental music over good vocals.
Bob DeVellis
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Old 09-03-2017, 09:05 AM
roylor4 roylor4 is offline
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Originally Posted by Skip Ellis View Post
I'm much more interested in guitarists who sing as part of their act than in listening to singers who just happen to strum a guitar to accompany themselves - to me there's a big difference. Ideally, I would only listen to instrumental music which is what interests me the most, probably because I can't/don't/won't sing and don't feel any connection to those who do. When I hear a tune, I never hear or care about the lyrics - only the melody and harmony lines and the possibility of turning it into an instrumental.

But, there are exceptions: Doc Watson, Merle Travis, Norman Blake, Tony Rice, Eric Clapton, Jerry Reed and others, I suppose, who could just play guitar and be very listenable.

I guess I sorta started noticing it this past week while listening to a lot of guitar demo vids on YT and discovered that I'd start a video trying to get a rough idea of how a certain instrument sounded and then the player would start flailing away and attempting to sing some lame cover or even lamer original tune and I'd just have to turn it off.

Anybody else feel this way or am I just the ultimate 'guitar geek' who won't tolerate anything else?
I'm in the same camp as Judson, but to each his own. I prefer lyrically driven, singer-songwriter type of material. I like to hear interesting stories put to music. I enjoy interesting and catchy guitar hooks/phrasing too but only within the context of the story.

I can sit and listen to an instrumental or two, but I don't see a possible scenario where instrumental music could hold my attention for a whole set, let alone a concert.

My best friend and weekly jamming buddy is all about the tempo, hooks and complicated guitar phrasing. He never listens to the lyrics, just the music.

Here's an example of a well written and played song that represents the kind of stuff I prefer. I can't be seen, but i was in a folding chair, 3 or 4 rows back.


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Old 09-03-2017, 09:41 AM
KevWind KevWind is offline
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Originally Posted by Silly Moustache View Post
The ONLY reason I put down my drum sticks and became interested in playing acoustic guitar was because I wanted to sing.
Tom rush was the man who changed my directions.

Yes Tom Rush was one of many of my early influences also . However I do appreciate both really good and well performed vocals and really well played music either backup or featured or instrumental.

But I have to say on measured consideration that ultimately when the prosody hits with the lyrics and believable vocal performance that is when the hair on the back of my neck (literally stands up)

"Get the Urge For Going and this one are probably my favorite Tom Rush performances

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